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Bears vs. Cardinals: Notes from an underwhelming 16-14 victory

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The first-place Bears picked up the win in a lackluster, yet victorious matchup with the Cardinals.

Chicago Bears v Arizona Cardinals
It wasn’t a pretty win, but Jordan Howard and the Bears advanced to 2-1 after Sunday’s game.
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears didn’t play perfectly. They weren’t flashy, and their defense had its fair share of mishaps early on in the game. Nonetheless, they were able to pick up a 16-14 win on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

Despite the game being in Arizona, Bears fans showed up in droves, giving their team a bit of a boost on the road. Here are my notes and random jottings in chronological order that I made throughout the game.

  • Why the Bears would use Khalil Mack in coverage is beyond me. He’s one of, if not the best edge rusher in the NFL. There’s literally no excuse to have him anywhere but rushing the passer. Mack in coverage against Christian Kirk, one of the best wide receivers in the 2018 class, is a huge mismatch.
  • The Cardinals kicked off their first offensive drive on a high note, going 75 yards in five plays on their way to the end zone off of a 35-yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. Chicago’s coverage was terrible on the drive, as made evident by Seals-Jones’ touchdown and Kirk’s 30-yard gain. The middle of the defense was wide open, allowing Arizona to score their first touchdown of the year.
  • Jordan Howard is one of the best downhill runners in the NFL, and we saw that on his first run of the game: a 17-yard run right up the middle. Kudos to the Bears’ offensive line for leaving such a big hole for their running back.
  • Tarik Cohen followed up Howard’s big run just two plays later, when he picked up a 21-yard gain. The two are perfect complements to each other, as their contrasting running styles really mess with the heads of defenses.
  • Anthony Miller picked up the first down on a seven-yard catch off of a pass by Mitchell Trubisky: his first pass of the game. He then left the game due to an injury, although he was able to return for their next offensive drive.
  • Budda Baker and Bene Benwikere blitzed off of the edge to sack Trubisky, who failed to get rid of the ball in time and instead dug himself into a deeper hole by running backwards.
  • Cody Parkey entered Week 3 as one of just four NFC kickers to have not missed a field goal. The same could not have been said at the end of this game, as he missed a 46-yard attempt that would have cut the Cardinals’ lead down to four.
  • Looking to build off of his Week 2 campaign which saw him return his first interception as a member of the Bears for a touchdown, Prince Amukamara jumped an out route run by Ricky Seals-Jones to force a three-and-out for the Cardinals.
  • Trubisky once again panicked on a third-down blitz by Arizona, as he fumbled the ball while trying to evade pressure. The Cardinals picked up the ball just outside of the red zone.
  • On the very next play, the Bears gave up a 21-yard receiving touchdown to David Johnson, who was left totally wide open on the corner route coming out of the end zone. The Cardinals jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
  • I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: Allen Robinson on the slant route = money.
  • The third time was the charm for the Bears as they were able to break the Cardinals’ third straight blitz attempt on third down with a screen to Benny Cunningham. The play marked Cunningham’s first touch on offense of the year.
  • Bryce Callahan did a nice job of reading the screen, tackling Christian Kirk at the line of scrimmage for a loss of a yard. He has gotten off to a solid start of the year so far.
  • Trubisky hit Trey Burton on a 25-yard crossing route to give Chicago’s offense a bit of momentum. Burton’s athleticism makes him a versatile chess piece on offense who can run routes like a wide receiver.
  • Eric Kush was called for two penalties in the first half. When will the Bears turn to James Daniels? He’s clearly the more talented interior offensive lineman.
  • The Bears were bailed out by two roughing the passer calls late in the second quarter, but they were unable to take advantage of it. They were forced to kick a field goal instead of picking up a touchdown that seemed to be inevitable. Nonetheless, Chicago avoided getting shut out heading into halftime, cutting down Arizona’s lead to 14-3.
  • Roquan Smith absolutely blew up a pass intended for David Johnson, bringing the Pro Bowl running back down for a loss of two. On the very next play, Akiem Hicks brought Sam Bradford down for a strip sack. Even though the Cardinals were able to recover the football, the sack gave the Bears a bit of momentum.
  • Mitchell Trubisky capped off a poor first half with an interception. He was looking for Benny Cunningham on the screen, but Chandler Jones tipped the ball and left Tre Boston to lay out and make the grab. What was supposed to be a drive to give the Bears some more points heading into halftime resulted in a turnover that gave the Cardinals the ball back in great field position.
  • After a fairly quiet first half due to seeing several double-team blocks, Khalil Mack brought Bradford down for the sack - after being double teamed, no less - with less than a minute in the first half. He cut inside on a stunt and got underneath guard Mike Iupati on the rip move. Those are the kinds of plays that only elite players can make.
  • It’s tough to keep being patient with Trubisky’s lack of development, especially with Patrick Mahomes playing like the best quarterback in the league. Although excuses have been made continually throughout the year, Trubisky’s first-half performance amplified the concerns surrounding his lackluster start to the year. If the Bears are going to capitalize on their Super Bowl-contending window, then he absolutely needs to get better.
