What the Bears Can Learn from Titans' Playoff Run
There's an obvious lesson for Matt Nagy and the Bears as everyone continues to steam about Mitchell Trubisky and how they could have had Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes three years ago.
It's a message Nagy might not want to hear, but provides a better avenue out of their 8-8 malaise than hoping they somehow come up with a hall of fame quarterback out of thin air or that they'll develop Trubisky into one.
It's as clear as Derrick Henry's stiff-arm of Earl Thomas. It's something the Bears knew how to do for years, decades: Run the ball.
Five of the top six rushing teams and seven of the top 10 made the playoffs this year.
The Ravens were No. 1, sure, but did it because they had the top rushing quarterback. When confronted by a better running attack, Baltimore caved.
The 49ers and Titans didn't need the gimmicky approach to rushing, and were second and third in the league. Right now they're both looking pretty impressive, if not dominant.
As strong as George Kittle looks in the receiving game, the San Francisco running attack and defense have been even more responsible for success. They're a physical team straight from the style of ball the Bears used to play before becoming a finesse team. They outrushed the Vikings 186 yards to 21 and needed only 131 yards passing to win.
The Vikings went into New Orleans with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, of all people, and won. They both had good defenses, but the Vikings were sixth in rushing and the Saints just 16th.
How then can the success of the Packers be explained, a team ranked only 15th in rushing? It's a lot better ranking as rushers than last year and the year before, and it's their best rank since 2015. Green Bay finally balanced out its attack and improved.
Look down the list of poor rushing teams and you'll see the league's great disappointments for 2019.
- The Rams made the Super Bowl last year, and didn't make the playoffs this year. They were 26th in rushing.
- The Bears regressed as many expected. Put all the blame on Mitchell Trubisky, right? They were 27th in rushing.
- The Chargers went 12-4 and made the round in 2018. This year they floundered around and they were 28th in rushing.
- The Steelers are a perennial playoff team and this year missed the playoffs. They were 29th in rushing.
- Even as a playoff team, the Patriots were a disappointment. They finished 18th in rushing a year after winning the title when they were fifth in rushing.
The Bears need to get their offensive line troubles fixed and need to bring in another solid running back to play behind David Montgomery because Tarik Cohen is a scatback and Ryan Nall a practice squad player. They need to let the line work with Juan Castillo, who coordinated the Bills' running attack to sixth and ninth in the NFL his last two years despite using Tyrod Taylor, Nathan Peterman, Derek Anderson, Matt Barkley and then-rookie Josh Allen at quarterback.
The question is whether Nagy realizes his team has this alternate route to the playoff success available beyond converting Trubisky into Mahomes, which would be the equivalent of turning stone into gold.
Trubisky can do what Ryan Tannehill is doing. It doesn't take much to hand off.
It's not the Kansas City way, but it's always been the Bears way to run the ball.
NFL playoff teams this year are proving it's the best way to succeed.