The Bears kicked off a historic 100th season with a historic flop.
Despite being favored to defeat the Packers at Soldier Field, Chicago put together a confusing outing in a 10-3 loss on Thursday.
The Bears still have 15 games left in their season, and last season showed that a loss in Week 1 is hardly a death sentence. However, in their second year under coach Matt Nagy, much more was expected out of a unit many believe to be their most talented on paper since the Super Bowl-winning 1985 roster.
The narratives surrounding Mitchell Trubisky were the big winners of Thursday’s action.
The third-year quarterback did very little to prove his doubters wrong in the season opener, completing just 57.8 percent of his passes while throwing no touchdowns and an interception—to Adrian Amos, of all people.
His footwork looked off throughout the game, as he regularly failed to set his feet and establish a proper base. His decision making was rough, as well: he threw nine passes that Green Bay defenders deflected, and he missed open targets on more than one occasion.
Trubisky did throw a few good balls, including numerous passes to Allen Robinson, and he showed solid escapability in the pocket. In the end, though, he put together a poor performance on prime-time television. This year, he has no excuses.
The aforementioned Robinson was perhaps the only offensive player who had a truly great game, finding with seven catches for 102 yards. He looked the best he has since his glory days in Jacksonville, showing off fluidity and sharp cuts in his route running, as well as top-notch physicality in contested catch situations. Though he may not put up those numbers every week—45 passes in a game every week is highly unlikely—Robinson can be a legitimate No. 1 receiver for their offense.
Chicago’s offensive line fell apart against a revamped Green Bay front-seven, allowing five sacks and just over three yards per carry for their playmakers. New Packers edge rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith torched the Bears’ offensive tackles to the tune of 2.5 combined sacks. Heading into a Week 2 matchup in which they will face Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in Denver, Chicago’s offensive line has to step up going forward.
Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis combined for 14 catches on Thursday, but they only collaborated on a total of 66 yards. More of checkdown options than anything else, they put together rather lackluster outings. David Montgomery only ran the ball six times for 18 yards, a surprising fact considering how much hype the team has placed around him. Davis had 18 yards on five carries, while Cohen saw no carries at all. Though they faced a small sample size, the Bears’ ground game was unimpressive in Week 1.
The playcalling was also rather atrocious. Nagy refused to stretch the field early on with deeper throws, and he turned a blind eye to the running game almost the whole game. A West Coast offense does rely heavily on short passes to spread the defense out, but their offense failed to do just that: spread the defense out. Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine called a great game and rang up pressure on Trubisky throughout the game, and the Bears failed to adjust.
Though a lot went wrong offensively for the Bears, playcalling was one of the worst aspects of their game.
Chuck Pagano proved in his first game as the Bears’ defensive coordinator that his unit may not see notable regression under his watch.
Though the game didn’t go their way, Chicago’s defense put together a very good outing, sacking Aaron Rodgers five times and limiting the Packers to just 213 total yards.
The star of the show was edge rusher Leonard Floyd, who finished the game with two sacks in the fifth multi-sack game of his career—three of which, coincidentally enough, having come against Green Bay. He looked much more powerful off the edge, complementing his freakish length and get-off speed. If he becomes the breakout star many believe he can be, the Bears could have a potentially elite duo off the edge this year.
Another standout was defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris, who was credited with one sack and was responsible for multiple quarterback hits and pressures. A versatile chess piece with physical tools galore, his pass-rushing prowess will see him playing time in sub packages and passing downs. He looked to be a legitimate force in the trenches this week.
Roquan Smith also put together a solid outing. Though his tally of five tackles seems somewhat pedestrian, he flashed lightning quick mental processing and the athleticism to get to the ball carrier on a regular basis. He wasn’t lights out this week, but he played well enough to keep plenty of faith in a potential breakout year.
Akiem Hicks and Aaron Lynch also contibuted with sacks of their own. Khalil Mack finished without a sack, but he had five tackles and won multiple one-on-one reps, as is the norm when he steps onto the field. As a whole, the Bears did a great job of defending the run, allowing an average of just 2.1 yards per carry.
One weakness in Chicago’s defensive performance was their inability to defend the middle of the field on passing downs. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was left wide open deep after burning past Prince Amukamara in man coverage, and the likes of Jimmy Graham and Trevor Davis beat the Bears across the middle.
Overall, though, the Bears impressed defensively in their first game of the year. Though their turnover-forcing abilities from last year were sorely missed on Thursday, they looked the part of a legitimate defense who can keep their team in nearly any game.
Three and out
3. Penalties were also a big factor in the Bears’ three-point outing, as the team ended the game with 10 penalties that resulted in a loss of 107 yards.
The offensive line committed multiple holding penalties, and an offensive pass interference by Taylor Gabriel negated a sizable passing play that would have pulled them out of the eventual 1st-and-40 situation that other penalties contributed to.
If Chicago wants to put together an effective offense, then playing with more discipline should be a focal point going forward.
2. Next week, the Bears travel to Denver to take on the Broncos.
Though it’s unclear exactly how they will fare under new coach—and former Bears defensive coordinator—Vic Fangio, one can expect Chicago will be in for a difficult matchup next Sunday. The Broncos haven’t lost a home game in September since 2012, so the Bears will have their hands full trying to break their winning streak in the massive elevation.
Chicago’s offensive line will have to communicate more efficiently and simply play better against a Denver front-seven that will also provide a serious challenge. Trubisky will need to be more sharp mechanically and not overthink plays like he did this week. The playcalling will have to be smarter and work with more balance in the run game, yet not be so predictable in the passing game.
Defensively, the Bears could be in for another impressive outing. However, a turnover or two could be necessary to help their offense out if they struggle again next week.
1. It’s only Week 1.
The Bears lost in the first game of the season last year, and they finished with a 12-4 record when all was said and done. The difference between the two games, though, is that Chicago was firmly in the driver’s seat for much of last year’s opener. The second Green Bay scored their touchdown in the second quarter, though, the Bears lost any sense of superiority in the matchup.
Frustration is a valid emotion at this point. The Bears failed to pick up a win at home against a heated rival to kick off the year. Patience is a necessary virtue, and things could turn around at any moment. Still, after a disappointing first game of the year, one must feel let down after months of consistent hype.