Bears coach Matt Nagy

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Bernstein: Pass Or Run, It's About Points For Bears

There's a new normal to exploiting defenses, so get used to it.

Dan Bernstein
November 13, 2018 - 2:42 pm

(670 The Score) ​​​​Nine games into the Matt Nagy experience, I'm still making a conscious effort to recalibrate how I look at this Bears offense that's on display before us. What I pretty recently would've dismissed as collegiate trickery, over-reliant on misdirection eye candy -- channeling my inner Gunther Cunningham to sneer at all the "razzle dazzle" -- I'm now growing to realize represents modern best practices for taking advantage of defenses to accomplish the only objective, which is scoring points.

I've been among you raised on the I-formation and downhill power run game, play-action passes off snaps under center and a running back chopping wood all afternoon until the tree finally fell. It was what we knew and understood, what felt right because it always was when things were good.

It's just not as effective anymore, though, outstripped by lateral movement, packaged play concepts and run/pass options. Seeing it up close makes it easier to comprehend, and the Bears winning six of those nine makes it easier to appreciate. This is why Nagy is here, why quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was drafted where and how he was and why general manager Ryan Pace's offseason was spent buying two wide receivers and a pass-catching tight end.  

It's working.

The Bears have scored 269 points so far in 2018, already more than the 264 they rolled up all of last season, about to surpass the 279 of 2016 and on pace to top 2015's total of 335 by the end of November. This is progress.

And if it doesn't involve a pounding ground game, so what?

We've discussed Jordan Howard's feelings in this space before, making the case that a disgruntled running back is a small and easy price to pay for a higher level of overall efficiency. Even if tough yards are needed late in a game and/or under adverse conditions, there's no rule that prevents them from being picked up more creatively than they may have been in the past. This is results-based and not about football custom or aesthetics.

If the concern is being able to use the run to move the clock while holding a lead, then that's a very good problem to have and one I trust Nagy and his staff are prepared to address. Completed passes also wind the clock and might even extend a lead beyond the point of needing to bleed time away in the first place. Illegal contact penalties provide automatic first downs, and defensive pass interference can grab yardage in big chunks. There are now multiple positive outcomes to throwing the ball.

The days of the bell-cow back or "committing to the run" are probably over here in Chicago beyond lip service to mollify the dinosaurs, and that's fine. The scoreboard doesn't care how the points get there.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​