By Thomas Gibbons
Oh, what a night.
The Chicago Bears defeated the Los Angeles Rams 15-6, improving to 9-4 and 6-1 at Soldier Field.
Can you think of the last time there was this much excitement around the Bears? I think we would have to go back to 2010 and that was sometime ago. In 2012, the Bears got out to a hot start but they could not close it out and it led to the firing of Lovie Smith. And until now, the Bears were unable to get their “swagger” back. But that is no longer the narrative. The Bears are 9-4 and have an elite defense that shut down the high scoring Rams Sunday night on the lakefront.
Enjoy this win. The Bears beat who many consider the best team in football. Todd Gurley was held to 27 yards rushing. That is pretty good football. And the Bears front seven was in Jared Goff’s face all night. When you make the quarterback rush throws and get hands in his face, that is a recipe for success.
This was a statement game for the Bears. It was the biggest game at Soldier Field in quite some time and the lights were bright. But the Bears rose to the occasion and did not let the Rams stop them from playing their game.
What Matt Nagy and the coaching staff have done with this group is quite amazing. Ryan Pace hit a home run with this hire. The energy, the spirit, the preparation. It’s all there under Nagy.
After wins, the energy Nagy has in the locker room is awesome. He connects with the players and they respond. They are having fun and so are the fans. The culture in that locker room is something special and the Bears are on a road back to contention. In what looked like another rebuilding year heading into the season opener, the Bears acquired Khalil Mack from the Raiders and everything changed. The spirit, the predictions, and the outlook for the season headed in a different direction. And Nagy has been at the forefront of all of this.
Looking at the quarterback play, both Mitch Trubisky and Jared Goff had their share of troubles. The Bears did a great job getting pressure on Goff and it led to turnovers. On the Bears side, Trubisky was protected fairly well. He was only sacked once. But he sailed some throws and it led to picks. It was not a good game from Trubisky but he did just enough to set the Bears up for points.
Overall, it was a very poor showing from Trubisky. It was a step back in his development. And Trubisky knew it of course. His throws were poor, leading to a few turnovers. He did well running RPO’s, short throws, but his deep ball accuracy still remains an issue. It’s a work in progress. What if Trubisky made minimal mistakes on Sunday night? The scoreboard would have been different.
In the long term, I’m not worried about Trubisky. He has played pretty well this season and it was just a bump in the road. Missing two games and not picking up the football for 10 days is going to be a challenge. And I’m sure he was a bit hesitant being out for a couple weeks. But he did enough to win the football game and that’s all that matters.
To the next phase, the Bears defense was at it’s best. Todd Gurley was contained and getting pressure on Goff was the big key heading into Sunday night. He’s a great QB and the system Sean McVay has it place compliments Goff really well. But Vic Fangio did a really good job setting up his players for success. Words cannot explain how the defense played. It was electric.
Let’s take a look at some of the top players on the Bears defense last night.
Prince Amukamara: 6 tackles, 3 PD, 1 INT
Roquan Smith: 6 tackles, 1 PD, 1 INT
Kyle Fuller: 1 INT
Khalil Mack: 1 forced fumble, 1 sack
I want to point out someone who did not have a big stat sheet but I thought played pretty well. And that is Leonard Floyd. He did a great job setting the edge in the run game and had his share of covering Gurley in the flat. I know his sack numbers are not where people want it, but Floyd has been stout against the run all season.
Now the real question: Are the Bears Super Bowl contenders? It’s not hard to put them in that category. The defense is elite and the offense has shown flashes of how great they can be. But in order to go to the show, Trubisky has to be at the top of his game. We have seen him play at a high level weather that was against the Bucs or the Lions in early November. When he plays within the system and puts touch on the ball, the offense is just as good as the defense.
Now with this defense, the Bears can make a deep playoff run. But if the Bears are lucky enough to get to the NFC Championship game and have to face the New Orleans Saints or the Rams again, all three phases are going to have to be at their best.
What a game. Enjoy it. Savor it. The Bears are back to being one of the top teams in the NFL and it starts with the coaching staff. Nagy has done a tremendous job getting this group ready every week and the players have executed the game plan.
Next week, Aaron Rodgers comes to Soldier Field. The Packers have had the Bears number for quite some time and this game is going to be fun.