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Full disclaimer: I haven't been able to watch any of the Bears' games this year that haven't been nationally televised. That's part of the reason that I've been so quiet about the team this year. I don't have any fancy satellite TV subscriptions, nor do I even have cable. And my local affiliates are never showing the Bears games, even when the Bears are supposed to be the top-bill game that week. Whatever. I've had to resort to watching highlights and listening to other sports pundits because I haven't been able to see the Bears' piss-poor play for myself.

I expressed concern in the offseason over the loss of Jordan Howard and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. But I didn't expect the team to be this bad. I knew the Vikings and Packers would be in the hunt of the NFC North title, but I expected the Bears to be neck-and-neck in the contest. At the very least, I had hoped they'd be a top-contender for a wild card spot. What I didn't expect was for them to have to win a mid-season game against the Lions to keep themselves out of last place in the NFC North.

Chicago Bears - David Montgomery
The running game has struggled without Jordan Howard.

And it isn't like the Bears are losing to great teams. They aren't losing to the Patriots or the Chiefs or the Ravens or the 49ers. The only good teams they've lost to have been the Packers and the Saints. They lost embarrassing games against the Raiders, the Chargers, and a disappointing Eagles team. That Raiders loss was especially criticised because it was played in London, and the Bears' coaching staff decided not to fly out until Friday night. So the team came into the first half looking groggy and half-asleep -- just like they did in the first week of the regular season, after Nagy decided to rest the starters. Those are both bad decision that are squarely on head coach Nagy's shoulders.

Trading away Jordan Howard was perhaps the biggest personnel mistake that the Bears have made since trading for Jay Cutler. It might even be a more costly mistake than letting go of Robbie Gould. The Bears just haven't been the same team without Howard. The running game has been pathetic, and Trubisky and the passing game have not been able to make up the difference.

The lack of a running game is a problem, but I still put most of the blame for this season on Trubisky and Nagy. The play-calling has just not been as smart or creative as it was last year. But maybe it can't be, because Trubisky is making terrible decisions when Nagy tries running more complicated plays. Nagy seems to have dumbed-down his offensive play-calling in order to help Trubisky out, but even with simpler play concepts, Trubisky is struggling. He's making bad decisions and even worse throws. He often looks more like a confused college freshman than a third-season pro. It's like watching those Jay Cutler-led offenses all over again.

Trubisky is starting to look like a baby Jay Cutler.

In that win against Detroit, the entire first quarter was dominated by Trubisky completing short routes and check-downs to build his confidence, before showing flashes of why the Bears drafted him in the second and third quarters. The Bears were helped overall by the fact that starting Lions quarterback Matt Stafford sat out of the game. Even though Driskel played well, the Lions offense just wasn't as explosive as it usually is with Stafford behind center. The Bears couldn't run the ball, and Trubisky failed to convert several third downs late in the game that would have helped to ice the game. The game came down to an offensive pass interference that took away a fourth down conversion by the Lions, and resulted in a turnover on downs when the Lions failed to convert the retry. So it wasn't a pretty win, nor was it a convincing win. The Bears will be playing the Lions again in a few weeks on Thanksgiving day. I have zero confidence that the Bears will win the rematch.

This 2019 Bears team is bad. The offense cannot move the ball, let alone score. And the defense is not bailing the offense out with game-changing turnovers.

I expect the Bears to be looking for a new franchise quarterback in the next draft or two. They should probably also look at running backs while they're at it. Sadly, they don't have a first-round pick in the 2020 draft (because they gave that pick to the Raiders in the Khalil Mack trade). Maybe they can find some late-round sleepers?

Trubisky played decent against the Lions, but the Bears were helped by the Lions starting backup QB Jeff Driskel.
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I was really impressed with Matt Nagy's first year as the Bears' head coach. I wasn't the only one, as Nagy was named the Coach of the Year by the NFL itself. The accolades were warranted, as Nagy was routinely out-scheming the Bears' opponents in game after game last season.

The coaching prowess wasn't limited to Nagy either, as defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was also named the NFL's Assistant Coach of the Year. Fangio was helped by the shocking trade of Khalil Mack to the Bears at the end of preseason, who provided immediate results to the team.

After tripping over their own two feet in the 2017 NFL draft, it was starting to look like the Bears' management (including General Manager Ryan Pace) were finally putting together winning personnel. This was the smash-mouth, ground-and-pound, suffocating defensive team that I want the Bears to be. I could finally stop hating the Bears and start to love them again.

Chicago Bears - Matt Nagy Chicago Bears - Vic Fangio
The Bears had two coaches of the year in 2018!

