It was a glorious and victorious Sunday afternoon for the Chicago Bears and this fan base. Not only did they clinch the NFC North, they did it with a 24-17 win over their division rival Green Bay Packers. To make matters even more sweet, they eliminated the Packers from playoff contention. With the help of the Minnesota Vikings, of course.
All in all, things have broken exactly the way they needed to over the past few weeks. That is something Bears fans should be very thankful for. It was a “win and in” situation today, but they could have also clinched a playoff spot with a Washington Redskins or Vikings loss (FYI, they both won). It didn’t matter though, because of how these last few weeks played out (headlined by a signature win last Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams), the Bears were able to close the book on the division.
Not only did the Bears win, they had big performances from their top players. Which is a perfect segue into our game balls installment, Week 15 edition.
QB Mitchell Trubisky
This is a game that Trubisky absolutely needed. There’s really no other way around that. Especially coming off (arguably) the worst game of his NFL career against the Rams, last Sunday.
Now, some may look at the box score and wonder why Trubisky is the week’s offensive game ball winner, but his stats didn’t tell the story of how well he played today. He finished the game 20/28 (71%) for 235 passing yards, two touchdowns, a (120.4) quarterback rating and 16 big rushing yards.
Trubisky also became the first Bears quarterback to post four games of at least a (120) quarterback rating. That in it’s own, is pretty damn impressive.
But, let’s get away from the numbers for a second.
Trubisky outplayed Aaron Rodgers today. Again, if you look at the box score, that may not be overly apparent, but it happened and anyone who objectively watched the game, should be able to agree with this sentiment.
Not only did the second-year quarterback have a bounce back game, he got back to what he’s been successful at for most of the year. He was much more accurate. On top of that, his pocket awareness was probably the best I’ve seen it, since his time at North Carolina. To top it all of, his effectiveness throwing the ball downfield after being flushed from the pocket was very Rodgers-like.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Trubisky has been pretty good throwing on the run. The caveat being, that most of those types of plays were designed. On Sunday, he was able to anticipate pressure, escape from the pocket and keep his own downfield to make plays that would make even the biggest Trubisky hates, smile.
Overall, I’d argue that was the best game of his young career. That’s bold to say considering his performances in Week 4 and Week 10, but considering this: He faced a much better defense, with a lot more at stake and most importantly, wasn’t able to sit back with a clean pocket and pick poor secondaries apart. This was the most complete game of his career, even if the numbers didn’t quite show that.
OLB Khalil Mack
This is exactly why the Bears gave up multiple first round picks and made him the highest paid defensive player in the league.
Mack was once again, unstoppable on Sunday. If his six tackles (two for losses), three quarterback hits didn’t prove that, his 2.5 sacks sure did. Words cannot describe what he has meant to this entire team through 14 games (two of which he missed).
When Mack wasn’t getting to Rodgers, he was in coverage or making stops at the line of scrimmage against the run. It was one of those games where on almost every play, he was very noticeable.
The bigger part of his performance? He now has 3.5 sacks, a pick-six and a forced fumble in two games against the Packers, since being traded back on September 1st.
If there’s one thing the Bears have lacked over the past eight or so years, it’s players that have their best games against the biggest rival. To say the least, he’s been worth every penny and more.
Honorable Mention: OLB Leonard Floyd
If Mack was the best defensive player on the field, Floyd was a very close second. Now, let’s be clear here. Floyd started off the year slowly (likely due to a broken hand), but over the past 4-6 games, he has elevated his game to a level that most had expected.
On Sunday, he had six tackles (two for losses), three quarterback hits and of course, two sacks.
Now some may be looking at this stat line and be wondering “That seems awfully similar to Mack. Is that a typo?” and I would be lying if I didn’t wonder the same when examining the box score after the game. Even so, these numbers are correct and eerily similar to Mack. That alone speaks to just how well Floyd played today.
On the season, Floyd may only have four total sacks, but his versatility and play against the run has been highly impressive. It’s also at a level we had not seen from him, prior to this year.
There’s no telling what the future holds for Floyd when looking at his fifth-year option this coming off-season. One thing is for sure, though. His value jumped up a tick more, especially after what appears to be a season-ending injury to Aaron Lynch. Either way, Floyd is getting “hot” at the right time, as this team approaches the playoffs.
On a defense full of stars and potential Pro Bowlers, Floyd is making a name for himself.