My expectations for the Chicago Bears' 2018 season was quite reserved after the team's decent preseason performances. The starters saw very little play time, so I didn't really know what to expect. My expectations rose a little bit after the Bears swindled Khalil Mack from the Raiders. At least the defense would probably be pretty good. I wasn't expecting the defense to be this good, however!

Khalil Mach has absolutely dominated in these early season games, recording at least one sack and a forced fumble in each of the first four games (as well as some fumble recoveries and an interception returned for a touchdown). This dominance wasn't quite enough to stop Aaron Rodgers from limping his way to a 20-point comeback victory in the second half. Rodgers left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury, but came back later after backup Deshaun Kizer proved to be completely ineffective.

Khalil Mack has been absolutely dominant, and is on pace to earn every penny of his contract!

Rodgers was clearly in pain, as he was forced to stand and hobble in the pocket, unable to put much weight on that injured leg. Yet the Bears didn't manage to get to him at all in the second half.

Put quite frankly, and bluntly, I am dumbfounded that Rodgers' career isn't over. That might sound heartless, but Rodgers did not need to come back into that game. He should not have come back in that condition. His coaches and trainers should not have let him, and the league should not have let him (considering all their BS talk about "player safety"). If he had suffered further injury (possibly season or career-ending), that would be entirely on him and the coaching / training staff!

Now I don't know if coach Nagy and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio dialed back the pressure (which it looked to me like they did), or if Rodgers' offensive line simply laid it all on the line to protect him (in which case, they all deserve awards!), but I would have been sending everything and the kitchen sink after Rodgers during that second half. I'd have been blitzing 6, 7, or even 8 guys every single play. No mercy. If Rodgers wanted to put himself at risk by coming back into the game with that injured leg (again, barely even able to stand on his own leg, let alone run on it), then I would have made him suffer for it.

If the NFL really cares about "player safety", then why did they not intervene
when the Packers put Aaron Rodgers back into the game?

I don't want to see anybody get hurt, but Rodgers was asking for it. Again, considering it's hard-line positions on player safety, I am absolutely amazed that the NFL allowed the Packers to play Rodgers, and that they didn't fine the Packers or Rodgers for that reckless behavior. This just goes to show how the NFL isn't really concerned with player safety, only with the bottom line, and Rodgers leading an epic come-back victory while hobbling around on one leg certainly made for prime viewing, and made that game into an all-time classic. The NFL will penalize and fine defenders for doing their jobs, but you'll let a cripple walk onto the field and put himself at risk? Shame on you, NFL!

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Geez, it's already football season? Thursday night saw the annual NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony and preseason football game. The Bears and the Ravens played the game, which finally gives us Bears fans a brief (and limited) glimpse of what new coach Matt Nagy's team might look like.

Brian Urlacher was inducted into the Hall of Fame prior to Bears playing the game.

Perhaps my favorite player ever, Bears great Brian Urlacher, was inducted into the Hall of Fame prior to the game, alongside players like Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, and Packer great Jerry Kramer (how was Jerry Kramer not already in the Hall?). It goes without saying that I miss watching Urlacher play. I also miss playing as him in Madden video games.

Devin Hester return TD
Brian Urlacher was a great player and
consummate teammate who always
celebrated his teammates' success.

I always admired the physicality, speed, and intelligence that Urlacher played with. But it wasn't just his on-field performance that I admired. I also appreciated the way that he always seemed to be watching his team from the sidelines whenever he was off the field. I remember every time Devin Hester returned a kick, or every time a back broke a big run, or the QB made a big throw, Urlacher was running down the sideline, chasing his teammates and hooting and hollering in celebration of their success. He was a consummate team player, and seemed to be an all-around quality person. Players like him, Devin Hester, Charles Tillman, and some non-Bears like Peyton Manning, are the reason that I started watching football more regularly.

Hopefully, recent linebacker draftees Roquan Smith and Leonard Floyd can live up to the legacy of Urlacher, Butkus, and Singletary.

Limited look at Matt Nagy's offense

Sadly, we didn't get to see first round (8th overall) draft pick Roquan Smith at all, nor did we see second year QB Mitch Trubisky. Smith is holding out over contractual concerns relating to the NFL's new helmet collision rules and other issues. I'm not going to talk much about the team's defensive performance, as it shouldn't be indicative of how they'll play in the regular season. I'll pay more attention to the defense in the next couple games. First of all, coverages and blitz schemes in the first game of preseason are usually very simple and rudimentary. Also, I'm assuming (and hoping) that Roquan Smith's holdout will be resolved by the time of the regular season.

Backup Chase Daniel [LEFT] was outplayed by his backup Tyler Bray [RIGHT].

Even though we didn't see Trubisky, both of the Bears' backup QBs weren't too bad -- something that we don't often see from the Bears. Admittedly, it's the first week of preseason, starters aren't playing on defense either, and coverages aren't going to be too sophisticated. Chase Daniel had an early interception, but it was a fluke ball that bounded off a lineman's helmet, so not Daniel's fault. He threw another interception later, but that looked more like a miscommunication between QB and receiver rather than a bad throw or bad read. He petered out quite a bit after the first drive, but a lot of that had to do with receiver Bennie Fowler III dropping passes. Fowler better pick up his play if he wants a spot on the 53-man roster.

