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Bears vs. Bengals: Notes from an impressive blowout

The Chicago Bears played a great game of football for the first time in ages.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals
Tarik Cohen helped lead an impressive one-two punch on the ground this week.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears were....actually really good today?

In what may have been the best performance we’ve seen all year from the men in navy and orange, the Bears massacred the Cincinnati Bengals in a 33-7 blowout. The offense was clicking, the defense looked good, and coaching wasn’t half bad, for once. Here are a few of my takeaways from the game that broke their five-game losing streak.

  • I thought Soldier Field had it bad...Paul Brown Stadium was half empty throughout the entire game. Then again, a matchup with two below-average teams in the cold doesn’t sound all that appealing.
  • Although the Bengals’ early challenge gave them a first down, Eddie Jackson had a very good tackle on Alex Erickson.
  • Kyle Fuller had an awesome pass breakup in the first quarter. He was all over A.J. Green, got in front of him and batted the ball away. It probably could’ve been an interception, but a deflection will do just fine.
  • A few years ago, I used to pull a Cody Core on kickoffs and punts in Madden and run out of bounds, only to come back in bounds and tackle the returner. They’ve since prohibited players from doing that.
  • Another day, another dropped pass by Jordan Howard. He’s a fantastic runner, but I’ll have trouble considering him to be elite until he proves to be helpful as a receiver.
  • A touchdown run by Tarik Cohen was called back after the rookie was ruled having stepped out of bounds. Regardless, 14 yards is a very good pickup.
  • Jordan Howard followed that Cohen run up with a 21-yard touchdown. I’ll take it.
  • Cincinnati had practically nobody up the middle on the second level, which gave Howard a whole lot of space to run free.
  • Mike Nugent missed a PAT, but he was otherwise decent in his Bears debut. He went two-for-two on field goal tries and three-for-four on extra points.
  • Benny Cunningham had an impressive special teams tackle on the Bears’ second kickoff of the game. The running back has proven to be valuable on passing downs and on special teams. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him get re-signed this offseason.
  • Andy Dalton isn’t that good. He’s not terrible, but he’s not good. That’s one of the worst quarterback situations to have if you're an NFL team. He’s not bad enough to the point where you have to spend a high draft pick on a quarterback or start a backup, but he’s not good enough that he’ll lead your team deep into the playoffs. His utter mediocrity is somewhat reminiscent of Jay Cutler’s time in Chicago.
  • Mitch Trubisky favored Kendall Wright early and often on Sunday. The wide out had four receptions on five targets for 26 yards in the first half. He finished the game with 10 catches and 107 yards. If the Bears don’t end up signing Jarvis Landry or another slot weapon in free agency, then I wouldn’t be opposed to them bringing Wright back next year. Even if they do choose to upgrade the slot position, it would be a good decision to re-sign him.
  • Trubisky had Wright open down the field and delivered a great pass, but his body was past the line of scrimmage. That’s a classic rookie mistake. Although it’s the first time he’s done that this season, he can’t afford to be doing that in the future.
  • Let’s just say John Fox isn’t good at calling challenges. Or anything, for that matter. Why would you challenge a play that was clearly called correctly? Better yet, why would you challenge a play when you have already used a first-half timeout in a game that figures to be a close one?
  • Brandon LaFell was wide open in the end zone. The Bengals did a nice job of using a bunch set to confuse the Bears’ secondary. Deon Bush isn’t a defensive back who can recover from making mental mistakes.
  • Man, Jordan Howard was on fire in the first quarter. The Bengals were unable to plug up the holes that the Bears’ offensive line created, and Howard exploited that. He finished the first quarter with 51 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
  • Dowell Loggains would be wise to give Trubisky a few more designed roll out plays. His athleticism and ability to throw on the run have proven to be effective on those types of plays this year.
  • Cohen had yet ANOTHER touchdown called back due to an illegal block in the back by Tom Compton. The Bears have had so many big plays called back due to stupid penalties this season. The discipline simply has to be better. That’s often a result of bad coaching.
  • Chicago’s pass rush was pretty much nonexistent, as expected. Dalton had all day to throw the ball on nearly every play.
  • Speaking of nonexistent, the Bears did a good job of stopping A.J. Green in the first half. Although part of Green’s lackluster performance was due to Dalton being bad, Kyle Fuller did a fairly good job of covering him.
  • Adam Shaheen needs some more reps, especially on passing downs. He has been the best tight end on the roster from a receving standpoint since Zach Miller went down. Sure, he’s still very raw, but he has proven that he can be a player who can stretch the field and be relied on in the red zone.
