The Vikings are the best team in the NFC North. The Bears are not the best team in the NFC North. Unfortunately, this showed on the field today. The Vikings had a playoff bye to play for, and the Bears did not seem to care about my sushi bet that they would win at least 6 games. This all added up to a comprehensive start-to-finish beat down for the Bears. The full box score can be found here.
Sushi notwithstanding, my main hope for this game was to see some more encouraging development from Mitchell Trubisky. Instead, our season finale turned out to be a a painfully familiar rerun of the episode where Trubisky is unable to make much happen in extremely difficult circumstances, with no run game, against one of the league's best defenses.
The Bears' run game is broken, but not permanently
For the final three weeks of this season, the Bears' rushing attack has ranged from pathetic to heartbreaking. Fortuneately, the two main reasons for this are reversible.
Injuries on the offensive line have revealed just how bad the depth at that position group has been, with backup tackles playing guard, Cody Whitehair playing out of position, and the undersized, underperforming Hronis Grasu "holding down" the center position, the line has been unable to make holes and uncoordinated in their attempts at zone blocking. Luckily, starters will get healthy, and the Bears have a whole offense as on coming to shore-up depth on the offensive line.
Despite constant criticism by fans, media, color commentators, and myself, Dowell Loggains (within unclear amount of influence from Foxy) has failed to stray from his predictable ways. Between down-and-distance and personnel choices, an attentive defensive coordinator, linebacker, or safety, can reliably predict not only when the Bears are going to run, but often where they are going to run. With a new offensive system, and some better receiving threats to help destack some boxes, the shackles around Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are bound to loosen next season. #Beardown2018
Akiem Hicks finished the season playing like an All-Pro
Of course, like the rest of the season, nobody was paying attention. But Hicks brought the tenacious passion and ursine power all game today. A few of us are watching, and he will always have our Pro Bowl votes.
Jeff Rodgers pads his resume with one last glorious trick play
The Bears didn't get on the scoreboard until Rodgers made history by being the first Bears coach to realize the ever-electric Tarik Cohen could be useful as a decoy. Whether he's making his case to be kept on staff by the Bears next head coach, or shopping himself around the league, this bit of delightfully successful chicanery in an otherwise lackluster game will certainly help his cause.
New slogan for the Bears' 3rd-down defense: "my bad"
I haven't checked the record books, but the Bears certainly made a bid to go down in the history books for most first half third down drive-extending penalties. Eddie Goldman started the penalty party by roughing the Keenum, but Bryce Callahan managed to get two 3rd down pass interference penalties on his own. Marcus Cooper Sr. reminded us he's still on the team by gratuitously and unnecessarily holding Kyle Rudolph on what would have otherwise been a terrific drive-ending play.
It's clear the Bears' defense didn't want to get off the field. After seeing that the Bears' offense was putting on the field, it's hard to blame them.
3rd-and-long boot camp for Trubisky
I'll be honest. I don't know the best way to develop a rookie quarterback. The Bears had a curious strategy today. It involved calling predictable run plays on first down—making sure to announce your plans with personnel if the fact that you have started almost every drive with a run all season wasn't enough—to guarantee a second and 10+. Second down was a little more flexible, but preferably involved a single-read short pass to hit the 3rd and 8 to 18 sweet spot.
Now your rookie is primed for the ultimate on-the-field training experience: passing on 3rd and long against the NFL's best 3rd down defense with the NFL's worst receiving corps (ideally from behind your own 10 yard line). I can only guess that the goal here was to give the rookie practice in not imploding under extreme pressure. Trubisky did not implode. This feels like a win.
Sam Acho gifts us with a late moment of joy
Pancaking Case Keenum with his left hand as he pushes back his blocker with the other. Macho Acho shows us what kind of strength you unleash when you poke the Bear one too many times. Bwahahahahahaha.
It's been a rough season, Bears fans, and this was not an ending that will lift many spirits. But there's brightness to peer into in the Bears' future. Mitchell Trubisky has shown more promise than he had any business showing given his limited experience and bounty of handicaps. Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Cameron Meredith, Cody Whitehair and Adam Shaheen round out a young core of promising offensive cubs ready to grow with the Bears' franchise quarterback and pair with a defense that is already performing well.
Bear with us, Bear buddies. Happy
New Year's Black Monday's Eve!