The Denver Broncos have a huge test coming to Mile High this weekend, and it’s obvious that Chicago Bears fans are eager to see their team bounce back from a disappointing performance and prove that their offense under Mitch Trubisky is not a fluke and that their defense - even without former defensive coordinator and current Broncos head coach Vic Fangio - is the best in the NFL.
The trouble is, Broncos Country is in a similar position - albeit with perhaps less firepower to work with - after a hugely disappointing performance on Monday Night Football to open the season under a new regime.
So Sunday’s showdown at Mile High (or whatever the Broncos want to call that stadium) is likely going to be a dogfight - either one that is won in the trenches while two defenses vie for the title of winning in Week 2 and allaying fears of a season tailspin, or a game won in a blowout. It could possibly go the Broncos way if the Bears’ offense plays like it did last week against the Packers, but more likely the scales would tip to the Bears if the Broncos’ o-line falls to pieces and the defense stays dazed and confused on the field.
Either way, this is a highly anticipated game with two fan bases dying to get to Sunday and hopefully watch their team bounce back from a
And to get us closer to that goal we have Jeff Berckes of Windy City Gridiron to talk Bears v. Broncos in our “Five questions with the enemy” series. You can read my exchange with Jeff here, where I lament Week 1 and try my best to feel fine about Week 2. You decide.
A huge thanks to Jeff and Windy City Gridiron for taking time in a busy week to talk with Mile High Report. Show him some love, Broncos Country.
MHR: I have joked a few times this week that Joe Flacco could be in the emergency room by halftime given the state of the Broncos’ offensive line and the power of the Bears’ Front 7. Can you give me any hope that there’s at least one weakness in your defensive front - or should I go ahead and have some body bags ready on the sideline?
WCGridiron: Honestly, at the risk of sounding like a homer here, I don’t think there’s a weakness. If you’re going to squint, you could say they lack a reliable 3rd edge rusher or that Danny Trevathan isn’t a threat to blitz, but that’s a little nit-picky.
The truth is that in addition to Khalil Mack, the Bears boast some impressive defensive linemen that play the run well (Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks) and can get after the QB (Roy Robertson-Harris and Hicks again). One of the few highlights from the Packers game was Leonard Floyd and his impressive pass rushes, resulting in two sacks. If he’s a legitimate second fiddle to Mack with a strong rush from Hicks and Robertson-Harris, they’re going to stack up some impressive numbers. If the Packers game was not a sign of things to come (he’s historically played them well), then I’d say that’s the front 7’s weakness.
Last year the Bears did knock out a few quarterbacks or forced teams to bench their starters in favor of a backup. I don’t know if Flacco is a candidate for that this Sunday, but given the Broncos troubles on the offensive line, it would be advisable to do everything you can to avoid obvious pass-rush situations. The problem with that is the Bears have been pretty strong against the run as well, so expect a slog!
MHR - Assuming our offense is able to get the ball in the hands of one of our top running backs - Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman - or down the field to Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders, how do you see your defensive line stacking up against our running backs and your corners with our receivers? Are there any holes we can exploit?
WCGridiron: I like Lindsay and I could see him finding some success in slipping through a hole now and then. The key to containing Lindsay will be second-year linebacker Roquan Smith who looks like he’s ready to take the next step. I’m not sure Freeman’s style will stack up well against a stout Bears front but I haven’t seen enough of his carries to know what he’s capable of yet.
I’m a little more worried about Sutton and Sanders. I’ve always liked Emmanuel Sanders, and while the Bears corners had a lot of success last season, I’d worry about the speed Sanders brings. Sutton looked like a different player in Week 1 from his rookie year, and if he’s taken the leap, he’ll present challenges. I’ll say that Rodgers didn’t really attempt much of anything over the middle of the field in Week 1 and that’s almost certainly because Eddie Jackson roams there. He’s got incredible range and makes Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara better. The best bet for Flacco is to find quick-hitting slants to counteract the rush or work along the sidelines using Sutton’s size. It’s certainly not impossible to move the ball, but this Bears defense usually makes teams work for it.
