Analysis

Bears vs. Patriots Week 7 Scouting Report: Grades and Key Matchups

The Scouting Report for Monday’s Bears vs. Patriots game is produced by The 33rd Team’s Scouting Department, led by former Eagles, Cardinals, and Ravens personnel executive T.J. McCreight and assisted by scouts Justin Casey, Kevin Cohn and Evan Pritt.

Stevenson and/or Harris vs. Bears’ Front

  • The Patriots are one of the few truly balanced teams in the modern game. They run the ball on 49.2% of their offensive plays. Only five teams run it at a higher rate, one of them being the Bears, who run it at the highest rate, 58.8% of the time.
  • Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris were splitting the carries, with Harris receiving a slightly heavier load before he injured his hamstring against Detroit and was inactive last week against Cleveland.
  • Given the Patriots’ typical tight-lipped nature, it’s hard to predict the availability of Harris for this week. He was listed as a limited participant and questionable for the game last week.
  • Stevenson has rushed for 448 yards and three TDs while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He is ranked ninth in the league, averaging 3.98 yards after contact per carry. He is a big back with a low center of gravity who is best when he can keep his pads parallel to the line of scrimmage. He has surprisingly nifty feet to avoid flashes of color, and he has a good short burst to daylight. He is a patient runner who can grind at the tough yards and wear down a defense.
  • Harris has a couple of more years under his belt and is coming off nearly 1,000 yards and 15 rushing TDs last season. He has a little more slash and juice to his game, but he is not a totally different type of runner. He is also more suited to a between the tackles rushing attack.
  • You can definitely build an offense around this duo and be a great change-up to what you see stylistically compared to the rest of the league. This is typical Belichick: Zig when everyone else is zagging.
  • The New England OL does a nice job of getting a hat on a hat. You rarely see a free runner in the backfield. They do a nice job of using move blockers to create angles for their running backs. First-rounder Cole Strange looks like a typical Patriots OL who will play a decade in the league. He lacks some girth but is a good athlete with a competitive play demeanor. RT Isaiah Wynn is a good athlete if not the typical OT body type, and LT Trent Brown is a massive people-mover who can maul defenders when he gets his hands on them. They will use veteran OT Marcus Cannon as an extra TE.
  • Chicago is ranked 29th in rushing yards allowed per game (163), rushing TDs allowed (nine), and 0 or negative-yard rushing plays (14.9%). They have given up over 100 yards rushing in five of six games and over 175 yards rushing in three games.
  • Chicago rotates eight players in their predominant four-down look, with no one player playing more than Robert Quinn’s 68%. Inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Nicholas Morrow have each played every snap this season. Justin Jones is their most disruptive interior player with four TFLs on running plays. He is the one player inside who will take the fight to the OL. He has good power in his hands and good quicks to escape and pursue laterally. Smith leads the NFL with 66 tackles, including 27 solo tackles on runs. He’s a tackling machine with good sift-and-sort skills. He isn’t showing a lot of violence to engage and shed blockers. He’s a good athlete, but he is not explosive. He’s a very good ILB, but he is not a game-changer.
  • This is not an aggressive attacking defense. They don’t pressure and they play soft coverages, so there is room before first contact. They have given up more runs of 10+ yards than any defense in the league. If the Bears’ defense doesn’t force the New England backs to move laterally, it’s hard to envision the Patriots ending up with under 150 yards rushing.

