After a painful six games, the Chicago Bears are finally back in the win column after a 36-7 blowout victory in Week 14 against the Houston Texans at Soldier Field. While winning always cures past ailments, the Bears still find themselves at (6-7) heading into the final three games of the season with some ground to make up in order to sneak into the playoffs.
Does this type of win dull the heat on both general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy’s seats? Only time will tell, but this was the best performance we’ve seen from this team in quite some time.
1. This team has not yet given up yet and that could be a talking point for Nagy in the coming weeks when fighting for his job.
At the beginning of this week, many Bears fans had wondered whether or not the organization would pull the plug on this regime and “fire everybody” after their sixth loss of the year. Obviously that didn’t happen, but most had wondered whether or not this team had simply given up on the year.
After Sunday’s blowout win, it’s clear that not only have they not packed it in for the year but Nagy still has full control of this locker room. This is something that is distinctly different when comparing him to the Marc Trestman debacle that happened during the 2013 season.
Only time will tell how this all pans out, but unlike the Trestman era, this team still has fight left in them and if Sunday’s result was any indication, they still have plenty of it and that’s something worth writing down for the end of this year when the McCaskey’s weigh whether or not to can Nagy with any other moves they may make.
2. Say goodbye to any hopes you had for the Bears landing a top 10 pick without having to trade up.
As I proudly announced on Twitter after last Sunday’s game, I am firmly in the “Tank Season” camp for the remainder of the 2020 season. Well... Those hopes for a top 10 pick took quite the hit after this win.
In a sense, you always want to see your favorite team win as many games as possible, but with Week 14’s win, the Bears find themselves in the middle of nowhere in terms of the direction they need to take for the remainder of this season and beyond. I’m still in the “fire everybody” camp and unless they somehow make the playoffs, I still believe there will be changes, but changes are easier to make with higher draft picks and more resources overall.
Their chances of a top 10 pick weren’t exactly high before coming into this game, and they are all but non-existent after this win.
3. Speaking of draft positioning, the Bears still find themselves just one game out of that final Wild Card spot. Just imagine how different things would feel had they held on last week against the Detroit Lions.
The one overwhelming feeling I had throughout Sunday’s game was just how different things would be feeling had the Bears not fumbled the ball inside their own 10 and subsequently lost Week 13 to the lowly Lions.
They’d currently be the leader in the seventh seed over the Arizona Cardinals due to conference record tie-breakers. Yet, they are still a game back, locked in with the Minnesota Vikings at (6-7) heading into the final three games of the season.
If the Bears win out, my guess is they’ll land the seventh seed because the Cardinals still have an interesting final three games. With that being said, the chances of the Bears winning out don’t appear high unless the Green Bay Packers have nothing left to play for by Week 17 and sit Aaron Rodgers and more starters.
Either way, the Bears find themselves in a weird spot to close out the season and for most fans, they find themselves in even more a weird spot trying to figure out if they should be rooting for wins or loses for the betterment of the team.
4. Running back David Montgomery appears to be finding his place in this offense and it’s no coincidence that their scoring more points now.
One of my biggest concerns with Montgomery coming out of Iowa State was his overall lack of burst and long speed. He’s always been hard to bring down and by and large, has been a smart runner who makes the most of every touch he has.
As of late, Montgomery’s explosion and big play ability has become a big part of his game and one that should excite Bears fans.
Over his last three games, Montgomery is averaging 96 rushing yards per game, on top of over 40 yards-per-game in the receiving department. The second-year running back has also scored all of his rushing touchdowns over that stretch as well and has a pair of big runs, including his 80-yard touchdown run on Sunday.
Regardless of how many changes there are this off-season, it’s becoming clear that Montgomery is a big part of this offense moving forward.
5. Speaking of Montgomery and a surging offense, don’t discount the offensive line’s progression since their last shuffle
A few weeks back, the Bears shuffled the offensive line once again. Part of that was due to them starting to get healthy and some of their depth back and the other aspect was that things simply weren’t working.
Since that point, undrafted rookies Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars have been stable forces inside and former guard Germain Ifedi slid outside to right tackle, as Bobby Massie continues to work back from his knee injury. To note, Mustipher has been outstanding at center and Bars has held his own much better than he did after taking over for James Daniels months ago when the original injury first happened.
Since those moves have been made, the Bears have seen a large uptick in rushing production. Over their last three games, they are averaging a touch over 143 rushing yards-per-game. That’s a vast improvement from before the bye week.