  • Penalties aside - they had seven for a loss of 49 yards in the first half - Chicago’s offense was very good early on. Loggains did a good job of mixing up pass and run plays. the blocking was great, and the receivers did were able to get open for the most part.
  • On a non-related note, Terry Bradshaw admitted on the Fox NFL halftime show that dog bones aren’t that bad if you’re hungry.
  • One of my friends texted me during the game that the Bears’ offensive line looked better without Kyle Long than they did with him on the field. As much as I like Long, I have to agree with him. Long wasn’t playing up to his potential this season, mostly due to injuries. For the most part, Chicago’s offensive line was a lot better than a lot of people - myself included - thought they would be this week.
  • Good call on Loggains’ part to run a read option inside the five-yard line. The Bengals were expecting a handoff to Jordan Howard, since he had been doing so well on that drive. Trubisky was able to read the defense and trick them, running it in for a touchdown.
  • I predicted that the Bengals would have overwhelmed Chicago’s offensive line. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Bears did a great job opening holes for Howard and Cohen and giving Trubisky time to throw the ball. That played a big part in their offensive success.
  • My man Eddie Jackson caught his second interception of the season off of a pass that deflected off of A.J. Green.
  • His situational awareness and ball skills have been on display in several games this year. He has proven that he was a bonafide steal in the fourth round.
  • Howard has an incredibly strong lower body. That, combined with his balance, makes him incredibly tough to bring down.
  • As we saw today, when Howard catches fire, Cohen often does, too. He’s a fantastic change-of-pace back who can take advantage of a defense when it has been worn out by Howard’s ground-and-pound style of play.
  • Shaheen! The Bears probably should have tried to pound it into the end zone with Howard, but a one-yard pass to Shaheen works just fine.
  • Either way, this type of production is great to see out of Chicago’s young players.
  • An actually smart challenge by John Fox? What?!? Eddie Jackson clearly stripped the ball out of A.J. Green’s hands after he caught it. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but kudos to Fox for making a good decision.
  • The Bears ran a wildcat formation and it worked! Cohen displayed speed and patience on the 29-yard run.
  • In case you couldn’t tell, Jordan Howard was very good on Sunday. He ended the game with 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. He officially topped 1,000 yards this season, making him the first Bear to ever run for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. The Bears have had a lot of legendary players play the running back position, but Howard is well on his way to joining that upper echelon of Chicago backs.
  • If the Bears’ coaching staff coached like this all year, then they would probably be somewhere in the wild card hunt. Chicago has had a lot of games decided by poor coaching decisions, but there were very few of those this week. In fact, I’d go as far to say that this game was the best-coached game the Bears have had all year.
  • Howard Jones and Jonathan Bullard combined for a sack, which is encouraging to see. Both of them have seen their playing time increase due to injuries to starters, so it’s nice to have the backups stepping up.
  • Lamarr Houston picked up his third sack in two games on Sunday. Although he hasn’t been able to consistently rush the passer (not like anybody else on their active roster has), he has had a handful of impressive plays since coming back.
  • Ugh, Kyle Fuller. He’s got to haul in those easy interceptions. He had a very good game, but securing that pick would’ve put the icing on the cake.
  • The Bears’ pass rush really picked it up late in the game. At that point, though, I just think Cincinnati’s offensive line was tired.
  • This is the best Chicago’s offense has looked all year. The playcalling was great, Trubisky made a lot of great decisions, the receivers got open and the run game was phenomenal. If they do well enough in the offseason, then we could see a lot more games like this in the next few years.
  • Chicago won the time of possession battle this week, which was a big reason why they ended up winning the game in general. They had the ball for 38 minutes and nine seconds, whereas Cincinnati only had it for 21 minutes and 51 seconds. Out of the four games the Bears have won this season, they won the time of possession battle three times, the only exception being against the Carolina Panthers, where Eddie Jackson scored two defensive touchdowns. It’s clear that maintaining possession of the ball tends to be key to a victory for them.
  • The final soundbite of the game was a resounding chant of "let’s go, Bears" from a Paul Brown Stadium crowd that was mostly made up of Bears fans at that point.
  • This win puts the Bears at 3-0 against the AFC North this season. With a win against the Cleveland Browns at home on Christmas Eve, they have a chance to sweep the division this season.