By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
After taking a look at the coaches film from the Patriots’ 38-31 win over the Chicago Bears, two big takeaways emerged from the game. One, the Patriots absolutely silenced Khalil Mack despite him being used in a variety of ways. Two, a better quarterback might have made the Patriots defense pay through the air.
The game somewhat resembled the Patriots’ 38-7 win over the Dolphins in Week 4, in that Ryan Tannehill had some chances to make plays but couldn’t pull them off. In the case of Trubisky, he often took off and ran when he didn’t necessarily have to. In other cases, the pressure up front simply got to him.
Tom Brady and the Patriots arguably got help from the Bears in how they shut down Mack. You’ll see in the below examples that Mack wasn’t always used as a pass rusher, and barely ever had a chance to be remotely effective when he wasn’t trying to get to the quarterback.
Trubisky gashed the Patriots when he scrambled, totaling 81 yards and a touchdown on just six runs. The tackling on those plays was particularly ugly. But the Pats were probably content to let Trubisky run every now and then if he couldn’t make plays through the air. And man oh man did he stink out loud throwing the ball.
The Bears’ first drive of the game turned out to be a solid stop for the Patriots defense, but it also represented a missed opportunity for Trubisky to beat them with passes downfield. On an early incompletion to Allen Robinson, Trubisky darted out of the pocket to try to hit the receiver while running to his right. Had he stayed in the pocket, he could’ve hit Robinson open over the middle when he had a step on Stephon Gilmore. He also had tight end Trey Burton wide open in the flat.
On another first-quarter scramble, Trubisky could have hit one of 3-4 receivers who gained separation or were simply wide open in the short-to-intermediate areas. Instead, he ran around the left edge and got bottled up after 11 yards. He did get the first down on this play, but if he could make better, quicker decisions and get rid of the ball he could’ve gotten a lot more.
Another egregious example is below, with wideout Taylor Gabriel standing there with no one within 10 yards of him. Trubisky somehow doesn’t see Gabriel here, despite no one and nothing standing between them. Trubisky scrambled for two yards on this play.
Trubisky eventually started feeding it more to running back Tarik Cohen (eight catches for 69 yards and a touchdown), which led to a little more success. But he missed Cohen on one potentially crucial play in the second quarter, when he had the back wide open in the flat. Deatrich Wise would sack him seconds later. The Bears eventually converted on fourth down and scored on this drive, but this play was just another example of Trubisky’s subpar pocket awareness.
Credit is due to the Patriots’ pressure up front, which often made Trubisky uncomfortable. The coverage also got much tighter in the second half. But Trubisky certainly left a lot of potential plays out on the field. When he scrambled, he often missed chances to push the ball deep. When stayed in the pocket, he couldn’t consistently deliver the ball accurately.
Trubisky is going to have to get better at finding open receivers in situations where he’s opted to run, and he’s going to have to be more accurate and decisive in the pocket. His awareness may never improve, though, which would be a major long-term concern for the Bears. They aren’t going to beat teams like the Patriots with Trubisky running around like Michael Vick and failing to throw the ball effectively.
One of the major high points of the day for the Patriots was the way they handled Khalil Mack. Bill Belichick refused to put Mack anywhere near Lawrence Taylor’s class last week, and it’s fair to say that L.T. would have had a bit more of an impact than Mack did with his one tackle.
The Patriots didn’t exactly do anything crazy to keep Mack at bay. Whenever Mack lined up as a pass rusher, Trent Brown beat him one-on-one on the edge. James White chipped him when the play called for it. Even Dwayne Allen pitched in. Mack made virtually no disruptions in that department, which led to a mostly clean pocket for Brady.
And incredibly, Mack wasn’t always used as a pass rusher. The Bears dropped him back into coverage on a surprising number of snaps, often assigning him to cover White. That’s how he made his lone tackle of the day. But almost every other time he dropped back, Brady didn’t throw the ball anywhere near him. This left him useless, running aimlessly in the open field while watching the receiver run away.
Putting Mack in this position almost half the time? Not ideal!
If Mack even wants to sniff Lawrence Taylor, he’ll need to be less invisible than he was on Sunday. It’ll be interesting to see if the Patriots have provided a “blueprint” for future teams. But it’s not all that complicated – if you have tackles and pass-blocking running backs who can execute, Mack can be neutralized.
The Patriots had only two big blemishes with their pass protection, which was almost entirely superb. Bilal Nichols blew by David Andrews untouched, and it looked like a miscommunication as the center thought he had protection behind him. And Roquan Smith made the one big red zone play to keep the Patriots out of the end zone when he flew around the left edge to snuff out Brady’s quick pass attempt, which held the Pats to a field goal.
Other than that, another outstanding day for the Patriots offensive line. Besides White, they’ve been the best, most consistent players on the Patriots over the course of their four-game winning streak.
Kenjon Barner won’t be a long-term option for the Patriots at running back, but proved to be a serviceable reserve option after Sony Michel got injured. He only averaged 3.6 yards per carry, but his runs showed how the Patriots can make just about any back successful with the way they execute their blocks up front. Josh McDaniels came prepared with good play designs for Barner, including the below six-yard pitch that essentially functioned like Barner was returning a punt. If Shaq Mason finishes his block to the right, this is an easy touchdown.
The Patriots will most certainly make a move at running back in the coming days. But Barner has likely earned himself a roster spot and a handful of carries per game, for the time being.
In conclusion… The Patriots still need to clean up the defense, which hasn’t shown many signs of improving yet. We’re not halfway through the season, so there’s little reason to believe they won’t be playing much better by December. But a better quarterback could have made them pay on Sunday like Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs did in Week 6. As for the offense, they are showing signs of improvement, but still need to have better ball security. The fumbles and interceptions have been shockingly high so far. If they can get those out of their system, Brady will have this unit as dangerous as any in the league by the end of the season.
Next film review comes after the Patriots take on the Bills on Monday Night Football.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.