By: Thomas Gibbons
At Soldier Field on Sunday, you could say it was a historic day.
The Bears got their first win in September since 2014 and avoided going 0-3 for the first time under coach John Fox. Last Sunday, the Bears looked like a totally different team than the team that hung around with NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in week one. An embarrassing loss at Raymond James stadium in Tampa Bay brought back flashbacks of the Bears pitiful 3-13 season.
So how would the Bears respond with the Steelers coming into town? No one really knew. The Bears failed to compete in Tampa Bay and they would have to be on all cylinders against a very talented Steelers offense.
The Bears had to establish a run game and well, they did more than establish it. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combined for 216 rushing yards. The running game was the story of the game and the Bears leaned on it all the way to the final play. It was an odd game, Glennon only target his wide receivers four times, but the Bears came out victorious.
Now, lets dive into five things that stuck out from the Bears 23-17 win.
1. Jordan Howard has a sprained AC joint but he did not play like he was hurt. NFL networks Ian Rapoport tweeted before kickoff of Howard dealing with the AC joint injury but it did not stop him from playing on Sunday.
Howard played liked a pro bowler. The second year pro finished with 138 yards rushing on 23 carries. In my pregame article, I said the Bears must give him 20-25 carries and look at the outcome. Given Glennon’s poor play last week, the run game was going to be very important on Sunday back at Soldier Field. Whether it was Howard or Cohen, the Bears had to be better than only rushing for 20 yards the week before.
The Bears have to be a run first team from here on out, even when Mitch Trubisky becomes the quarterback. Coach John Fox has made it clear the Bears are a run-oriented offense. Good things happen when you can run the football. It not only sets up the pass game, but keep the defense honest.
Between Howard and Cohen, the Bears backfield could become on of the best in the league, and I am not getting ahead of myself. Both players have different skill-sets and to be able to rely on both players is good for keeping them fresh. There is no excuse both of these guys should at least get 12-15 carries a game.
Cohen ran for 78 yards on 12 carries, that is 6.5 yards per run. The rookie for North Carolina A&T continues to be a show stopper just in his third NFL game. It appeared to be his game winning touchdown in overtime but stepped out of bounds after a officials review. It is time for his nickname, human joystick,to get trade marked.
2. The Bears sacked Ben Roethlisberger three times but Leonard Floyd was not apart of any of them. The first round draft pick from a year ago only registered one tackle in Sunday’s win.
It is definitely odd that Floyd has not got a sack yet this season. After a very good offseason and a standout camp, many thought Floyd would be really hard to contain from the start. And so far, he has been a non-factor in getting to the quarterback.
One positive is that Floyd is healthy. It is crucial that the Georgia product does not miss time because his development is still ongoing. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio worked specifically with the outside linebackers in camp and he liked what he saw from Floyd. So, it is shocking that Floyd has not gotten a sack yet. But the Bears travel to Lambeau for a Thursday night game this week, and we all know what Floyd did there last season.
To reiterate, as long as Floyd stays healthy, do not freak out yet that the production is not there. He is still young and needs all the reps he can get, in practice and on game day. It takes time to completely adjust to the NFL game and teams have a bigger sample size to prepare for Floyd now that he has a full season of game tape. It should only be a matter of time though that the Bears promising young player bursts onto the scene and becomes a leader on the Bears defense.
3. The Bears cornerbacks played pretty well. Roethlisberger threw for 235 yards, but the Bears CB’s made the big play when needed.
Prince Amukamara, three tackles and two pass breakups in his Bears debut, missed the first two games with an ankle injury. While away, Kyle Fuller started opposite Marcus Cooper on a mission to re-gain the Bears staff trust. Fangio approved Fullers efforts saying last week ” I think he ( Fuller) may be playing better than in 2015.” And it was Fuller who had the big pass break up late in the fourth quarter on a big third down.
The Bears were rotating corners the entire game, a smart move considering everyone played well. Marcus Cooper also had two pass breakups and almost had a touchdown, but lets not re-live that shall we.
Bryce Callahan, who has had trouble staying healthy, has been the Bears go to nickel cornerback. Callahan racked up a sack and forced the ball to come out on the Steelers second drive of the game. It is good to see him playing well given the talent we know he has. He is not the biggest guy out there, but he has proven he can run with athletes and shut them down.
The Bears are in good shape of cornerback. Bears GM Ryan Pace made it a priority this offseason and went after the top guys on the market. Unfortunately it did not work out and the Bears end up signing second tier free agents in Amukamara and Cooper. Now that we saw all three, Fuller, Cooper, Amukamara, play well vs. Pittsburgh, do not be surprised if the Bears rotate guys in Green Bay on Thursday.
4. Mike Glennon cannot have another game like he did on Sunday or the Bears will lose. It is one thing to be a run heavy offense and another to rely on it so much because your quarterback cannot hit one of his wide receivers.
Glennon finished the day 15/22 101 yards with 1TD and 1INT. Bears receivers were only targeted four times, with a majority of Glennon’s completions coming on check downs to his running backs. His longest completion? A 17 yard pass to Zach Miller. Markus Wheaton did have some drops in his Bears debut, but nonetheless, Glennon has to be better with his progressions and take the Bears down the field.
It is only a matter of time before we see Trubisky under center. We know this not just from Glennon’s poor play but the fact that the Bears have Trubisky as the backup quarterback. If the Bears were really all in on developing their QB, he would be inactive every week. But after his impressive preseason, the Bears had no choice but to name him the backup.
I think the Bears front office knows and we the fans obviously know that Trubisky gives us the best chance to win. His skill set is light-years better than Glennon and the play-calling is not as strict. Trubisky can do it all, and we saw that in the preseason. The most remarkable part of his game has to be his accuracy and execution on designed roll-outs. Trubisky opens up the offense a lot more than Glennon could only dream of.
Coach Fox’s job is on the line. If he only wins 3-5 games, he will not be back at Halas Hall next season. Glennon will have a big test, on a short week, in Green Bay on Thursday night. If the run game is stalled and Glennon cannot move the ball, do you turn to Trubisky? I would, no question. This is not Fox’s first season, this is his third and only has one September win. There is no more excuses or breathing room. He has to put the Bears in a position to win and Trubisky can do that.
5. Two takeaways forced by the Bears were definitely a positive on game day. The Bears have been toward the bottom of the league in that category the past few seasons and it needs improvement in a big way.
The first turnover was a muffed punt on the Bears first drive of the game. Returner Eli Rogers did not come away with the punt and special teams standout and captain Sherrick McManis came up with the football. The Bears would take advantage and Howard had a three yard run for six for the Bears first lead of the season.
The second turnover was Callahan’s strip sack recovered by Akiem Hicks. Connor Barth ended up missing the field goal, wide right keeping the Bears only up seven with under three minutes left in the opening quarter.
The Bears need to average two to three takeaways a game. In their first two games, the defense was on the field too long. They have the personal to take the ball away. Now it is all about execution. Rookie Eddie Jackson was a ball-hawk at Alabama and I have a feeling it will only be a little while longer until he really breaks out onto the scene. Quintin Demps had 6 INTs last year but does not even have any passes defended yet this season. Are we really asking for too much here? The Bears got to take the ball away multiple times a game for their defenses’ sake.
Looking ahead, the Green Bay Packers open as a 7.5 favorite for Thursday’s game at Lambeau Field according to Westgate SuperBook. The Packers came back down 21-7 against the Bengals, forcing overtime and Mason Crosby nailed a 27 yard field goal to improve to 2-1.
You can follow Thomas Gibbons on Twitter: @ThomasGibbons_3