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Situational Football Took Danny Trevathan's Snaps

The Bears are trying to match up and win in situational football to a greater extent this season, as their personnel usage shows at inside linebacker, tight end and wide receiver

Bears coach Matt Nagy offered up plenty of praise for his tight ends on a day when some wide receiver are feeling the need to bounce back.

Yet, Bears tight ends are barely above the rate of receptions registed by last year's challenged group.

It's all in the use. It's all in the what is known as situational football.

It's a term the Bears began using often late last season as being more of a goal, and this year's team seems more capable of accomplishing this. Nagy wanted the ability to create favorable matchups with his personnel usage, in order to improve chances of winning each play, so it was the point of emphasis in free agency and the draft.

The tight ends have only five receptions in two games, four by Jimmy Graham and one by rookie Cole Kmet, yet Nagy was effusive regarding their play.

"I am really happy with how they're playing," Nagy said. "Production-wise and stat line-wise, right now, you probably don't see and you for sure don't see what we want it to be at. But I'm OK with that just because of the way that these two first games have gone."

Packers fans who criticized Jimmy Graham and Notre Dame fans who wouldn't call blocking Cole Kmet's greatest strength might be surprised to find both are blocking effectively in the resurgent Bears running attack.

"I think yesterday the way that our tight ends performed in that run game, when you back and watch that tape no, go back and watch those guys and watch them block," Nagy said. "And that's a huge part of this run game."

The Bears have used plenty of 13-personnel groupings. This uses three tight ends, a back and a wide receiver. It's usually a running formation. They've also tried to use more 12-personnel, a formation with two tight ends.

"Just as much as the O-linemen and what they're doing and coach (Juan) Castillo and then those guys," Nagy said. "Those tight ends are getting after it and they're enjoying it.

"Check out some of the effort by Jimmy Graham in run-blocking and tell me what you think. But that part I like, along with Demetrius Harris and Cole Kmet and J.P. Holtz. We'll see how the tight end production goes in the pass game but I'm happy with those guys."

The use of tight ends in this way also affected the way the Bears used wide receivers.

"The same thing goes offensively with Anthony Miller," Nagy said. "I'm not sure when you have (Javon) Wims and Anthony Miller, and Wims has a few more snaps than Anthony, that's not by necessity."

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They had Wims on the field 29 plays, three more than Miller. Wims is the better blocker and a fit in 12-personnel or 13-personnel as they try to power the ball more.

Situational football goes beyond offense.

The defense has tried matching up more, especially against the pass.

Nagy said they pulled inside linebacker Danny Trevathan off the field in some passing situations more than in the past. It's partly how safety Deon Bush managed to play 38% of the defensive snaps. Bush in the past had rarely played on defense.

A week earlier Trevathan gave up what could have been the game-deciding reception but D'Andre Swift dropped the ball. In that game, Trevathan played 90% of the snaps and Bush was on the field.

Of course, the difference is the Bears were trying to protect a lead on Sunday and in the game with Detroit were trying to come from behind. The Lions were trying to run and kill clock once they had a lead, and were powering the ball so the Bears naturally had Trevathan on the field more often than when the Giants were passing on every play.

The situation is clouded by Trevathan's lack of production in either game. It makes it seem he was benched or held out due to ineffective play. He had two tackles Sunday, a week after he struggled according to Pro Football Focus grades to a mark of 28.5, which is extremely low.

While playing more in the pass prevent, Bush had his first career interception.

How far they take this depends on, what else? The situation.

"We got really good players and if we're lined up and we're all playing the same call, we're all singing out of the same hymnal so to speak," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "We'll do really well.

"So I've got to do that. Situational football, I got to put them in the right spot to win that situation. So hopefully, that'll happen."

It's happened twice on both sides of the ball, although it's taken on different shapes and sizes.

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