Taking a full account of a team’s worth after one week will almost always prove to be a foolish exercise. There’s too much of a four-month season remaining to come to any definitive conclusions. But it’s difficult not to see what the Bears are incidentally attempting to emulate after their listless 10-3 defeat to the Packers last week. The picture only gets less hazy from here.
In the first installment of Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings for the 2019 season, the Bears’ defense predictably graded out well. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano’s newfangled unit sits at No. 6 overall after sacking Aaron Rodgers five times and holding Green Bay to 213 total yards on opening night. For at least one week, switching coordinators had minimal effect on what the star-studded Bears are capable of.
If Rodgers and the Packers struggled against Chicago, what’s going to happen against the elite Joe Flacco and Case Keenum in the coming weeks? Prepare yourself for quarterback carnage and the institution of a mercy rule at the professional level. It also means discussions of defensive regression from the off-season look to be justifiably tabled for the time being. Khalil Mack and the rest of the Bears’ defenders simply won’t allow any falling off to occur.
One of the major drawbacks for the Bears last season was their inability to move the needle on special teams. By almost every metric and in accordance with the all-important eye test, Chicago possessed one of the worst third phases in the NFL as they ranked No. 26 overall in DVOA in 2018. Coming into this season, Chris Tabor had his hands full to prove that his group had taken a step forward and made any meaningful progress. One week against the Packers where the specialists featured a lot more than normal is promising, as the Bears slot in at No. 9 overall on special teams. It’s admittedly helpful when Green Bay only has an opportunity at one Trevor Davis punt return and no kickoffs, but it doesn’t detract from a stellar outing by Tarik Cohen in the return game (14 yards a return) and the restless leg of Pat O’Donnell. Time will tell what happens when Chicago’s coverage group—their greatest flaw—is tested more often.
This brings us to the collective organized mess known as Chicago’s offense. The Bears professed all off-season that their understanding of Matt Nagy’s scheme from last season to now was night and day. It was a matter of when not if when it came to their rise in statistical production. It’s safe to say that Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky have a lot on their plate over the extensive remaining season to prove their boasting was more than empty optimistic fluff.
The Bears’ offense ranks No. 29 overall in DVOA. Only the Falcons, Steelers, and walking monument to tanking in the Dolphins had worse opening offensive performances than Chicago. The Falcons turned over the ball three times in a loss to the Vikings. The Steelers had their usual meltdown in Foxborough. And the Dolphins, well, the Dolphins aren’t even trying so it might be best to leave them out. It’s quite the hapless company for the Bears to keep after being humiliated at home by their arch-rivals.
It’s also a fitting throwback to roughly every season of the Bears’ century of existence. In the midst of a frustrating defeat where Chicago’s offense continually snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, it’s fascinating that no one considered they were making a sacrifice by honoring Bears tradition on an anniversary celebration. Great defense, good special teams, and a lost offense and clawless quarterback—it’s always been the Bears’ way! Lovie Smith definitely had a smile on his face watching highlights of the game, why didn’t anyone else? Those pesky narratives and everyone else in the country hating the Bears can’t deny tradition forever, as much as they may want to.
Time is a flat circle. Everything the Bears have done on offense or will do, they will do over and over again—forever.
Robert isn’t ready to give up on Mitchell Trubisky yet. He’s done making excuses, except for this last one. He needs to see more of a sample size. Two more years where everyone else at Halas Hall becomes a scapegoat are needed.
Follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski. You can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone.