Chicago Bears fans had many things to be thankful for on this year’s Thanksgiving.
The Bears had three NFC North games in the span of just 12 days, and they finished off the stretch of divisional matchups with an undefeated record. Despite not having Mitchell Trubisky on the field, they toppled the Detroit Lions 23-16 on the road. Now at 8-3 on the year, Chicago sits with a comfortable lead in their division days before the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers square off on Sunday night.
Here are some of my notes and observations that I had from yesterday’s games as I stuffed my face with mashed potatoes.
This game was not a pretty one for Chicago’s offense, but that was a given heading into the game.
All things considered, Chase Daniel had a solid outing. Given a short week to prepare for making his first start in four years, the backup looked confident and poised. He finished the game completing 27 of his 37 passing attempts for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bears didn’t give him too daunting of a task in executing their play calls, as they rarely chose to stretch the field with deep passes. That said, Daniel was able to keep the offense rolling for the most part.
Daniel is no Trubisky in terms of athleticism, which prevented the Bears from running their offense at full speed, as they cut down a little bit on option plays and roll outs. The backup was also sacked four times, which had more to do with the offensive line’s problems in pass protection than his agility, but having a more mobile quarterback would have helped in those situations.
The Bears’ passing attack carried much of the load offensively, as their ground game was pretty ineffective. Tarik Cohen caught a 14-yard pass for a touchdown and ended up with seven receptions and 45 receiving yards, but he only carried the ball three times on the ground. Jordan Howard finished with a measly 13 yards on seven carries, with none of his runs resulting in more than a four-yard gain. Chicago’s offensive line struggled against a Lions run defense that has caught fire with the addition of Damon Harrison Sr., which opened up very few holes for their running backs.
One of the things that the Bears did well offensively was spread the ball around to several targets. Nine different players caught a pass yesterday, with one of them being Chase Daniel, who caught an eight-yard pass from Anthony Miller. Cohen and Taylor Gabriel each had seven catches, ending up with 45 and 49 yards, respectively. Miller contributed three catches for 41 yards, and Trey Burton ended the day with four catches for 28 yards. Allen Robinson wasn’t targeted too heavily, but he caught two passes for 37 yards, with one of them being a 29-yard inside shoulder fade. Taquan Mizzell even had a solid day, catching two passes for 21 yards and a touchdown.
The receivers were asked primarily to run shorter routes, which prevented them from seeing many downfield targets. Nevertheless, they managed to put together a few decent plays, relying more on their collective ability to gain yards after the catch.
As has been the case throughout the year, the Bears showed up and made some big plays on defense.
Eddie Jackson was the MVP of the game, taking an interception to the house for a pick-six and deflecting two passes. The second-year safety has taken a huge step in his sophomore campaign, and is developing into one of the best safeties in the league. Though he still has a bit more work to do as a tackler, his instincts and range in coverage are among the position’s best.
The Bears’ pass rush was mostly neutralized due to Detroit’s reliance on short passes, but they still managed to sack Matthew Stafford twice. Roquan Smith picked up one sack, in addition to his 11 total tackles, and Deon Bush picked up the other on a blitz on the last play of the first half. Khalil Mack was able to shed blocks consistently, but Stafford released the ball too quickly for the All-Pro edge rusher to bring him down.
In a rare turn of events, the Bears had issues stopping the run. LeGarrette Blount ran all over their defense, picking up 88 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. The powerful back pounded the ball right down Chicago’s throats, and they often had a hard time bringing him down. Their tackling as a whole wasn’t the best, but part of that could be attributed to their having played a game just four days before.
Akiem Hicks ended up tallying four total tackles, continuing his hot streak in the process. Kyle Fuller finished with eight tackles, two pass deflections and a game-clinching interception. Now with five picks this season, it would be surprising if he were left off of a Pro Bowl roster for any reason other than the Bears being in the Super Bowl (only half kidding).
Three and out
3. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, these aren’t the same Bears that fans have watched over the past few years. To put it into perspective, let’s take a look at some fun statistics comparing this team to those of old.
- The Bears have won eight games in this season alone. That’s how many they won in the previous two seasons combined.
- Chicago won three divisional games under John Fox. They have won three under Matt Nagy in just 12 days.
- Even if the Bears were to lose every single game for the rest of the year, they would have the most wins they’ve had in a single season in five years.
- If the Bears were to be shut out in every single game for the rest of the year, they would still have 53 more points than they had in all of 2017.
2. The culture that Nagy has developed for this team is nothing short of remarkable. Winning more games certainly helps, but this Bears group has more swagger than any other team the franchise has assembled in years. They clearly enjoy playing for the franchise and competing alongside each other, as made evident by their team celebrations and their Club Dub videos released on the team’s Twitter account. Part of that may actually have to do with Fox’s work with the team, as he helped rebuild the Bears’ culture after the locker room chaos caused by Marc Trestman. Still, one has to be impressed with just how fun this team has been under Nagy.
1. With matchups against the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers ahead of them, the Bears have two games in which they will be the irrefutable favorites. If they win those games, then they will have reached 10 wins. This will be more than enough to secure a playoff spot in the NFC, whether it be as the NFC North winners or as a Wild Card team.
It would also mathematically lock them out of last place in the division for the first time in five years, even though the idea of the Bears losing every single game from here on out and the Lions winning every game is incredibly illogical.
If the Packers lose to the Vikings on Sunday, then they will be unable to reach first place in the NFC North. If the Vikings lose to the Packers, then they will have to not only win all of the rest of their games to lead the division, but they will also have to rely on the Bears not winning more than one more game this year.
Needless to say, the Bears are more than likely looking at the first division crown since 2010.