It’s a well-known fact that to beat Tom Brady’s Patriots, you need to consistently get into his grill and get him on the ground. Now, that’s the same game-plan for most quarterbacks but it holds especially true for the future First-ballot Hall of Famer. To beat Brady, you must pressure and you must get him to the ground. Any other strategy is certain death against a player who has seen every imaginable defense deployed against him after featuring in the NFL for almost 20 years.
So what did the Bears and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio attempt to do against Brady on Sunday? They had their superstar pass rusher Khalil Mack drop back into coverage a career-high 18 times, according to Pro Football Focus. Not to be completely outdone, Mack’s starting edge partner, Leonard Floyd, dropped back into coverage 13 times. The pair generated a combined two pressures on occasions where they actually rushed the passer. That’s not getting into Brady’s grill.
Call me crazy, but if Mack is already rolling with a bum ankle, why have him move backwards against better offensive athletes? He’s either healthy enough to play or he isn’t. The decoy ideal doesn’t work if it’s not letting your talisman get back up to speed health-wise. Scheming a way to keep Mack on the field in a way he isn’t comfortable or healthy makes little sense. Fangio better find answers for a reeling defense soon, and it’s not in the form of not having Mack pin his ears back.
Elsewhere defensively, the Bears’ tackling improved tremendously after their embarrassment to the Dolphins. Chicago missed just six tackles and no back seven defender allowed more than 55 yards in coverage. That includes Kyle Fuller, Roquan Smith, and Bryce Callahan, who all allowed four receptions each. Effort that will have to continue if the Bears are to get out of their first two-game losing streak of the Matt Nagy era.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Patriots took note of Mitchell Trubisky’s struggles against pressure and ran with it. New England blitzed Trubisky 21 times on 58 drop backs, and Trubisky only went 5-of-20 for 36 yards on such plays. When the Patriots didn’t blitz, Trubisky completed 70 percent of his passes and averaged 9.9 yards per attempt.
A lot of Trubisky’s struggles against the Patriots in particular was when going deep. On nine pass plays that went 20 yards or more, Trubisky was 1-of-9 for 54 yards. Essentially, the only time he found a Bears receiver downfield was Kevin White’s desperation Hail Mary. Otherwise, the young and rattled passer could not take advantage of chunk play opportunity after chunk play opportunity.
The book is out on the Bears’ young quarterback and their defense, and they better adjust soon.
Robert is the Editor-in-chief of The Blitz Network (subscribe here!), the managing editor of Windy City Gridiron, and writes for a host of other fine publications. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.
All numbers are courtesy of Pro Football Focus.