Fields vs. New England Defense

  • Justin Fields is off to a rough start this season. He shows a few flashes of talent, which brings some level of hope to the Bears that he could eventually develop, but it’s a ways away. Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ defensive staff do an incredible job of taking away a player’s strengths and making him beat you with his weaknesses.
  • Fields biggest strength is his legs. When he can move around and get out of the pocket, he can either use his legs to gain chunks or set up open throws by going off-schedule with scramble rules. Fields struggles in the pocket. He has the arm strength to make throws. He showed that on a beautifully thrown ball to Dante Pettis for a 40-yard touchdown last week that was all arm strength. But his timing and accuracy are not good enough for an NFL quarterback at this point. He especially struggles with pressure. When his clock gets sped up and he has to make split-second decisions he tends to rush his throws or bail immediately. He is not a guy who is going to take chances and put the ball up for grabs, so he will hold the ball or take off rather than trust his receiver to make a play. The coaching staff has given him more opportunities to throw the ball the last few weeks, and even though the final drive did come up short last week, there are some things to feel good about a young QB putting his team in position to win a game. This will be a major test for Fields this week.
  • To get an idea of how the Patriots may attack Fields, I took a look at how New England defended Lamar Jackson earlier this season. Jackson is a more dynamic athlete and a far better passer than Fields is at this point, but they are similar in playing style. The Patriots made sure Jackson was not going to beat them with his legs. Except for a few plays, the Patriots did a good job of keeping Jackson in the pocket. They showed him different pass rush looks, mixing in pressure and four-man rushes, stayed fundamentally sound in rush assignments, and did not overcommit. The plays Jackson did get outside of the pocket were on plays where the Patriots could have had sacks but missed. They forced Jackson to beat him with his arm; unfortunately for them he did.
  • In coverage, the Patriots are going to show Fields all sorts of different looks. They have a very close split in man and zone usage. They run zone 49% of the time compared to a 41% clip in man coverage. New England has been good in their pass defense statistically. They rank 14th in passing yards allowed per game at 218.8, eighth in pass yards per play at 6.25, and they are 11th in interception rate at 2.86%.
  • This defense causes havoc for opposing quarterbacks. It is fast, smart and fundamentally sound. It will bring pressure from different places and disguise coverage looks. Its DBs have a nose for the ball and good instincts to recognize routes. It will give up some big plays when the rush doesn’t get home, but it is stout in the red zone to make up for that.
  • Fields is going to have to get comfortable with the speed of this game and will be forced to throw the ball into tight coverage. The Patriots will show him multiple different looks to try to confuse him and make him uncomfortable. His internal clock will be sped up and he needs to try not to overthink. The Patriots will keep him in the pocket and force him to win with his arm. This could be a very long day for Fields and the Bears’ offense.

Jones vs. Gordon

  • The Patriots and Bears drafted two corners this past draft that will be very good players moving forward, and should steady the important corner position.
  • Kyler Gordon was drafted in the second round and has started every game thus far in his rookie season. Gordon can play both outside and in the slot. He has played almost twice as many snaps inside, but when I study this player I see him a bit more comfortable and productive as an outside corner. Playing inside is a different skill set and it is a position that you get better at the more you play there. From the slot, the wide receiver has a “two way go”, meaning he can go outside toward the boundary or inside toward the center. As a slot corner, you must have very good instincts and a “feel” for routes and route combinations. As an outside corner, you must be a bit better of a man player because you may not be getting the help from the other defensive backs.
  • Gordon has the speed and quickness to cover people in man down the field and he, while not the biggest player, has enough size and length to disrupt routes and still stay with his man.
  • Gordon has very good anticipation and timing. When the ball is in the air, he can get his hands on the football, and he is not too early and not too late. When you watch Gordon, focus on his feet and how he is always balanced and can move laterally, open up, and run or plant and drive forward — all because he is so balanced and in an athletic position.
  • Jack Jones was drafted out of Arizona State in the fourth round in this past draft. Jones can play both inside and outside and has ENOUGH size and speed — but his best attributes are his instincts, hands and ball skills.
  • Jones will read the wide receiver and has an outstanding feel for the routes that he will run. An instinctive corner like Jones can see “tells”.  Through film study and many reps, Jones has a feel for when a wide receiver will take off on a 9 route, and also understands when they will break down and cut inside or outside.
  • As you saw on his pick-six against the Packers, Jones read the route, put himself in outstanding position and then made a play on the football. He had to adjust to the ball, but he is such a natural hand athlete that he made it look easy on that pick of Aaron Rodgers.
  • Finding a corner in the second or fourth round that can actually play is a tremendous advantage for an NFL team. Oftentimes you have to draft those players in the first round, and they are not easy to find.
  • Because of all of the spread offenses in college football and all of the five-wide receiver sets, when great athletes come into college they are often moved to receiver. That is one of the main reasons they are so difficult to find!

Extra Points

  • New England is tied for the third-most give-aways with 11, something you don’t expect from a Belichick-coached team. Nelson Agholor has two fumbles, and Zappe’s only interception came off a bobble of a catchable ball by Agholor.
  • The Patriots don’t have a true #1 receiver, but they have three different players who have already had 100-yard games so far in DaVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor.

Bears’ Keys to Victory

  • Muddy up the game and hope that Fields can make a play or two to win.
  • Control the game with their second-ranked rushing attack and their own duo of fine young running backs in David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert.

Patriots’ Keys to Victory

  • Take away Justin Fields’ ability to use his legs and force him to try to win with his arm.
  • Stay patient vs. the Bears’ conservative defense, and take advantage of their red zone opportunities.

WATCH MORE: Bears Well-Coached by Matt Eberflus

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