I have to admit, I didn't get to watch much of the game. I watched the first quarter and the very beginning of the second as the wife and I were visiting friends in southern Indiana for a wedding we attended Saturday. We hit the road early in the second quarter so from there on we listened on SiriusXM radio in my car.
I tracked down the home call because Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer are the best and luckily the game kept me interested as the endless corn fields of U.S. 41 rolled by.
It was a roller coaster of a game though. I am sure I was not alone in about having the team buried somewhere in the second quarter when the Chiefs went on an 11-play 57-yard drive and kicked a field goal to go up 17-3.
"Here we go again," I thought to myself. "It's good we're making them settle for field goals but behind this patchwork o-line and with a receiving corps that would pass for other teams' practice squad, we're in deep."
But the Bears came through. Ashley and I were holding our breath as we listened to the call of the Bears' final drive and the subsequent field goal attempt by Kansas City.
As the Chiefs lined up for an NFL-record attempt 66-yard field goal, Thayer summed it up very well.
[Paraphrasing] "I don't want to see (this record), not this week. It can come against one of the Chiefs' division opponents, it can come next week, but not here. The Chicago Bears deserve this win for how hard they've fought back."
They earned that victory for sure. Here are the five takeaways from it:
1) The new coaching staff is paying dividends
There is and has been a lot of evidence to back up this statement but now, a full month into the season, it is beginning to manifest itself on the field. Last year this was a team that as soon as it was down, it was more or less out. A feeling of dejection and utter loss just snowballed on them.
Early in the game, a rookie center, a mish-mash of undrafted and seventh round wide receivers, the Bears give up a sack-fumble touchdown. In past seasons that almost surely was the ball game. But this group rallied, played with heart and pulled out a win on the road as a big underdog. The team has been well-prepared and played smart, efficient football. Basically a complete 180 from last year.
The team is now starting to gain confidence and see the fruits of the new staff's labors and blueprint. That is a very good thing for a team that has been playing with basically one arm and hand tied behind their back due to injuries.
2) The defense is rounding into shape
Granted the Chiefs and Alex Smith are not the 2007 Patriots and will not be mistaken for an offensive juggernaut. They still have a lot of speed and the Bears really held them pretty well in check.
It could be a completely different game if Jamaal Charles doesn't tear his ACL (here's hoping he comes back 100 percent because he is one of my favorite players) but that's football. The fact is though that the Bears defense came up big, especially late in the game and forced four straight three-and-outs to end the game and get the offense the ball back when they needed it most.
Pernell McPhee showed up again, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young got into the sack game, Christian Jones made a few plays and Sam Acho continues to thrive without Jared Allen poaching snaps from him. Kyle Fuller has been better and the safety play has been solid as well. Charles' longest run of the day was 15 yards.
The thing is this defense haven't done their best work in any flashy way: the team has yet to win the turnover margin in a game, they don't have a ton of sacks or gaudy yards-per game allowed stats. They have just been quietly making the plays when they need to.
3) Jay Cutler is enigmatic
Cutler is Cutler. Unfortunately around these comment threads Cutler is seen in black and white; He's reviled or defended. As with most humans and most things in life: the truth lies in the middle. Cutler has never lived up to the hype but he has also been unfairly criticized at times. Other times his play has warranted the criticism.
Just as I couldn't be the only one to have the team more or less buried before the blocked field goal, I also can't be the only one waiting for Cutler to throw an interception on one of the final two drives. We've seen it before and every game this year Cutler has thrown a pick at an inopportune time.
But he proved me wrong.
Cutler balled out Sunday. In the past we've seen his bad games snowball on him and on the radio broadcast, at one point in the first half sideline reporter Zach Zaidman said that Cutler was visibly frustrated with the offense and was standing by himself on the sideline.
Cutler was running around and avoiding pressure as well as playing with a number of young receivers he doesn't know if he can trust yet. He stayed with the gameplan and stuck by his teammates throughout the game and it paid on the final two drives when Cameron Meredith and Marquess Wilson came up big.
As for Cutler himself, the two touchdown throws were incredible from his part. The first was a beautifully thrown ball just to the spot where Wilson and no one else could get it and the game-winner on a crazy play where he actually dropped the ball, stopped, picked it up and was still able to get his eyes up the field and throw it to the right spot.
In the past two weeks Cutler has showed poise to go with the things he's always had: toughness and arm strength. I'm not ready to say to that this is a new Jay Cutler or the one the Bears expected when they traded for him or any of that but I will say that it feels a little different and I think the biggest difference stems from the coaches he's around.
4) The Bears need healthy playmakers
The Bears have found a little success against teams that they were either evenly matched with or better than, which is how it is supposed to be. They have still needed some late comebacks in order to get those wins though.
It is enticing to think about what this team could be if they get healthier though. Players like Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, Will Sutton, Antrel Rolle and Tracy Porter have all missed games. If this team can field even three of those guys at the same time, it will feel like a much stronger team.
I also can't help but this how much more effective the playmakers they still have would be if some of those other guys were healthy.
For example, Martellus Bennett was clearly targeted by the Chiefs' defense and he had a quiet game. Now, to me yesterday's game might be a red flag as to why maybe the team shouldn't give him big money. Bennett is a very good tight end but he still comes up with frustrating drops and disappears, even when he should be having strong games. Bennett is a big, huge target (6'6") and he was targeted 11 times yesterday but still only came away with four catches. Bennett seems to be better when he isn't the key target.
5) Chicago has a realistic chance to be 3-3 at their bye
Ford Field has not been kind to the Bears and it is a tough place to play, however, the 0-5 Lions really look bad. Matt Stafford could have a big bounce-back game with his wake-up call benching yesterday but that team has issues beyond just Stafford.
They cannot run the ball effectively, they turn the ball over a whole lot and their defense has not really stopped anyone other than the Seahawks.
Yes, Sunday is quite winnable and the Bears should be feel good about themselves going into it but by no means should they take the Lions lightly.
What were some of your takeaways from yesterday's win?