Chicago improved to 5-3 on the year on Sunday, tying their win total from last season with another eight games left in the year. It wasn’t a pretty game for them offensively, but they did enough to complement their defense’s shutting out of Buffalo’s offense.
Here are my notes and takeaways from this week’s game.
Coming off of a week full of vitriol spewed by national pundits, Mitchell Trubisky didn’t exactly light it up on Sunday. Then again, he didn’t really have to in order for the Bears to win this game.
He ended the day throwing 12-for-20 with 135 passing yards. Although he threw a wildly inaccurate interception, he continued his five-game streak with a touchdown through the air with a two-yard flat to Trey Burton. Despite Trubisky’s measly stats, he made a few plays that showed plenty of promise. Burton’s other reception on the day was on a deep cross on 3rd-and-15, during which Trubisky stood tall in a collapsing pocket to deliver the strike. Although his yardage totals - both through the air and on the ground: he only had one carry for eight yards - the Bears didn’t need to pass the ball very oftenAfter they scored 28 points in the second quarter. Only seven of Trubisky’s 20 passing attempts came in the second half.
Much to the dismay of my fantasy team, Tarik Cohen was very ineffective. He only had seven touches all game and tallied just 13 yards. Buffalo’s defense did a good job of setting the edge and countering his speed on outside carries. Jordan Howard took a bulk of the carries, with 14 carries for 47 yards and two touchdowns. Although he hasn’t been his old self this year, he has served as a punishing back to wear down opposing defenses to make their spread offense more effective.
With a boring passing attack comes a boring day for Chicago’s receivers. Only three receivers topped double digits: Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel and Burton. Miller finished up with career-high totals with five receptions for 49 yards. In the absence of Allen Robinson, Miller stood out the most, which is encouraging to see out of the second-round rookie.
Charles Leno Jr. finished the game with three false start penalties, with two of them coming directly after each other. Bobby Massie also had a relatively poor game, and the Bears’ interior offensive line missed Kyle Long at the right guard spot, which was occupied by a rotation of Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann. The unit hasn’t been terrible this year, but expect Chicago to target a right tackle and - potentially - depth at guard this offseason.
Gadzooks, guys. This was a good one.
It wasn’t perfect, sure. The Bears finished with four sacks, but three of them came in the fourth quarter. They allowed their fair share of big plays, and they allowed the Bills’ first touchdown in 38 possessions. However, they also forced four turnovers, put Nathan Peterman under constant duress and scored two touchdowns, one off of a 65-yard fumble recovery by Eddie Jackson and the other off of a 19-yard interception by Leonard Floyd.
Speaking of Floyd, he had arguably his best performance of the 2018 season. He finished up with three tackles, and he put constant pressure on Peterman. He didn’t attain that elusive first sack, but he proved that he can step up and do well in Khalil Mack’s absence.
Roquan Smith started off slowly, whiffing on tackling LeSean McCoy in the first quarter. He finished up the game strongly, though, ending with 13 tackles and forcing the fumble that Jackson recovered. Danny Trevathan also did a great job manning the middle of the field, ending the game with 12 total tackles of his own.
The Bears did a great job of pressuring Peterman, which resulted in a handful of erratic throws. Aaron Lynch, Adrian Amos, Roy Robertson-Harris and Isaiah Irving all finished up with a sack, with several others like Floyd putting pressure on Buffalo’s backup. The secondary did a good job of taking advantage of that most of the time. Kyle Fuller got his fourth interception of the year, and he was instrumental in forcing two others. He has proven in recent weeks that he was worth his large extension over this past offseason.
Three and out
3. The Bears remained in first place in the NFC North after this week, which is encouraging to see halfway through the regular season. Even if they don’t finish atop the division to end the season, they project as one of the top candidates to claim a Wild Card spot. Assuming they defeat the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers, they will need to go 3-3 in five divisional games and one matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams and Vikings will obviously be very tough games to win, but sweeping the Lions and defeating the Packers at home is a realistic possibility. Chicago has a favorable record heading into the tougher half of their schedule, but it could be a steep hill to climb.
2. As of now, these are the following NFC teams that can be considered close to a playoff lock at this point.
These teams figure to be involved in the playoff hunt into December.
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Chicago Bears
- Washington Redskins
- Green Bay Packers
- Atlanta Falcons
- Seattle Seahawks
The Bears and the Redskins currently share the best record among the latter group at 5-3. The Eagles and Falcons are particularly frightening as potential choices to catch fire late given their past successes, but Chicago could be just as dangerous of a threat with the returns of Mack and Robinson.
1. The Bears return home next week to square off against the Lions, who are coming off of a two-game losing streak. Damon Harrison Sr. has been a very good addition to the middle of their defense, but Golden Tate was severely missed in their matchup on Sunday against the Vikings. They tried to rely on Theo Riddick as their yards-after-catch weapon, but he failed to fill the role very well.
Oh, and another thing: Detroit’s offensive line, which has the reputation for being one of the better units in the league, allowed 10 sacks against the Vikings. Although one should not expect the Bears to do the same, having the likes of Mack, Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd chasing after Matthew Stafford makes a dominant performance possible.