With a rough defeat on Monday night, the Bears now sit at 1-4. Now, nobody really expected Chicago to be in the run for a playoff berth this year. But it’s still tough to go from the hope of a new era to the letdown of yet another defeat.
Hence, Windy City Gridiron is here to provide the ups and downs of the fan experience. While Josh explains the upside to everything that happened at the advent of the Trubisky era, Robert will take a moment to add a more somber note. If you’re ready, here’s the Week 5 Bears’ Overreaction (Mitch Mania Edition).
Josh Sunderbruch: It all comes back to the quarterback. In this case, Mitchell Trubisky. Critics will point out that No. 10 posted only a 60.1 passer rating. The flaws of box score scouting aside, it’s worth pointing out that Deshaun Watson posted what was functionally the same rating in his first game (60.4) with a much stronger supporting cast around him. However, setting aside those numbers for a moment, it was a joy to simply see a truly two-dimensional offense on the field. A three-dimensional offense might need to wait for a new coaching staff, but Trubisky came to play.
He also took ownership of the defeat. He made only a few real mistakes, and he immediately owned the interception. More than that, he learned from it. This isn’t to say the rest of his career will be mistake free. However, anyone who thought he was going to come in and play flawlessly should remember that “anointed one” Dak Prescott debuted with a 69.4 passer rating, no touchdowns, and a loss to the New York Giants.
Trubisky played well enough to keep hope alive.
Robert Zeglinski: Trubisky indeed met expectations for his first start. I’m not going to disparage anything he did because he played largely like you’d expect from a rookie. Some flashes, some rookie mistakes, and occasionally uneven.
No what was troubling was how even with Trubisky in, as you mentioned, the Bears seemingly refused to open up the offense to an even greater degree. Outside of Trubisky rollouts and the occasional RPO (run pass option), nothing differentiated Monday night’s offense with The Future from when it was ran by the impeccable Mike Glennon. Let’s take a gander.
Zach Miller was still largely the only reliable tight end down field for whatever reason, as evidence by his touchdown reception. Kendall Wright made a few plays but was still absent more than you’d like. And the lack of creativity in using Tarik Cohen while limiting Jordan Howard was ever present too.
It was Trubisky’s first start so it makes sense that Dowell Loggains and company would like to make matters easier for him at the start. And the weapons aren’t obviously there yet. However if the Bears are going to let Trubisky actually change this offense with his actual NFL talents, it would behoove them to let him do it and take the wheels off of his tricycle moving forward as we progress. Get him comfortable with more Howard and work some youthful potential playmakers at receiver (hello Tanner Gentry and Tre McBride!). This shouldn’t be that difficult.
Josh Sunderbruch: I’m not about to defend Loggains and his play design (besides a nifty trick here or there). I am going to point out, however, that teams have done well with worse coaches, so long as the rest of the team can shine through. On that note, I thought the defense was a real bright spot. Leonard Floyd played like a man on a mission, and it says something when a safety in the opening quarter might not actually have been his best play. His speed and bend seem to have returned, and despite the fact that he was playing without inside linebackers to help him for much of the game, he was everywhere.
Likewise, Akiem Hicks played his heart out, and the entire secondary looked better. Eddie Jackson showed even more promise that might have been believed, and Kyle Fuller looks committed to revitalizing his career. They held the Vikings to 3.9 yards per pass, and for the first time all season they looked like they were ready to become a complete unit. With Trevathan coming back, this side of the ball shows a lot of promise.
Robert: Unfortunately, as much as I’m filled with hope about Hicks, my son Floyd, and company coming together defensively as we wind through the season, these injuries will start to take their toll.
Let’s be real, the Bears aren’t going to have the fortune of playing a statuesque quarterback every week in the mold of Sam Bradford and Case Keenum (Joe Flacco will be an exception, sure). And without a clear edge rush threat besides Floyd even while he finally gets going (that Willie Young injury will start to hurt), this defense will still consistently struggle against better quarterbacks. Maybe the youthful Isaiah Irving is a player, maybe not. You better hope he is though because I fear this surprising secondary won’t hold up forever - on both the health and play front.
It would also be nice if the Bears wouldn’t be on their sixth and seventh linebackers after John Timu’s high ankle sprain. Thankfully enough, this will be mitigated to a degree by the return of Danny Trevathan on Sunday. You saw this damage inflicted on Jerick McKinnon’s big touchdown run in the second half. A better linebacker makes his run fit on that play and minimizes damage. Much like receiver on offense, the Bears are working with extremely limited bodies at linebacker on defense. It’s enough to tug your collar for to make it through another 11 weeks.
Josh: I don’t know what to make of the fact that John Fox and company actually pulled out a trick play on a punt. It almost doesn’t matter whether or not it worked. What matters is that the coaching staff of this team did something that looked like it was actually willing to take a risk or two. That, in and of itself, borders on the miraculous.
Robert: My favorite part about Fox actually taking risks and pulling out his bag of tricks with that punt pass and the wild Trubisky two-point conversion later, is that he still finds a way to bungle other matters.
Most prominently for example, the “go-for-it!”, “don’t go-for-it”, “we’re punting”, “okay we’re going for it”, sequence on the first drive of the contest. How as a coach, do you bungle a play in such a fashion like that? If you’re going to punt, do it. If you’re going to go for it and set the tone for your rookie quarterback, do it. Be decisive and concise. I don’t buy the conspiratory thought that Fox apparently was trying to catch the over-eager Vikings off guard with the confusion. No, no. That was complete disorganization and confusion over time and game management. A Fox trademark through and through.
Josh: Nobody’s pretending that this was a complete game. However, even without clinging to moral victories, the Bears showed once more that they are a hair away from being contenders. The rebuild has maybe one season to go, and that is something to be excited for.
Those are our thoughts. Feel free to overreact on your own below!
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is an editor for Windy City Gridiron. Josh Sunderbruch is the numbers man and a writer for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow Robert on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.