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SportsMonday: Sunday's Real Bears Goat

His name is Chris Tabor.

That is the identity of the Bears' current special teams coach, otherwise known as this week's blue-ribbon goat.

It wasn't just that the Bears gave up two special teams touchdowns on Sunday in a 38-31 loss to the Patriots that in one fell swoop dropped them from first to last in the NFC North. And it wasn't just that those two scores were obviously the difference in what was otherwise an evenly matched affair.

It was that the Bears were utterly embarrassed on those two plays.

Cordarelle Patterson blasted through only token opposition at the point of contact between the critical mass of blockers and defenders during his kickoff return touchdown. He then sprinted away as kicker Cody Parkey realized he wouldn't come close to catching him and yet still executed an utterly futile swan dive to the turf.

And finally Patterson took his sweet time crossing the final five yards and the goal line as the Bears failed to take up even a token chase of the Patriot wide receiver. It was a miserable effort. And it wasn't even the Bears' worst breakdown on the day.

That happened when Dont'a Hightower absolutely obliterated the right side of the Bears offensive line on a second half punt from near midfield. He then stuffed Pat O'Donnell's kick (let's pause here for a moment to point out that while the block wasn't his fault, O'Donnell has regressed to thoroughly mediocre for the Bears the last few games).

Fellow Patriot linebacker Kyle Van Noy was first to the ball but fumbled it and then fumbled it again. A team that hadn't given up would have used that time to get back and make a tackle, but Van Noy instead had a third crack at picking up the ball and then ran into the end zone without being challenged.

Guys screwed up the coverage of the kickoff and the blocking on the punt, but all the blame here goes to Tabor. His units simply weren't ready to compete with a Patriots team that always has something up its sleeve in those situations. Bill Belichick is known to revel in making tweaks to special teams. The one that worked best on Sunday was sending in Hightower to make a rare appearance on the punt block unit.

Tabor actually assisted special teams legend Dave Toub prior to his Bears gig. This game was almost enough to earn him a demotion back to an assistant.

We also had questions about Tabor after his bizarre decision during the second half of the Bears' blowout of the Bucs (doesn't it seem like that game happened last season at this point?). He decided to run a "fake like you are catching a punt on one side of the field while a guy who lingered near the sideline actually catches it on the other" return in the second half.

Generally you want to save plays like that for I, don't know, when it actually might result in a meaningful big play as opposed to one that if it had worked would have put the Bears up six touchdowns rather than five.

The coach's only excuse is that he is working with sub-par talent. And it is true that when Ryan Pace throws away draft picks like they are nothing, you suffer for it in the form of glaring weaknesses in the bottom half of your roster.

But it says here that the talent wasn't the problem on Sunday - it was the schemes and the inability to adjust to things like Hightower making an appearance as a special guest star on the punt block unit.

Oh, and Mitch Trubisky wasn't nearly good enough. He overthrew several open guys in the first half, then over-compensated and constantly underthrew guys in the second half. But he played well enough to give the Bears a chance and I'm still waiting on the halfway point of the season before I weigh in with an overall assessment of his play and his potential.

On to New York! Or actually New Jersey, for a match-up with the Jets next Sunday. Our teams may drive us crazy but at least they all call their namesake city home.


Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.


Adding 10/25 . . .

Belichick Breaks Down Special Teams Play Against Bears.

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Posted on May 13, 2021