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Madden NFL - title

Earlier this month, I posted a suggestion for hiding player ratings until the player has played enough games to reveal them. Afterwards, I posted a list of my suggestions for offense, defense, and special teams for Madden 18. That still leaves some other outstanding areas of improvement such as Franchise mode, and I'd like to spend this post focusing there.

Let's start out by going over some of the things that are left over from last year's wishlist:

A lot of these items are related to Franchise, and so keep them in mind as you read through this post. But before I jump into franchise suggestions, let's first look at the issue of the Accelerated clock as it has been implemented in Madden for years:

Accelerated clock, two-minute drill, and CPU timeouts

I've brought this up before, but clock management really needs to be addressed. The accelerated clock should never be disabled! Not in the two-minute drill; not ever. The two minute drill is when it is most important to enforce the accelerated clock because otherwise it completely breaks the two-minute drill. The CPU is particularly bad at exploiting this. I regularly see the CPU go into a huddle and break it within 5 seconds of game clock, which is faster than if they had tried a hurry-up, and which spares them from using a timeout. Human users can exploit this same tactic as well in order to avoid the time it takes to run up to the line. All you have to do is quickly select any pass play then audible or hot route your receivers.

Madden 17 - clock exploits
Breaking a 2-minute drill huddle with 35 seconds on the play clock while
the game clock is running completely breaks the 2-minute drill.

And speaking of CPU timeouts: the CPU should actually use them. There should be some logic in place where if a CPU QB either can't figure out the pre-snap coverage, or he doesn't like the pre-snap coverage, then he should call a timeout to mulligan the play. This should happen if the defense puts eight men in the box when an inside run was called, or if the CPU QB reads press coverage on a wide receiver screen, or other such situations in which the the CPU determines that the player's play is likely to trump their play call. This should be tied to a QB's Awareness and/or Play Recognition rating, and there could maybe also be a small chance that if the QB doesn't make the right read, then the coach can call a timeout instead. CPU defenses should similarly be able to burn a timeout if they read a particularly unfavorable personnel match-up.

Another improvement that could be made to the accelerated clock is to add some variability to it...

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One of the things that I like about preseason is that I get to watch all the Bears games, since NFL Network shows re-broadcasts of every preseason game. I don't have any of those fancy satellite TV services, which means I'm stuck with only the regular season games that are broadcast on cable. So I didn't get to watch the Bears week 1 loss to the Houston Texans. I didn't miss much.

Offensive ineptitude ruined any chances of Chicago staying in their week 1 match-up against the Texans.

My preseason perception of the Bears as being inept on offense was validated by the final score of 23-14. Granted, the Texans are one of the better defenses in the league, but sloppy play has been the Bears M.O. throughout preseason. The defense actually gave the team some opportunities, but offensive mistakes just undid any gains that the Bears made early. Botched snaps, sacks, an interception, and fumbles ended too many drives, and the defense just couldn't hold back the Texans' offense.

I did get to watch the Bears' game against the Eagles on Monday night. It looked very similar. The defense played very well throughout much of the game, holding the Eagles to only nine points up through almost the end of the third quarter. Jacoby Glenn and Tracy Porter made some key pass break-ups that ended Eagles drives and gave the Bears offense opportunities to buffer the score. But once again, a fumble and an interception from Jay Cutler gave the Eagles a two-score lead. Cutler was under siege right from the start of the game, and the very first play from scrimmage was a sack of Cutler. It also didn't help that Connor Barth missed a field goal early in the game. So much for replacing Robbie Gould in order to save salary cap space. As Jay Gruden pointed out, you get what you pay for. With the offense being as bad as it has been, Gould was likely going to be the team's leading scorer this year. That should have made him a valuable commodity who is worth paying, even though he is "only a kicker". Cutler eventually left the game with a hand injury, only to have other players make costly mistakes. The Bears were driving at the beginning of the fourth quarter with Brian Hoyer under center, until Jeremy Langford gave up the first fumble of his pro career.

Eagles at Bears 2016 - Carson Wentz
The defense stood firm early, but the Carson Wentz phenomenon
was too much for it to handle without help from the offense.

Then the flood gates opened. The defense just couldn't contain the Eagles anymore. The defense managed to make a fourth down stop on the goal-line, only to give the Eagles a second chance (and a walk-in score) due to an offsides penalty. This sequence also saw starting nose tackle Eddie Goldman go down with an apparent leg injury after being bent over backwards. He had to be carted off the field. Hopefully, the injury isn't as serious as it looked...

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A few months ago, I wrote a blog piece about suggestions to expand Madden 16's feature set to make the game a deeper, more realistic depiction of the management of an NFL team. This year's Madden game has proven to be a much better game than the previous few years, and I actually have found myself playing it well into the new year. As such, I've also been coming across new, nagging annoyances, and new ideas for features and enhancements. Most notably, I finally got to play through a complete off-season, and I have several ideas for how offseason can be improved in future years of Madden.

So I've decided to write a follow-up piece with more suggestions for future games. This article will focus on off-season activities. In order to keep things clean and concise, I've also made a few changes to the original post as well. I wanted to keep specific topics grouped together. There's also less to talk about in this new post, so I've moved the "Little Things" section from the original post into this article in order to shorten the original post and pad this one out to about the same length. I've also made some small revisions and clarifications in the original post, so I highly recommend re-visiting that post to see the changes.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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