The Bears played what can easily be considered their best game of the season yesterday. The Bears dominated in all three phases of the game and pulled out a much needed road win to draw within a game of .500.
While it was their best game of the season it was far from a perfect game. They had two turnovers, they started the game by surrendering a quick seven-play 89 yard touchdown drive that included a 29-yard and 31-yard pass completions.
Here we go again, many surely thought, this defense is just going to give up the huge chuck plays and give up a whole bunch more points.
After that drive though, it was like the game completely flipped. On the Bears' second play from scrimmage, Jay Cutler found Zach Miller who broke between two Rams and sprinted his way to an 87-yard touchdown.
Once the Rams had to settle for a field goal after Marc Mariani's fumble, it never really felt like that close of a game. The Bears outscored the Rams 27-3 the rest of the way.
This was a game the Bears needed because now the schedule gets much tougher before it becomes easier. Anything can happen in the NFL but hosting the league's best defense in the Denver Broncos and then going on the road to Lambeau will be tall tasks for this Bears team. Those next two games certainly don't seem as daunting as they appeared after the bye week though.
Onto this week's takeaways:
Lamarr Houston is getting comfortable in the defense: Whether its the scheme that he's getting more comfortable with, or that his knee is finally getting back to 100 percent since he's finally over the one year mark, I'm not sure but this Lamarr Houston looks way more like the one the Bears signed last offseason. Houston now has three sacks in the last two games and four on the season, drawing him one short of the team lead held by Pernell McPhee. I would not have thought that the Bears would be able to get pressure on the QB or hold a team to less than 100 yards rushing without McPhee.
Jay Cutler is as comfortable as ever: I cannot recall a time that Cutler has ever been so comfortable in an offense or with the plays as I've seen him this year. He clearly has a great grasp of the game plans week to week because he never appears rattled, even when his first option isn't there or if the pass rush is bearing down on him. Cutler also seems to be more comfortable throwing to his non-favored targets. Alshon Jeffery wasn't playing at 100 percent, Martellus Bennett wasn't open, Matt Forte was in Chicago. No problem, Cutler found Miller and Langford. Cutler used to seem to really distrust his receivers not named Forte, Brandon Marshall, Greg Olsen or Jeffery. Now he's finding guys all over the roster to make big plays.
He also seems to know what to do and where the safety valves are. Even on the plays that are designed to put him in harms way, such as the 83-yard screen to Jeremy Langford or the short TD to Miller. Those plays where the pass rush is supposed to get past the linemen in order to set up the play, Cutler seems to me to be better at backing up and waiting for the play to develop where in the past he might have thrown it too soon or held the ball too long and taken a sack. Can we just make Adam Gase Assistant Head Coach/Head Coach-in-Waiting and keep him on staff until John Fox hangs it up?
Oh and Cutler recorded his highest QB rating ever Sunday (151.0).
This team has bought in to Fox: Sure it was easy to dismiss Kyle Long's comment on Thursday that this team was going to make a playoff push. That's Kyle, being the passionate young leader, just trying to stay positive, I thought. But now after this game, I truly think the players believe that they can make a push. It doesn't matter if they can't or won't, but you want the team to buy in and believe what the coaches are selling and I don't think you would get the effort you saw against the Rams if they didn't believe it.
Special teams is improving: The bar for the unit is remarkably low, but against a dangerous return man in Tavon Austin and a KR in Benny Cunningham who was averaging 23.8 yards per return, the Bears unit really didn't give up any huge plays. Furthermore, and perhaps most impressive, was that when Jeff Fisher reached into his bag of tricks for a fake punt, the Bears' ST defense stayed home and stayed with it and the play was a total failure. There is no reason for Fisher to try that fake that deep in his territory other than he knew that the Bears' coverage units have been garbage. Even Mariani's fumble wasn't an egregious error, he had two arms around the ball, the defender just hit it about as perfectly as he could.
Mistakes were fewer and far between: The Bears had only four penalties, only the second time this season the team has had less than six (the other was against the Vikings, when they also had four). The Rams, on the other hand, had eight penalties. The Bears have played sloppy too often this year and it has cost them games (Detroit) or compounded bad games (Arizona). It was nice to see the opponent on the wrong end of the yellow flags for a change. Just off the top of my head I can think of one scoring play and at least two first downs the Rams lost due to penalties.
Bonus takeaway: Langford can play: I don't know that I'm running Matt Forte out of town yet, but for the second week in a row, Langford impressed me. He was able to make some big plays and especially get outside of that nasty Rams defensive line and find space outside to get down field.
What did you take away from the Bears' win yesterday?