The Bears won their third game at Soldier Field on Sunday, fourth overall, in their 24-10 routing over the Jets. The Bears only won three home games last season, and three in 2016. Could they lose the rest at home this season? Sure they could, but this team is a lot better than the previous two under John Fox.
Ugh, the Fox era. Why did I bring it up? Wonder if we missed out on any more monkey stories since Ryan Pace fired him. Oh well.
The Bears are making strides, especially on defense. A unit without Khalil Mack on the lakefront, the Bears held the Jets to 59 yards rushing and remain as the only team in the league to not allow a rushing touchdown this season.
We knew the Bears defense was going to be a special unit this season. It was evident last season, in training camp, and then once Pace acquired Mack, it was game over. Along with Mack, you have Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Roy Robertson-Harris Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Adrian Amos, and Eddie Jackson. It’s a great group and contributors like Bilal Nichols and Bryce Callahan make it must-see TV. And the best part, they can get better.
As for the offense, they started slow. They played down to the Jets level in the first half but it was a strong second half that generated 17 points to seal the victory. They play another banged up team in Buffalo next week, a winnable game and a chance to take control of the NFC North.
Let’s dig into my takeaways from Week 8 in Chicago.
The first thirty minutes for the Bears went well on one side of the ball, defense, but the offense struggled to get in a rhythm. Cody Parkey missed a field goal on their first drive, Tarik Cohen caught a screen and ran for a 70-yard score on the second one, but punted on their last three drives. The way the defense was playing, four three and outs in the half, the Bears could have put the game away. Instead, they played down to their opponent and accuracy issues from Trubiksy led to those change of possessions.
You are not going to score on every drive, but it’s tough to watch an offense with a variety of weapons underachieve. The Bears could have put away the Jets early and they had the opportunities to extend drives but failed. Trubisky and the offense went 4-12 on the day on third down. That has to get better. And winning third down starts with winning first and second down. I’ve always had the mindset of running the ball on first down. It keeps the defense honest and sets up success for the rest of the downs. Does Matt Nagy get too cute on first down sometimes? Sure he does. And I like the creativity in the offense. But Jordan Howard proved today he can be a big part of this offense. And giving him the rock to start a drive is a good thing. Through 14 weeks last season, Howard ranked 7th in the NFL with 642 yards on first down runs. Let’s give the former Hoosier the rock to start things off.
Going back to the defense, the Bears held Sam Darnold and Co. to just three points and 76 yards of offense. No Mack, no problem. Isaiah Crowell could not get anything going with Hicks and Goldman in his mouth. His longest run of the day was seven yards. The defense did their job once again and the offense picked it up in the second half.
Trubisky had some issues through the air, but he continued to make plays with his feet. Over the past three games, the face of the franchise has run for 179 yards and one touchdown. And he’s not forcing it either. He takes off when he has to and it’s effective.
There is always a debate about your quarterback taking off into space and taking hits like Trubisky does. He may slide occasionally but he’s a competitor and is going to fight for the extra yard. As a fan, you love your quarterback playing tough and confident. But as a coach, you may cringe. In hindsight, this is a part of his game. Whether it’s designed runs or escaping the pressure and running to green grass, Trubisky is a playmaker. The Bears were able to go 14-3 in the third quarter because Trubisky escaped pressure and ran left for a first down. He beat the defense to the sticks and it would later set up a four-yard TD strike to rookie Anthony Miller. He’s a gamer and you are not going to take that away from him.
In terms of his passing on Sunday, his accuracy is still the glowing issue. Until he becomes consistent in that part of his game, the Bears are going to miss out on opportunities to get in the end zone. His accuracy comes with more work with his wide receivers. He’s been on with the deep ball this year but sometimes off his game throwing it deep. Nagy’s offense is full of deep shots and you do that with a strong-arm QB like Trubiksy. But think of all the times Trubiksy has missed his wide receivers not just on the deep ball but overall. A few plays come to my head right away and they could have led to scores. This along with his pocket awareness will keep him from taking that next step in his development.
Kylie Fitts and Javon Wims were active on Sunday but did not make an impact or get meaningful snaps. This was the first game of the season the entire 2018 draft class was active too.
Fitts, who had flashes in the preseason, will get his chance soon enough. It only takes a few injuries to get your shot in the league. I really believe he can turn into a difference maker in Vic Fangio’s defense. The biggest thing with Fitts is he has been healthy. His health held him out at Utah and caused him to slip in the draft. If he keeps developing and impresses the staff in practice, he will get his chance soon enough.
As for Wims, we may have seen him on offense for one or two plays but he was not targeted. The Bears were smart back in April to draft a flyer in Wims in the seventh round even though they loaded up on the wide receiver position in free agency. At 6′ 4″, that is hard to pass up. His preseason play proved he can be a big target for the quarterback and I even remember him blocking on the edge. This could be another great day 3 pick by Pace.
Both Fitts and Wims, if active, will have to make plays on special teams to earn O and D reps. As a bottom of the depth chart guys, special teams is where they earn their paycheck. When you make tackles on kickoff or your block springs Cohen free on a punt return, that is how you get on the field. These are two guys to watch especially if the Bears suffer any injuries at their positions.
Trubisky and Miller connected for three catches for 37 yards and a score in front of the home crowd. The touchdown pass was the highlight of the day. Trubisky fired a back shoulder corner route to the rookie from Memphis. The ball placement was perfect and Miller adjusted accordingly.
When the Bears moved up in the second round last Spring, Miller’s name was being shouted from the rooftops. Here is a proven guy from Memphis who would fit in the Offensive system right away. And he’s done a pretty good job so far. He’s got three touchdown grabs on the year and posted his career high in yards vs. Jets. 37 is not a lot but he’s getting more comfortable in the offense. And Trubisky is finding him more too. He’s overthrown him a few times, but Miller’s route running and speed will lead to a lot more chances this season and beyond.
With the way he is playing, Bryce Callahan is going to get a nice contract this offseason Callahan had 4 tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 sack, and 1 tackle for loss in Sunday’s win. Fangio uses his Nickel package (5 defensive backs on the field) a lot and Callahan has been nothing short of effective.
He’s not going to get starting cornerback money but he will get a nice payout. If it works out, the Bears should keep him around. An elite defense stays together and adds more pieces. As long as he stays healthy, something he has struggled with in his career, I’m sure the Bears and Callahan can work something out.
Stick with WCC all week for Bears coverage!