This week, I thought it might be fun to write an article for everyone. Therefore, if you came here to feel better about the hard-fought loss proving that the Bears rebuild is on track, please read the non-italicized article. This is the article that will highlight what went right in a game that showed the Bears are not to be underestimated, despite the loss.
On the other hand, if you feel like the Bears are destined for another losing season and might as well aim for the first pick in the draft (preferably with some combination of a new general manager, new head coach, and new quarterback), please read the italicized article. This is where you will find all of the evidence you need that the Beloved are doomed.
Week 1 was disappointing. The Bears got beaten on the road by a team fresh off of an appearance in the playoffs, and projecting an entire season (or entire player careers) after a single game is foolhardy. However, this was a frustrating loss because for the first half it looked like it was going to be a surprise win. An offensive line with no real chance to gel gave Jay a real pocket for a few moments, and he delivered. Meanwhile, Leonard Floyd came out of the gate with a performance that justified Pace's faith in him.
Week 1 went as expected. Yes, good things happened for the Bears, but not enough of those good things happened in a row. It might be way too soon to generalize, but when the same problems keep showing up, it's not a rush to judgment. It's a note of caution. In this game, two players in particular stood out as reasons for Bears fans to temper any enthusiasm. Jeremy Langford did not look the part of a lead back, and Kevin White did not seem like a player who is ready for the challenges ahead of him.
First, Cutler seemed to come out with greater poise than I recall him showing in the early part of games, and he kept playing despite taking a beating. The number of times Cutler threw the ball away and made smart decisions was refreshing. One particularly compelling moment was the time he got the ball away as J.J. Watt came in. Cutler took a hit but saved the yards, and his response was to give Watt a sort of reassuring tap on the helmet. Jay played better than his 76.2 rating.
The stats agree. In the last three games of 2015, Houston allowed a 67.3 passer rating; Jay had a 76.2. (Negative interruption: Cutler did a little better than late-season Matt Hasselbeck, Blake Bortles, and Zack Mettenberger). While that is not awe-inspiring, it is pretty good for a guy on the receiving end of 5 sacks and 13 official hits. Cutler never locked onto a receiver (White got 25% of his targets, and that was the largest share focused on one player). He played efficient football and suffered an interception for which he took the blame even when (for a change) nobody thought he was the guy at fault.
Boy, did Jeremy Langford remind football fans of the difference between playmakers and stat accumulators. Langford got yards, but nothing in his performance should have made someone think "people have been underestimating this guy." Instead, for much of the game, fans should have been asking "where are Howard and Carey?" or "How is one guy a committee?" The 33-year-old quarterback should not have more carries than all but one guy on the team.
Sadly, Langford's actual performance was more of the same from last year, when he had 3.6 yards per carry. Against Houston, he had only 3.4 yards per carry even though last year they allowed 4.1 yards per attempt across the season. With his amazing total of 57 yards, he is on pace for about 900 yards...for the season. His meager 50% catch rate on the four passes thrown his way is certainly in keeping with the 52.4% catch rate he managed last year. (Positive interruption: the offensive line has been completely shuffled, with three new starters, and at least one of those "non-catches" was Cutler throwing it away to save a sack, with Langford serving as the convenient Chicago uniform in the vicinity). The only problem is that decent play for a backup is frustrating in a lead back.
On another good note, Leonard Floyd seemed to find his way to the football a lot. All preseason long, Floyd hustled around the football field. He spun, sprawled, and stretched to get where he needed to be. He had trouble getting home, but the motor was there, as was the athleticism. Hopefully, his critics will pause now and take stock of the situation.
In his first career game, Floyd recorded 6 tackles, half a sack, and a quarterback hit. In the way-too-early extrapolation game, that would put him at 84 tackles, 8 sacks, and 16 hits. That would have put him in the lead in every category on the 2015 Bears. While realistically there is no way a single game's worth of performance can extrapolate to an entire season's worth of play, it is an encouraging sign that he did so well. What is true is that he was widely regarded as a development project, but he still had a better first game than either Von Miller or Khalil Mack. If he maintains anything like this level of performance, he will have been worth the cost of trading up for him.
For more than a year, Bears fans have been trying to justify the draft capital spent on Kevin White. As the 7th overall pick, he represents a greater investment than Leonard Floyd and Deiondre' Hall put together. Sunday did not make it easy to justify that investment. It is not that there is anything wrong with his intelligence (in fact, he is supposedly pretty bright). It is not that he suffered a fluke injury last year. It is not even an interception that came from one bad route. Those things happen, and even experienced players with a deep understanding of the game can have a miscommunication with the quarterback.
The problem is that White had a sub-50% catch rate and is on pace to gain under 600 yards in his "first" year—but only so long as he is the target of a quarter of all passes. White (3/7, 34 yards, 0 TD, long of 19 yards) underplayed not only Jeffery's first career outing (3/5, 80 yards, 1 TD, long of 42), but also Eddie Royal's first game (9/11, 146 yards, 1 TD, long of 29). They were both second-rounders. White probably isn't a bust, but it might not be too soon to wonder if he was over-drafted.
The moral of the story is that a single game is in the books, and there are fifteen more games ahead. Tell me below which article was closer to your fan experience on Sunday.