The Bears notched their second win of the season, this time on the road against the Baltimore Ravens, their first win in Baltimore since 1965. Now that the team is 2-4, what does it all mean? Well, if you’re finding your reactions just a bit too measured after their overtime win, Windy City Gridiron is here to provide a more dramatic set of takes. This week, Robert will explain why the arrow is pointed up and Josh will rain on anyone’s parade. Here’s the Week 6 Bears’ Overreaction (Road Win! edition).
Robert: How about that Bears defense? Scores of legendary franchise players and coaches were—or no doubt, would’ve been—pleased with easily the best performance of the John Fox and Vic Fangio era. Less than 300 yards of offense allowed. Less than 200 yards passing. Three takeaways. Three sacks. A paltry 16 percent conversion rate on third down. No touchdowns allowed. And of course, a late touchdown of their own. Fangio’s men put up a clinic against the always “elite” Joe Flacco and company and effectively abused them. No matter the competition of an anemic offense, it was refreshing to see a Bears defense impose their will on an inferior opponent. It’s been some time.
Josh Sunderbruch: “Impose their will” is a bit florid for making a bad offense look bad. In fact, this was a game of overmatched offenses. Quick, name a player who has thrown more than two touchdowns in a single game for the Chicago Bears this year. Wait, no such player exists. Instead, the big free agent quarterback and the No. 2 pick in the draft have been matched by a punter and a pint-sized running back. In other words, without gimmicks and tricks, the Bears offense is even more anemic than it looks on paper.
The reality is that Dowell Loggains is outclassed as an offensive coordinator, and all he knows how to do is dial up cheap tricks or stick to one mode (pass last year, run this year) of attack at a time. I can’t tell you if Mitchell Trubisky is any good, but he’s certainly not in the hands of a staff that’s making the most of all of that “potential” he has (side note: potential is a fancy way of saying he’s not done anything of real value yet).
Robert: I can’t necessarily disagree that the Bears are holding Trubisky back. 15 pass attempts a game isn’t going to cut it over the length of the remainder of this season. However, I can’t help but wonder if Trubisky is ready to shoulder that load.
For example, the Ravens have one of the best-coached defenses in the NFL. They are constantly mixing up coverages and throwing exotic blitzes at quarterbacks. Trubisky, who only completed eight pases, threw away at least 30 percent of his 15 attempts as the Ravens flummoxed him. Throwing the ball more wouldn’t have helped. It would’ve been irresponsible, especially when you possess a ground game with Jordan Howard that just gave the Ravens’ unit it’s worst allowed rushing day in franchise history of 237 yards. Better design of pass plays is a different story, but that will come with time.
Josh Sunderbruch: At what point does “will come with time” stop being a reasonable excuse? I mean, some of these developing players will be retired or on another team by the time this magical “rebuilding process” finishes.
Case in point: by any reasonable measure, the best player on the Bears’ defense was Kyle Fuller. He technically had six tackles and three pass deflections, but the Adrian Amos pick-six really belonged to No. 23. In fact, Fuller anchored that secondary. Which, of course, is why Ryan Pace neglected to pick up the option on his contract. Consequently, the best cornerback on the Bears is going to be a free agent at the end of the year, while Marcus “can’t be bothered to score a touchdown” Cooper is safely under contract for two more years.
If anything is symbolic of how this team has been mismanaged, it’s Pace’s inability to recognize talent and keep it around - mishandling the Fuller situation isn’t even Exhibit A right now - it’s closer to Exhibit W.
Robert Zeglinski: We can’t justifiably fault Pace for not picking up Fuller’s option. After missing the entire 2016 season, and not proving enough in his first two years, no NFL team would’ve picked up the fifth year on Fuller’s deal. The risk was too high. 2017 was essentially always going to be a “prove-it” year for Fuller and boy has a newfound confidence while being clearly doubted paid off for him.
Back to that ground game. What impresses me most about this Bears offense (I know, it’s mostly mediocre and one-dimensional) is that when they commit to the run and get it rolling, I’m not sure there’s a team that can slow them. This offensive line with its five starters healthy is really gelling at the point of attack and Howard, Tarik Cohen, and even Trubisky are showing the wherewithal to take advantage.
Fun fact: In the Bears’ four losses this season, they’ve ran for a combined 363 yards.
In their two wins, 437.
Stick to run when it’s working. Feed your best talents on offense without any tangible targets in the passing game downfield. It works. To an extent.
Josh: Less fun fact: most teams that are one dimensional (like the Bears are with their running game) have better numbers in their single dimension when they win. Sad truth: this is why depending on a single facet of a game is a losing strategy, and it is probably why losses outnumber wins 2:1 this season. A small handful of players (Fuller, Hicks, Barth, and Howard, mostly) seemed to be playing to win. The defense did its best most of the time. The offense was sad. However, most of the really bad stuff happened in the third phase.
Did the Bears special teams guys not get enough sleep? Are they all angry with John Fox and hoping that the Bears lose enough that he gets fired? They seemed to really want to lose this game. Miscue after miscue put the Bears in a position to lose more or less constantly.
Anyone who claims they knew the game was in hand during overtime was either lying to themselves then or lying to us, now.
Robert: Special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers was no doubt losing sleep on Sunday night. That was one of the worst special teams performances by a Bears team that I can remember. But there might be a possible explanation that gives insight into why the Bears value their specialists so much.
Captain Sherrick McManis left with an early injury to his hamstring. I’m not going to say that one player should have capitulated an entire unit in such a fashion. But when he’s the best piece you have there, a guy that was a Pro Bowl level player in 2016, the effect shouldn’t be surprising. Guys are more likely to be out of position and whoever replaced him, likely wasn’t as effective. Provided McManis’ hamstring doesn’t keep him out for too long, there’s nothing of much concern here for a specialist group that was beginning to come together.
That’s it for us—check in below and give us your own reaction—whether it is extreme or a bit more nuanced.
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.