MHR - Tarik Cohen was a much bigger factor as a receiver than he was as a running back last week. Do you see that as becoming his major role in the offense? And how much more do you anticipate David Montgomery contributing in the rushing attack for the Bears this weekend and throughout the season?
WCGridiron: I’m not at all happy with Tarik Cohen’s usage in Week 1. I think it’s a huge mistake to take him out of the backfield completely and just sit him in the slot. One, it takes away snaps from Anthony Miller, one of the Bears better options at WR. Two, he’s not nearly the matchup nightmare when covered by a corner than when he is by a linebacker. It was an odd decision that I hope reverses itself immediately and forever.
As far as Montgomery, I absolutely see him building to be the lead back in the offense. The Bears abandoned the run against the Packers. I don’t understand it. It was weird. But moving forward, I would assume (and hope) Matt Nagy has more balance to his gameplan and Montgomery should be a big part of that. He shows incredible contact balance and it’s going to lead to a lot of fun runs with him bouncing off tacklers. There are few things that Bears fans get more excited about than running backs.
MHR - Over the years, we’ve sent you a few players (i.e., Jay Cutler) and coaches (i.e., John Fox) that Broncos fans have happily given up. But sending Danny Trevathan to Chicago after he helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 was a much harder pill for fans to swallow - especially now that we have a major weakness at inside linebacker. How much of an impact has Trevathan made on the defense as a linebacker and on the team overall as a leader for the Bears? Do you anticipate him re-signing with the Bears in 2020 or can we have him back? ;)
WCGridiron: I love Danny. He’s played well for the Bears since his arrival and immediately provided leadership during the rebuild. He was the crown jewel of the 2016 Free Agent class and even if Akiem Hicks turned out to be the real diamond in the rough, he’s played up to his contract. He wears the green dot on his helmet and calls the plays and is really the elder statesman on this squad. I would absolutely welcome him back, but he’s a popular candidate in the minds of many to move on from next season. The Bears drafted an ILB last year, but he hasn’t shown nearly enough to be trusted in that role. My hope is he comes back.
MHR - Last week our best defensive unit - edge rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb - were completely neutralized by Derek Carr’s ability to get the ball away quickly and an offensive line that could stand in the way just long enough to keep them from getting even a sniff of Carr’s jersey. Do you see your offensive line and quarterback being able to do the same - or how do you think the Bears offense will account for Miller and Chubb this week?
WCGridiron: I really like our left tackle, Charles Leno Jr., and I’m excited to see just how he fares against that impressive duo. Leno made a Pro Bowl last year and he’s steadily improved every season into the player he is today. The Bears offensive line struggled as a whole last week, but I thought Leno held his own. Bobbie Massie, the right tackle, has improved dramatically as a pass blocker but the advantage is certainly tilted in favor of Miller and Chubb. The Bears would be smart to give him extra help.
As far as the QB... yikes. I don’t know. I expected to see progress from Mitchell Trubisky after he put a lot of positive throws on film in 2018. “Putting it all together” was the hope coming into this year but it sure looked like it all was taken back apart and scattered on the ground in last week’s performance. It’s tough to hand out mulligans in this business and let’s hope that’s all that is needed, but it would be irresponsible for me to say he’s capable of avoiding sacks when the Bears are coming off giving up five against the Packers. Personally, I’m hoping for a lot more in the run game and a fair amount of play-action to help Trubisky get more space in his throws.
Bonus question - What was your favorite awful John Foxism from a press conference?
WCGridiron: So, before I answer, let me say that John Fox was a step up to respectability from Marc Trestman. Trestman’s favorite refrain was “we had a good week of practice” that didn’t translate on the field, Used to drive everyone nuts.
As for the Foxisms, I’m not sure I can pick a favorite but he once said “we don’t know exactly what we’re doing here” after releasing a player and it felt like that summed up his tenure in Chicago.
*editor’s note: My favorite will forever be the unbelievably ridiculous reference to “that thing above your left nipple” as a way to say a player “has heart.” Oye, John Fox.