  • The Bears kicked off their opening offensive drive on the first quarter with a three and out. Trubisky was sacked by Chandler Jones, as he panicked in the pocket and kept his head down instead of looking for a last-second option to dump the ball off to.
  • Here’s a surprise: Sherrick McManis is a special teams stud. He made an amazing open-field tackle on Christian Kirk for no gain on the punt return. There’s a reason McManis is the longest-tenured player on the Bears, and only part of that is the team’s inability to draft well for several years.
  • Chicago was able to sniff out the screen throughout the game. Prince Amukamara closing in on a screen to David Johnson and brought him down for a loss of a yard.
  • Eddie Jackson displayed the range and ball skills that had him so highly touted heading into the regular season, intercepting a deep Bradford pass for Arizona’s first turnover of the game. He tracked the ball down incredibly well and closing in on the route to make a play on the ball.
  • For the first time of the game, Trubisky completed a deep pass. He hit Allen Robinson on a 39-yard gain on a perfectly-placed throw that may have been the quarterback’s best play of the year.
  • The Bears made the questionable decision to go for it on 4th and 1 in field goal range, but they managed to make the play work. Trubisky hit Robinson on a shovel pass similar to the one that saw Trey Burton score a touchdown last week against the Seattle Seahawks.
  • Chicago made the smart play call on the goal line: hand it off to Jordan Howard and let him pound the ball into the end zone on a run up the middle. The touchdown cut the Cardinals’ lead down to four.
  • Sherrick McManis didn’t just stand out on special teams. He also made a diving interception on a pass intended for Chad Williams, his first pick since 2010. The dime back in the formation, McManis was able to track down the ball with aggressivenes.
  • Bailed out by an Arizona offsides penalty that would have otherwise resulted in a three-and-out, the Bears took advantage of their opponent’s gaffe by picking up a first down on a screen to Howard. Using his ability to find holes up the middle, Trubisky dumped it off to the running back to pick up the first down.
  • Just before the end of the third quarter, the Bears ended up tacking three more points onto the scoreboard on a 41-yard field goal by Parkey. The score marked their thirteenth unanswered point in a row to that point.
  • Chicago’s defense had all of the momentum until Kevin Toliver got beat by a double move by Christian Kirk which resulted in an 32-yard gain. Toliver is still a rookie, sure, but the Bears simply need more depth at the cornerback position. Toliver started seeing more action when Amukamara was taken out of the game due to injury, and putting himself against the speedy Kirk is a mismatch waiting to happen.
  • Khalil Mack is pretty good, I guess. He turned the tides back in the Bears’ direction, forcing Bradford to fumble right near the red zone. Elite players stay doing elite things.
  • Trubisky showed some athleticism in the fourth quarter, evading pressure in a collapsing pocket for a seven-yard gain. Though he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations yet this year, he has had a handful of plays in each game that flash promise.
  • Chicago’s clock management was poor in the second half. They entered the last four minutes of the fourth quarter with just one timeout, with the second timeout having been called in a questionable situation. The field goal was the easy decision from the get go, so to waste a timeout just to try and get the defense to jump offsides with just under five minutes in regulation to go was not smart. The Bears ended up picking up a field goal to take the two-point lead, but that doesn’t excuse their inability to control the clock.
  • Bilal Nichols stepped up in a huge way late in the game to wrap up Chase Edmonds for a loss of three yards on a 3rd-and-2 play. The rookie stopped another rookie to put the Bears in a great situation.
  • Josh Rosen made his NFL debut in the fourth quarter to try and give his Cardinals the lead late in the game. Although he would eventually throw an interception to Bryce Callahan, Cardinals fans should not overreact over just one play. He’s a talented quarterback with a lot of time to grow into a star.
  • Rosen nearly threw another interception - a snag by Eddie Jackson that would have been a pick-six - but it got called back due to an offsides penalty by Khalil Mack. It would have been a great ending to the game, but a sack on the final play of the game by Sherrick McManis, who ended his fantastic game on a high note, sealed the deal for the first-place Chicago Bears.
  • Yesterday was an ugly win that should have been won by a much larger margin, but it was a win nonetheless. It’s best that they get these jitters out going up against the weaker part of their schedule as opposed to later in the year, when they will take on the harder part of their schedule. These performances won’t win the Bears games in a few months, but they’ll do for now.

The Bears will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home next Sunday at 12 p.m. CT. They will look to stall the momentum of a Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Buccaneers offense that has been on fire to start the year.

Jacob Infante is a Chicago Bears writer at SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron. He is also the lead NFL Draft analyst for The Blitz Network, and he additionally covers the NFL Draft for USA Today’s Draft Wire. He can be reached through Twitter @jacobinfante24 or e-mailed at jacobinfante1208@gmail.com.