Sunday night saw a familiar Chicago drama play out, only in an accelerated fashion. Once upon a time, the Chicago Bears would have a promising start to the season, powered by a strong defense but held back my missteps on offense. The coaching staff would make questionable decisions, and fans would wonder how close the team was to turning the corner.
All of that happened in one night for the Bears, so in some ways Ryan Pace is ahead of schedule. Therefore, with little caution and a lot of overreaction, here are four hot takes on the state of the 2018 Chicago Bears:
#4) This defense is going to be elite for three quarters at a time
Khalil Mack was every bit as dominating as anyone could have hoped for. Roquan Smith, when he was allowed to play, was explosive. Up and down the defense, players did their jobs. Fuller dropped a ball that would have ended the game, but he still did his job for most of the night, and Adrian Amos showed why when he’s just asked to play the role of a conventional safety so many people sing his praises. Callahan had a good night. This was a crew that came to play, and for more than a half of football, they looked dominant.
Then, the Packers’ offense made adjustments to what they were doing and Fangio failed to adapt. Next, players got tired and everyone played a little slower. The pass rush lost maybe 3-5% of its pop and throwing windows got a little bigger. Defenders didn’t start missing assignments, but their assignments were less in-tune with what they needed to do.
I think there is enough talent on the defense to crush lesser opponents early, and that will take the fight out of a lot of teams. It might be enough. However, I have yet to see a Vic Fangio defense in Chicago actually close the door, and there is a big difference between having talent and being able to execute consistently. This defense has talent.
#3) Trubisky might have already peaked
Trubisky turned in a 77.2 passer rating, with nearly a 66% completion on 35 pass attempts. He had 171 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He kept some plays alive with his feet and rushed for a touchdown. His 2017 stat line? A 77.5 passer rating with a 60% completion rating, 183 yards per game, and an equal number of touchdowns and interceptions. So, his receivers dropped fewer balls, but he also played a little bit more conservatively. Ultimately, though, it was the same Trubisky fans saw last season.
Mitchell did nothing to lose the game, but he certainly didn’t do anything to win it. Maybe this is due to Nagy’s play-calling, and Trubisky just wasn’t trusted to win the game. Whatever. He’s not going to suddenly get a new head coach this season, so we are might have already seen the best possible version of the Man from Mentor--a guy who plays well enough to move the ball most of the time for about a half of a football game. Trubisky now has as many professional starts is he had college starts, and it’ time to consider the possibility that the game might be too big for him to ever be more than a game manager who flashes talent. In this situation, with a suffocating (but not dominant) defense, the Bears might be better off with Daniel.
#2) The Bears are still going 3-1 before the bye
After the Packers, the Bears face what might be one of the most favorable stretches of scheduling imaginable. They will hit the Seahawks, whose defense is still rebuilding and whose offensive line seems to actively dislike Russell Wilson at times. The Pro Bowl quarterback is going to have his hands full dealing with the three quarters of suffocation the defense is going to give him, and I’m not sure he’s going to have it in him to come back.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals gave up 180 yards on the ground to Washington, and Fangio should have Bradford figured out by now. If Nagy can’t figure out to run the ball against Arizona, then I don’t know how he ever got any coaching job, let alone a head coaching job.
Finally, I just don’t think Fitzpatrick has 4 games in him like the one he opened the season with. That means that he’s likely to play mortal-level football, and I think the Bears have more play-makers at this point.
That means that the Bears could actually have momentum, and they could even seem to disprove everything I said in the first two points, simply by exploiting the weaknesses of their opponents early in the season.
That leads to my final hot take.
#1) This game is going to hurt worse in December
The Chicago Bears are going to be competent enough that down the stretch, they might actually be sitting at 6-7 or 7-6 or something like it with only a handful of games left. However, having a divisional loss against the Packers might make the difference. I can see this as a team that is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs before they even know how the last two or three games go, just because they are on the wrong end of the tiebreakers in a tough division.
Maybe other teams will struggle enough that the Bears have hope, and they get one of those weird asterisks that indicates that if eleven different scenarios happen, then they will still be in contention for a wild card. However, unless Trubisky finds another gear or Fangio learns to put all of his defenders into positions of absolute strength, then this is already looking like another season filled with equal helpings of hope and disappointment in Chicago.