All in all, this is an offense that has averaged 30 points-per-game since the bye week. Which again, is a massive change from how things were before they started making major changes in these areas.
6. Regardless of how you feel about Mitchell Trubisky, his benching has not crushed him like many (including myself) thought it would.
Do I believe Trubisky will be back with the Bears next year? Not at all but I have been impressed with how he’s dealt with the adversity that has been dealt to him.
Once the team traded for Nick Foles, I truly thought Trubisky wouldn’t play another snap (barring injury) for this team. Yet, he “won” the starting job out of the gate and took it back (regardless of Foles’ health) coming out of the bye week.
This was Trubisky’s second good game in a row. Obviously you can’t simply take out that fumble at the end of last week’s game, but all in all, Trubisky has had two back-to-back good performances.
His final test will come over the next three weeks, where he’ll face a revamped Vikings defense for the first time this year, as well as Jacksonville and Green Bay again. While these games may not mean much for his Bears’ tenure, he may build enough of a case to get himself into another camp battle next year for another team. Regardless, I’ve been impressed with his resolve and poise since taking the reins back.
7. More snaps has led to more production from rookie tight end Cole Kmet and it’s great to see.
Back in April, the Bears were locked on to Kmet. All of this while knowing it was a down year in terms of tight end talent coming out of the draft and also facing the reality that most rookie tight ends struggle to adjust at the next level in their first year.
To start the year, their lack of confidence showed. He rarely played and most of his snaps weren’t meaningful in the passing game department. Veteran Jimmy Graham was given $9 million guaranteed in the off-season for a reason and this team seemed to be in no rush to push Kmet along too quickly. Yet, over the past few weeks, his snap count has gone up, while Graham’s has gone down and rightfully so.
Looking at Kmet’s production over the past few weeks, you can see that Bill Lazor is dialing up more for him in terms of their weekly game plans. That showed again this week and while I wouldn’t expect any 100 yard games in the near future for 2020, his role continues to grow, as does his impact.
8. This was exactly the type of bounce back performance the defense truly needed.
On last week’s broadcast, Chris Speilman talked about how if a team’s offense or defense has two bad performances in a row, they are a bad unit. Well... The Bears had back-to-back poor defensive performances, but they are clearly still a very good unit. That showed again on Sunday as they held the Texans offense to seven points and sacked Deshaun Watson seven times. That also included a takeaway and a safety on the defensive side of the ball.
While I still question Chuck Pagano’s calls in situational aspects, this was exactly the type of performance this team needed. Especially when you consider they were severely outplayed by the offense two straight weeks.
How this will translate over to the final three games of the season remains to be seen, but if both units are clicking like they were on Sunday, they may actually have a chance to run the table and challenge for a playoff spot. Big if, of course.
9. Despite an up and down season for most of this team, Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson are still the team’s two best players on their respective sides of the ball.
Mack’s presence was felt early in Sunday’s game as he forced a stripped ball and ultimately a takeaway. He topped off his day with a sack, giving him seven and a half on the season. By no means does that mean he’s having a great year, but he’s still a top-end player and still the team’s best defender.
As far as Robinson goes, I simply don’t understand why Pace hasn’t extend him yet. Has he become more combative on social media? Absolutely. Has he lost a few 50/50 balls he should have had? Again, absolutely. Even so, Robinson just completed his second consecutive 1000-yard receiving campaign and has clearly been the Bears best offensive play maker.
There’s plenty of questions on this team, but establishing who their key players are on both sides of the ball aren’t it. There’s talent on this team, but there are also still questions to be answered as well.
10a. Speaking of scoreboard watching, these next three games are going to be very interesting to watch play out.
Going into Week 15, the Bears are one game back of the Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot. They are tied with the Vikings but they’ll play them next weekend, which will ultimately eliminate one team from playoff contention while keeping the other afloat.
With both Detroit and San Francisco losing, that final playoff spot will come down between two teams in the final two games. One will be Arizona and the other will be either Minnesota or Chicago.
10b. With Sunday’s win, the Bears have now beaten all 31 active NFL teams.
Believe it or not, the Bears had not beaten the Texans prior to Sunday’s win. Before the season started, I noted there were two losing streaks the Bears had to break. One was this and the other was finally beating Tom Brady. Somehow, they’ve done both and are still on the outside looking in for a playoff spot.