With their backs against the wall, the Bears stepped up and put an end to a miserable six-game skid.
The Bears came out firing right out of the gate, exploding for 30 points in the first half at home against the Texans. That early onslaught proved to be too much for Houston to overcome, as Chicago came away with a 36-7 victory to improve to 6-7.
After a lengthy stretch of struggles on both sides of the ball, the Bears were able to come together and put together an all-around dominant performance. Not only did their defense regain its form, but their offense was able to move the ball down the field with relative ease.
Here are some takeaways from this week’s action.
Mitchell Trubisky came to play on Sunday.
With 267 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 72.7 completion percentage, Trubisky put together arguably his best performance of the 2020 season. Pulling off an offensive scheme that played to his strengths—more on that later—he looked accurate, collected and confident. He hit his receivers in stride and, more often than not, was able to execute his reads with efficiency.
High-low concepts, flat routes and curls across the middle of the field appeared at first glance to be common place for the Bears’ offense this week, and Trubisky was comfortable in pulling them off. He played a big role in his team’s offensive eruption in the first half.
David Montgomery also helped turn the tides in the favor of Chicago, starting with his 80-yard run for a touchdown on their first offensive play of the game. Though he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on his remaining carries on the ground, he also made an impact in the passing game. He caught three passes for 42 yards, his second-highest yards-per-reception average in a game all year.
Having topped 100 rushing yards for the second time in three weeks, Montgomery has looked more explosive over the past few games. The game appears to be slowing down for him—both when he’s in between the tackles and when he’s making defenders miss in space—and he looks more fluid in his hips and quick in his feet. His development is an encouraging storyline for the Bears to keep track of going forward.
A handful of Bears weapons also put together solid games through the air. Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham each caught four catches, with the former looking powerful after the catch and the latter tallying his sixth touchdown of the season. Perhaps no offensive player had as better game this week than Allen Robinson, though.
The former Pro Bowler finished the game with 9 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown, leading the team by a country mile. His performance saw him top 1,000 receiving yards for the second year in a row and the third time in his NFL career. He was able to consistently get open with precision in his routes and variation in his releases at the line of scrimmage, as is the case in most reps he takes. This week proved to be yet another strong game for Robinson.
The Bears stalled off a little bit offensively in the second half, but they were up by so much at that point that it didn’t really matter. The important thing is that they put up plenty of points—their 36 points was their highest total scored in a single game since they beat the Bills 41-9 in Nov. 2018—and that helped them win the game.
After giving up a combined 75 points over the past two weeks, the Bears’ defense found its identity with a lights-out performance against a hobbled Texans offense.
Houston entered the game without key weapons Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller, which gave the Bears an advantage when their defense stepped onto the field. Few expected them to hold the Texans to seven points and harass Deshaun Watson to the tune of seven sacks and 11 quarterback hits, though.
The Bears’ pass rush has struggled given their financial investment in that area, but they certainly showed up this week. Both Roquan Smith and Mario Edwards contributed two sacks. The former also led Chicago in tackles with a phenomenal outing—more on him later—and the latter improving to a career-high four sacks on the year.
Bilal Nichols and Brent Urban both finished with sacks of their own, as did Khalil Mack, whose sack resulted in a safety. Mack also forced a fumble in the first quarter in one of his more impactful outings of the season. Akiem Hicks hit Watson twice, and rookie Trevis Gipson also tallied a hit.
Such production in the pass rush was reflective of Chicago’s efficiency at the line of scrimmage—they likely could have had even more sacks if Watson wasn’t as athletic as he is. Chuck Pagano, coincidentally enough, did a very good job of scheming pressure and not leaving the middle of the field as wide open in zone coverage as he has over the course of the year.
The Bears also did a solid job in both coverage and run support. Chad Hansen was the only Houston weapon to top four catches—he had seven—and excluding Watson’s rushing stats, the Texans were held to just 3.5 yards per carry coming out of the backfield. The aforementioned Smith and Danny Trevathan combined for 22 tackles, and Hicks helped out with four tackles of his own.
Chicago’s defense held the Texans to just 4.1 yards per play, as opposed to their own offense’s 6.9 yards per play. Their coverage looked to be a lot less porous than it has been in the past, and their pass rush thrived, albeit against a middling Texans offensive line.
Regardless of the competition, the Bears dominated on defense and had arguably their best performance of the season on that side of the ball. That’s something worth celebrating.
Three and out
3. This game could prove to be an incredibly important one for Matt Nagy’s job security.
Like him or hate him, the Bears’ win keeps them in the playoff race late in the season. With the Cardinals sitting at just 7-6 in that seventh seed, it is still a realistic possibility to see Chicago sneak into the postseason as the third Wild Card team out of the NFC. If they manage to appear in the playoffs—regardless of how they actually do in that Wild Card game—Nagy would have two postseason appearances in three years.
That’s not to say Nagy is perfect, obviously, and there’s still a strong chance he gets canned at the end of the season. However, for just another week, he finds himself on the cusp of another playoff berth.
2. Roquan Smith might just be having the best season on the Bears’ defense this year.
After another dominant performance, Smith is up to 122 tackles and four sacks on the 2020 season, the former of which being a career-high total for him. He also has 17 tackles for a loss after tacking on two more on Sunday. With three games left in the year, it wouldn’t be surprising if he continued to build on those numbers. He has been playing at an incredibly high level on a week-by-week basis.
1. Kudos to Bill Lazor for working towards Trubisky’s strength—something that Nagy hasn’t done a great job of over the past few years.
Trubisky excels on designed roll-outs, taking advantage of his athleticism while eliminating half of the field and simplifying his reads. Lazor made sure to scheme him on the move quite a bit against the Texans, and it brought about considerable success. While Trubisky obviously has his limitations, it’s a good coach’s job to adjust his scheme in a necessary way to maximize his players’ potential. Lazor deserves a lot of credit for doing that on Sunday.