It's easy to forget how quickly expectations change over the course of a winning season. Just over a year ago, Bears fans’ biggest hope was that their offense-averse head coach would be fired. Just before the season (and before the Khalil Mack
trade robbery mugging windfall) anyone suggesting the Bears were a playoff team was met with gutteral laughter and showers of half-sipped coffee spraying from the lips over eaves-droppers and passersby.
For me, my confidence in this team didn’t solidify until the second victory against the Lions--on a short week, on the road, with a backup quarterback. From that game on, I believed the Bears would roll through the regular season, trouncing over the field with playful abandon and leaving their opponents thoroughly smoshed and equally awestruck. That’s pretty much what happened.
But the playoffs are a different beast. A Goliath the Bears haven’t faced since 2010 and which their wild-card opponents Davided the crap out of just last year.
The Bears clearly had some playoff jitters, and it showed in uncharacteristic (or characteristic if you’re a Trubisky critic) mistakes. They didn’t play the cleanest game by any measure, but they came within an iced kick of winning after all.
Bears run offense wins their matchup
Considering their run game took about three quarters of the season to get going, this was a pleasant surprise. As long as they gave the ball to Jordan Howard, the o line did her job and he did his trademark trucking and smashing thing up the middle.
Bears run defense wins their matchup...unless they lose it badly
The Eagles seemed to run for either -1 yards or 10. The Bears ran a number of formations with an open middle of the field, and the Eagles took advantage. Overall, both teams are impressive in the trenches, but the Bears big cuddlies played better in the run game tonight.
The game didn’t start great for the Bears burgeoning franchise quarterback. He had one beautiful deep middle pass to Cohen, but otherwise couldn't move the ball consistently in the first half and threw two near interceptions to the right sideline. His worst moment was a horrible decision to throw into coverage in the end zone that should have been picked at the end of an otherwise impressive 2 minute drill.
He came back the second half with his sincerely-cliche next play mentality and played an efficient second half protecting the ball with much more appropriate respect.
By the 4th quarter, Trubisky was ready to make the most of this opportunity, and he turned to AR12 spark the fire this offense needed. Taylor Gabriel came in to stoke the flames. Even Bellamy joined in on the arsony with a 34 yard reception. Biscuit led scoring-eligible drives on three of 4 4th down possessions, including a clutch-as-nails back shoulder rainbow to Allen Robinson. He wasn’t perfect, but he did enough to give the Bears a chance at the end.
The Bears picked the wrong week to quit avoiding injuries
Trey Burton couldn’t wait a few weeks for his mysterious groin activities that ruled him out for today. Eddie Jackson only managed to get healthy enough to get active but not to start. Biscuit ran around all season without straining a hammy. Impressive backup nickel Sherrick McMannis with a mystery booboo...ugh.
So the Eagles did move the ball...
The first drive made me a little nervous, with an overly-effective screen starting off an efficient effective field goal march. The Bears defense had plenty of stops, but that first drive was unfortunately representative of the game as a whole. The birds moved the ball unevenly but just enough to seal the win.
O’Donnell woke up feeling dangerous
When Al Michaels talked about someone being dangerous as the Bears lined up for the first punt, I thought that was a weird way to describe a punter, but it started to work for me as I sat with it. Of course, he was referring to Darren Sproles, but O’Donnell proved my first impression appropriate as he booted a beauty to the 1ish yard line.
Bears poking holes in the NFL rulebook
Anthony Miller caught a ball and underrated former Bear Cre’Von LeBlanc forced a fumble as he tackled him. The play was blown dead and ruled incomplete, so nobody picked up the ball. The result of the official review was basically “We don’t know what to do in this situation, so we’re sticking with the incorrect call on the field.” Strong work NFL officiating headquarters. Playoff caliber stuff.
Bears defense can’t defend against their own penalties
The Eagles 3rd quarter touchdown drive was supported by two huge Bear penalties, This has been the proven formula to lead a long scoring drive on this otherwise stingy defense. Overall, the Bears have been disciplined and avoided penalties better than average this season, but it’s frustrating as a fan and I can only imagine how much more so as a player when they happen when it matters most.
Welcome back, Allen Robinson
We’ll always have the replay tape of Allen Robinson reminding Avonte Maddox he is a rookie on a brutal double move that lead to a 45-yard gain. If I have to pick one player who rose to the moment, our new WR1 has to take the prize.
Cody Parker and the upright
There’s nothing to say.
It’s been a wonderful season to be a Bears fan. The Bears played some good football today, and had a few too many moments they’d rather have back. I choose to believe they learned from this experience, and it will be an actually valuable opportunity for this young team to carry with them.