The Chicago Bears kicked off the second half of their regular season on a high note, defeating the Detroit Lions 34-22. Though it was far from a perfect win, it was a win, and an important one at that. The Bears improved to 6-3 with a divisional victory and extended their lead in the NFC North. Here are some of my takeaways from Sunday’s action.
Mitchell Trubisky is not Blake Bortles.
Trubisky had one of the best games of his career this week. He ended up completing 23 of his 30 passing attempts for a career-high 355 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He looked poised in the pocket, comfortable and ready to strike at any moment. His footwork has looked progressively better throughout the season, which has improved his accuracy as a result. His pocket presence has also improved, as he is nuch less jittery under pressure than he was in the beginning of the year. Eight of his passes resulted in gains of 20 yards or more, which speaks to his accuracy, Matt Nagy’s confidence in his quarterback, and Chicago’s receivers’ ability to create separation.
Trubisky hasn’t been perfect this season, and the fact that Patrick Mahomes, who was drafted after him in 2017, has been having an MVP-caliber season automatically makes him look like a bad pick in the eyes of those who don’t actually pay attention to the team. Despite what some particular pundits may say online, Trubisky is a good quarterback who has proven that he can lead the Bears to the playoffs, as opposed to one who has to rely on his defense to carry him there.
Running the ball, the Bears were pretty ineffective. Jordan Howard picked up a nine-yard gain on the very first offensive play of the game but failed to pick up a gain that went for longer than that. Tarik Cohen had a lackluster game, as well, only gaining 15 yards on seven carries. He also caught six passes, but he only ended up with a total of 29 yards. A new-look Detroit run defense led by stud defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr. did a number on Chicago’s ground game, but their secondary failed to slow down an electric Bears passing attack.
Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller both put together their best performances of the season on Sunday. A-Rob was the dominant presence that the Bears signed him to be, catching six passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns in his return from injury. He made a phenomenal touchdown grab on a contested ball in the end zone on a 45-yard bomb, putting his size and physicality to good use. Miller has the best game of his career with five receptions, 122 yards and a touchdown. He showed off the ability to separate from cornerbacks and pick up yards after the catch that had him so highly touted coming out of Memphis. Trey Burton also caught four passes for 40 yards, and he caught a two-point conversion pass from Trubisky in the third quarter. It’s encouraging to see so many weapons in Chicago’s offense doing well this year, and the presumptive return of Adam Shaheen from injury next week should open up even more opportunities for them to get open looks.
Although the Bears’ run blocking was less than ideal, they did a good job of giving Trubisky a fairly clean pocket. He was only sacked once, and he was given several chances to deliver darts under very little pressure. Though unlikely they play that well every week in their stretch of divisional games, it was a good sign to see them successful against an underrated Detroit pass rush.
The Bears took their feet off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter, as they allowed 12 points in the span of one minute and nine seconds. Granted, a recovered onside kick gave the Lions very good field position on their second touchdown drive of the quarter, but Chicago’s defense was not fantastic late. Still, their performance in the first three quarters was nothing short of great.
Khalil Mack made his triumphant return from injury on Sunday, and he came back in a way that only he could: by dominating. Despite missing the previous two weeks, he finished the game with five tackles and two sacks. His impact was definitely evident throughout the game, as he opened up opportunities for several teammates. Leonard Floyd continued his hot streak by snagging that ever-so-elusive first sack of the season. Bilal Nichols, who was limited with a knee injury, also picked up a sack and a forced fumble.
Roquan Smith had another good game, picking up 10 total tackles, a sack and a pass deflection. His speed and ranginess really helps the Bears get bailed out on some plays that may otherwise blow past the second level. Danny Trevathan picked up five tackles of his own.
Kyle Fuller didn’t have any pass deflections or interceptions this week, but he did a good job in coverage for the most part. Save an allowed touchdown catch by Kenny Golladay, Fuller had a solid game. Prince Amukamara wasn’t necessarily perfect, but he lit up the stat sheet with eight tackles, two pass deflections, one interception and two forced fumbles. Bryce Callahan had yet another fantastic game, tallying five tackles, two pass deflections, an interception and a sack on a nickel blitz. He should be Chicago’s top priority to bring back this offseason, as he has been one of, if not the best nickelback in the league.
Both Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos had their fair share of mistakes, but neither of them were particularly terrible. Jackson in particular showed some tenacity as a tackler and added on a pass deflection. While not an elite safety duo, they have more than serviceable for most of the year and complement each other well.
Three and out
3. Cody Parkey...yikes. The kicker, who was signed to a four-year, $15 million deal this past offseason, missed both of his field goal attempts and missed two of his four extra point attempts. Every single one of them hit the goalpost. Between this, Pat O’Donnell’s struggles and an inability to both defend and return kickoffs, Chicago’s special teams might just be one of their biggest weaknesses at the moment. Poor performance on the third phase could potentially cost the Bears down the line if they don’t get something figured out.
2. Many have compared Trubisky to Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, the two other quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. Because of the latter two quarterbacks’ success on a national stage, many have forgotten about Trubisky and have considered him to be a bust. Let’s break down how each signal-caller has done so far this year.
- Trubisky: 9 games, 2,304 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 65.5 completion percentage, 6-3 team record
- Mahomes: 10 games, 3,150 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 67.0 completion percentage, 9-1 team record
- Watson: 9 games, 2,389 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 64.9 completion percentage, 6-3 team record
Mahomes has easily been the best quarterback of the three, even if you take out the extra game he has played. However, Trubisky’s performance has been on par with, if not better than that of Watson, who has been praised much more often by the national media. While one can argue that Mahomes is the best quarterback of the class - which is definitely warranted with the way he has played this year - all three of them are playing at a high level and are helping their teams win.
1. The Bears take on the Vikings next week in a Sunday night matchup, and it is one that promises to be a fun one to watch. Chicago currently sits as the two-point favorites, but Minnesota could realistically come away with the win. The Vikings are 4-1 in their last five matchups, and their lone loss came against the red-hot New Orleans Saints. Their defense is playing better than the one that gave up 27 points to the Buffalo Bills, and their offense seems to be clicking quite nicely. The Bears are themselves in the midst of a hot streak, having won their last three games. Next week will surely be an entertaining battle for NFC North supremacy.