The Bears head into their final home game of the 2018 regular season at 9-4. That’s in major part due to their 15-6 victory over one of the NFL’s best teams in the Los Angeles Rams. It wasn’t exactly a thriller in terms of offensive production or the best played game for either team on Sunday night. Yet, when it mattered the most in the second half, the Bears put their foot on the gas pedal and pulled out a huge win.
The return of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky didn’t exactly go as most had expected or hoped. Despite that, the Bears were able to overcome a poor offensive performance to position themselves within one game of clinching a playoff spot. Which could come as soon as this coming weekend against the Packers.
Regardless of how you cut it, the Bears proved most doubters wrong and most importantly, showed that defense still wins championships. This was as big of a statement win as anyone could have asked for. Maybe more. Last night showed the Bears can beat anybody. This close to the playoffs and you have a good confidence booster.
While it wasn’t a sexy performance for some, there was plenty to like. Especially on one side of the ball.
Vic Fangio and the Bears defense
Heading into last night’s game, the headline was simple. It was the best against the best. Top offense versus a top defense.
Much like two Thursdays ago when the Dallas Cowboys shocked the NFL and beat the Saints, defense won out again on Sunday night. The Bears defense utterly dominated a usually high-flying Rams offense. So much so that the Rams had less than 100 yards total offense halfway through the third quarter.
To put things into perspective, this was a Los Angeles offense that came into the game averaging well over 33 points per game and was top five in total yardage. Yet, the Bears defense came out and completely shut it down, giving up just 214 total yards and six whole points.
On top of that, the Bears had four interceptions, another forced fumble, and three sacks on quarterback Jared Goff. All of this while holding running back Todd Gurley to 28 rushing yards on 11 carries (2.5 yards-per-carry): his lowest in a game since 2015.
What’s more impressive is that the Rams had been held to under 30 points just twice under Sean McVay, before last night’s game. Their lowest season point total was 23. The Bears quashed that notion completely.
Don’t get me wrong. A good offense usually beats a good defense, especially in cold weather. But I don’t think there’s anyone who expected the Bears to shut down the Rams that well. This was more than containing one of the best offensive units in the league. This was about thoroughly dominating a team with no answers for a full 60 minutes.
For as good as the Bears defense has been this season, I’m not sure we’ve seen them play as complete of a game as they did last night. Hats off to this entire unit, including its coaching staff. That was a defensive performance for the ages.
For the first time this season, Howard finally went over 100 yards rushing.
While it was long over due, it couldn’t have come at a better time with Trubisky barely eclipsing 100 yards passing while throwing three interceptions.
As a team, the Bears rushed for 194 yards. It was Howard who led the charge with 101 yards of his own. In a game where offensive production was hard to come by, controlling the clock was a big key to a victory and that’s exactly what Howard was able to do.
He averaged 5.3 yards per carry on the night, including a few big runs. None more sizable than than his 21 yarder on an outside zone run late.
It was not only Howard’s best performance of the year, but also one that the Bears hope can get him sparked for the final three regular season games before they head into the playoffs. Another cold weather situation likely awaits the Bears there in an early January home playoff game.
Honorable Mention: James Daniels
While Howard may have been the best offensive player on the field, the rookie Daniels played a big role in not only keeping Trubisky relatively clean all night, but in Howard’s performance.
Daniels was a big part of the reason that stud defensive tackle Aaron Donald failed to record a sack and only had one pressure. On top of that, Daniels’ athleticism showed multiple times in the run games as he was consistently able to get down hill and to the second level.
It’s amazing to think that during the preseason and heading into Week 1, the rookie was deemed “not ready” to start. 13 weeks later, he’s shutting down one of, if not the NFL’s best defensive player. It’s been a steady rise for Daniels over the past month or so. Last night’s performance was easily the best of his young career. That’s what makes him this week’s honorable mention.