New defensive coordinator

I'm not sure if it's going to last though. I expect Nagy to have a long and [relatively] successful career with the Bears, but my immediate expectations have sunk due to a few key changes in the team during the 2019 offseason.

The first bit of bad news came in the form of losing former Assistant Coach of the Year Vic Fangio. Fangio accepted the head coaching job with the Denver Broncos. Congratulations to him, as he deserves it! I think his schemes will work very well for the Broncos' defensive personnel, so it's real good news for Broncos fans. But damn, that stings for us Bears fans.

They get Vic Fangio from us, and all we ever got from them was Jay Cutler and John Fox?! This is not a fair deal at all...

Chicago Bears - Chuck Pagano
Former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano will replace Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator.

The silver lining is that the Bears' new defensive coordinator is head-coach caliber. Chuck Pagano (formerly with the Indianapolis Colts) accepted the job as the Bears' defensive coordinator going into the 2019 season. I stopped paying as much attention to the Colts after Peyton Manning left, so I can't really speak to how successful I think Pagano might be. The most optimistic stat line for Pagano is that he helped coach Colts' safety Mike Adams to be tied for takeaways in the 2014 season. That bodes well for safety Eddie Jackson, who very well might have been the Bears' best defensive player if Khalil Mach hadn't been getting all the attention.

So maybe the loss of Fangio won't be as painful as it might have at first seemed.

...

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Madden NFL - title

I recently wrote regarding a proposal for improving practice squad and training features by hiding player ratings until the player has played enough games to reveal them. Of course, there's still a lot of other aspects of the game that I'd like to see improved. I was pleased that this year's Madden 17 implemented some items from my wishlist from last year. There's still a lot from last year's wishlist that I'd like to see implemented in some fashion. Playing Madden 17 has also raised new ideas for improvement.

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

Loose ball A.I. was a point on my wishlist last year, but it wasn't addressed, as evidenced by this clip.

Now, admittedly, a lot of the following suggestions are going to be based on my own subjective experiences with the game. And these opinions come from someone who is almost exclusively a single-user Franchise player. My priorities are going to be far different from the desires of MUT players or even online franchise players.

I'm also not going to bother (right now) with the obvious problems: rubberband AI that creates obnoxiously artificial "momentum swings", the broken man coverage, robo QBs, the complete unwillingness of my linemen to block at the point of attack on run plays, or the down-tuning of new features (such as throw out of sack, aggressive catch, and defensive line moves) to the point of irrelevance, and so on. Instead, I'm going to try to focus on less-obvious mechanics that interact with these problems and which have forced EA to make the [bad] decisions that they've made.

Better run-pass balance and longer games

The general design of Madden isn't very run-friendly. The fact that the game is balanced and tuned for quick, 6-minute quarter, pick-up-and-play online matches (instead of full 15-minute quarter games) means that grinding it out on the ground to establish the run is futile. Trying to run the ball in a 6-minute quarter game (with accelerated clock turned ON, which is the default) can rapidly burn through time. I regularly eat up an entire quarter and a half in a single drive when I commit to the running game in such matches, and that is just unrealistic. This forces both players and the CPU to depend on the passing game to score before a half expires. In my opinion, this is a fundamental design flaw of Madden, and the game will never be truly great as long as 6-minute quarters is the focus of design.

Madden 17 - low rushing yardage
Madden's fundamental design is not very run-friendly.

But fundamental design flaws aside, my experience with Madden 16 and 17 has been that the CPU is completely inept at running the ball. Even when the blocking is solid, the CPU-controlled back can rarely identify and hit the hole, and usually runs right into a waiting defender or one of his own blockers. CPU backs are even worse at running to the outside, as they'll often run backwards in a futile attempt to get to the edge, instead of just cutting upfield for whatever yardage they can get. This often leads to large losses of yardage, backs up the CPU, and contributes towards the CPU's over-reliance on passing the ball. I usually play with the CPU Run Blocking A.I. slider up between 80 or 100, and yet CPU running backs still routinely finish games with stats along the lines of 15 rushes for 20 total yards. Pathetic. If a CPU runner does have a successful game, it's usually because they broke one or two long runs due to a missed tackle, and 90% of their yardage total comes from one or two plays. Also pathetic. Seriously, I have rage-quit an hour into games because of the CPU's ineptitude.

CPU Doug Martin runs right into his pulling guard [LEFT] instead of going inside like the trap play is designed.
CPU Doug Martin has a huge hole with only a single cornerback to beat [RIGHT], but cuts into traffic instead.

I also have a lot of trouble running the ball myself with my own Run Blocking A.I. slider set to anything below 60 or so...

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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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