What Bears can learn from Super Bowl LIV
Matt Nagy's mentor, Andy Reid, and former team, the Kansas City Chiefs, are Super Bowl champions at last. Here are 3 things we think the Bears should take away from watching Super Bowl 54 that can help them compete for the Super Bowl in Tampa a year from now.
1. Mobility matters: The Bears obviously should've drafted Patrick Mahomes, but we're well past that and onto how they must make the best of their current situation.
Mitch Trubisky was one of the league's most lethal running quarterbacks two seasons ago, but ever since suffering his first shoulder injury in Week 11 of the 2018 campaign, he hasn't shown the same willingness to utilize perhaps his best weapon.
Prior to that injury sustained on a late hit by Harrison Smith, Trubisky had 363 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns on 51 attempts in 10 games under Nagy. In his 18 games since, Trubisky has the same number of carries (51) for 260 yards and 2 TDs.
Again, we're past comparing Mitch and Mahomes as passers, but it seems fair to point out that the Chiefs aren't the champs today without easily Mahomes' best three-game stretch as a pro -- as a runner. His 24 carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns this postseason amounted to almost half of his average rushing output in his first two full seasons as the starter.
Mahomes' scrambles throughout the playoffs in daunting down-and-distance situations bailed out the Chiefs while breaking defense's backs, not only accentuating another trick in his endless bag but reminding the Bears of a key ingredient in their recipe on offense in 2018 that went missing last season.
The Bears say Trubisky is still their starter, and if that comes to fruition come Week 1, they must hope he reverts back to the pre-injury runner, post-shoulder surgery.
2. Havoc inside and out: Good news here! Akiem Hicks, while hardly as prolific as the Chiefs' Chris Jones purely as a ball swatter at the line of scrimmage, remains one of the more dynamic interior defensive lineman in football and returns fully healthy to provide Khalil Mack the sidekick he sorely lacked last season.
No Chiefs defender was more valuable Sunday than Jones, who almost single-handedly in the final two drives snuffed out a Niner passing game that makes its money more often than any other in the league between the hashes with 3 (!) passes defensed over the final three possessions. Sure, Dee Ford notched a key fourth-down sack and Steve Spagnuolo was masterful with his timely late pressure calls, but Jones' remarkable penchant for getting his hands up to knock the ball down when he can't get home was the ultimate outside rush supplement.
So what's the lesson here for Nagy? It might be for Ryan Pace, who surely won't get the chance to poach Jones, an impending free agent with vines for arms, from Kansas City but might choose to prioritize interior length and/or find more ways to get Roy Roberson-Harris rushing next to Hicks next season.
And speaking of sidekicks, the Bears' toughest decision this offseason might be what to do with Leonard Floyd, the former first-rounder coming off a career-low 3 sacks and set to earn $13.2 million on the 2020 team option. Nagy and Pace might want to use 49ers DE Arik Armstead as their example of a player who came on like gangbusters with his first double-digit sack season after San Francisco's blind faith to exercise its option.
But that was (A) a lot cheaper for the Niners who (B) didn't have the Bears' cap constraints.
So we'd suggest they more strongly consider at the relatively unconventional methods both Super Bowl participants used to find new sidekicks, the Niners trading for Dee Ford to pair with Nick Bosa and the Chiefs not only trading for Frank Clark to replace Ford but claiming Terrell Suggs off waivers.
Yes, they're unique circumstances, but the Bears must think outside the box to maximize Khalil Mack, not be resigned to paying Floyd.
3. Boom goes the deficit: The Bears certainly know a ton about digging early holes -- they were the worst first-quarter scoring team in football -- but less about engineering jaw-dropping fourth-quarter comebacks, which naturally require scoring in the fourth quarter, where they also ranked last in the NFL.
The Chiefs overcame multi-score deficits in three consecutive playoff games to win each by multiple scores, the first time ever in NFL postseason history. We've known for two years now that swift, powerful strikes epitomize their offense, but this was just ridiculous.
We also already knew that the Chiefs are the fastest team in football, with elite YAC weapons everywhere Mahomes looks. But we can use Damien Williams, the other Chiefs' non-QB most deserving of the Super Bowl LIV MVP honors that predictably went to Mahomes, as our example here: He was signed to a two-year, $5.5 million in the spring of 2018 to back up then-rookie revelation Kareem Hunt. That's not unlike the deal Mike Davis inked last spring with the Bears to back up top pick David Montgomery. One key difference: Williams runs 4.45; Davis, 4.61.
Tyreek Hill might be the fastest player in football, if not for teammate Mecole Hardman (speaking of rookie revelations), but what about the receiver whom the Chiefs chose over Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins? He runs 4.43, compared to Robinson's 4.6. If Hill's 44-yard catch wasn't Sunday's chief comeback catalyst, Watkins' 38-yarder minutes later to set up the game-winning touchdown was.
To be clear: Signing Robinson rather than Watkins, first choice or not, clearly was the right decision by Pace. We also love Anthony Miller and David Montgomery and think fellow recent draft picks Riley Ridley and Javon Wims potentially can be useful NFL players. But none of their calling cards is speed.
It might not matter until the Bears have their quarterback who can maximize it, but speed clearly kills in the Reid offense, whereas the lack of it has contributed to the many ills in Nagy's.