The Bears faced the Browns in a battle between two teams that quite simply weren’t very good. However, the Bears managed to get the win and Chicago now sits ninth in the draft order as John Fox will fall short of the record for the worst coach in Bears history. No one else is going to spend too much energy on this game, but here at Windy City Gridiron we’re going to do our best.
Josh is going to embrace the positive and Robert is going to offer his regrets. One way or another, here’s the Week 16 Bears Overreaction (Better Than The Browns edition).
Josh Sunderbruch: Mitchell Trubisky didn’t have a single touchdown pass, but let’s be honest - his statline in this game was never going to matter. With apologies to some, I don’t care about No. 10’s fantasy value. What mattered more was the way he spread the ball around, took what was given to him, and made the plays he needed to make.
Trubisky converted on third down time and again, and his rushing touchdown was simply the icing on the cake. I reject the idea that he has somehow turned a corner - he hasn’t played badly this year so much as he has been surrounded by a substandard cast - but he definitely showed why he might be a true franchise quarterback.
Robert Zeglinski: I agree that Trubisky played mostly as efficiently as you would like. Making plays with his feet and athletic throws on the run have been his forte for all of 2017. Yet, he still showed issues of feeling around pressure and recognizing blitzes that could’ve been easily avoided. Mistakes that will not be excused next season for the rookie.
The Bears were working with a patchwork offensive line so it’s easy to see why they allowed five sacks at a glance. I, however, would point to a lack of recognition by their young quarterback in Trubisky against a sack and blitz happy defensive coordinator on Gregg Williams. Williams at one point literally ran the exact blitz on back to back third downs to succeed in pressuring Trubisky and getting him to the ground. That also isn't even mentioning his pocket presence, which while it was improved steadily week by week, still leaves a lot to be desired in running into defenders on occasion. This can’t happen for a contending offense in the future. The same mistakes can’t be repeated at the hands of the golden goose signal caller.
Chicago’s face of the franchise has come a long way since his first start on October 9th. He’s done much better with footwork, play recognition, and the like. As Sunday’s mostly efficient game showed, Trubisky has a ways to go in all of those regards.
Josh: The Bears secondary didn’t seem to know that they have been a joke for the last few years. Kyle Fuller continues to play like a man on fire, and both Bryce Callahan and Prince Amukamara showed an aggressiveness as well as an instinct for the ball that has been sorely lacking around here.
Chicago had three takeaways without a pass rush. Imagine what this team is going to look like when everyone gets healthy again!
Robert: While I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Chicago’s defensive backfield this season, let’s not give them too much credit for harassing the worst current quarterback in the NFL in DeShone Kizer. Kizer, who leads the league in interceptions with 21, lived up to his erratic name on Sunday giving the Bears and Fuller (or should I say Deion Sanders?) plenty of opportunity to capitalize on careless haphazardness. Fuller's had a great rebound year, don't get me wrong, but many cornerbacks' performance have been significantly boosted by Kizer thus far.
In that light, the Browns offense, for all of their winless lunacy actually didn’t play that much worse than Chicago’s attack either. Kizer and Cleveland were able to relatively move the ball well against the Bears’ defense. It was the interception to Fuller in the endzone (where on Earth was Kizer going with that pass?) and a fumble by Ricardo Higgins near the goal line in the second half that turned the tide in this game.
What this means is that the Bears defense isn’t the Lovie Smith unit that creates its own luck in taking the ball away. This was actual random fortune. With eight interceptions and an unimpressive 22 overall takeaways for Chicago this year, this game was more about the Browns shooting themselves in the foot as much as the Bears playing well. The final score of 20-3 was not indicative of how competitive the Browns actually were in this game.
When the Bears and Trubisky did finally put the ball in the hands of a Browns defender - Myles Garrett, who ran back the ball for a would-be pick six - Cleveland was offsides. Go figure. A few four leaf clover based turning points between two mediocre football teams.
Josh: I would be negligent if I didn’t point out the rather major way Nick Kwiatkoski stepped up against Cleveland. He has been something of a hot-and-cold player since he was drafted, but Sunday showed that he has the ability to be an impact player if he gets some solid coaching and a bit more experience.
Robert: Kwiatkoski’s story seems to be a common refrain for the Bears defense this year, no? He’s not the only defender that flashes with talent when given the opportunity and who merely needs some fine tuning.
Look at Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris making plays in the backfield in limited snaps both on Sunday, and in the past few weeks. Two bright defensive ends with all of the potential doing their best to penetrate the backfield and open up lanes for their linebackers like Kwiatkoski. Two defensive ends that show how asinine it was that Akiem Hicks had ever played 95 percent of his snaps at one point in 2017. Why Chicago elected to grind their best defensive player away instead of giving him more spells with solid depth is a question answered by a coach's incompetence.
Sunday against Cleveland was but another example of personnel mismanagement by a coaching staff that can’t leave Halas Hall soon enough. Which is to say, less than one merciful week to go.
One way or another, the Bears managed to beat the hapless Browns. Chicago is fighting for pride now, and it’s nice to see that the team still possesses it.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and contributor to The Athletic Chicago. Josh Sunderbruch is the numbers man for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow Robert on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.