The Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings were two teams with the same record heading into Sunday’s game. Yet, they got to that (6-7) record two different ways. The Vikings were the hotter team going into the game, but the Bears appeared to be playing better football in the short-term. That’s exactly how it played out, as the Bears moved to (7-7) after a 33-27 winner in Minnesota.
Unfortunately for the team’s playoff hopes, the Philadelphia Eagles could not pull out the win against the Arizona Cardinals, which means the Bears do not control their destiny over the final two games of the season. Even so, these final two games will matter (assuming they don’t lose Sunday) and that’s something to somewhat be thankful for.
1. With Sunday’s win, the Bears are right back in the playoff race. Here’s what it is going to take to get in.
After Week 15’s results (that actually matter to the Bears), they sit one game back of the Cardinals for that final wild card spot within the NFC. It’s worth noting that the Bears have all but eliminated the Vikings with Sunday’s results, making this a two team race for that final spot in the last two weeks of the season.
- The Jaguars are now in position to get the first overall pick after the New York Jets win.
- With a win on Sunday against the (10-4) Tennessee Titans, the Packers will lock up the top seed in the NFL.
So what this might very well come down to is which team’s Week 17 opponent has more to play for. There seems to be a higher chance of the Packers sitting starters in Week 17, especially if the Rams can beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Both the Bears and Cardinals will be favored in Week 16 but at this point, nothing can be taken for granted. If things do pan out how Vegas expects, it’ll all come down to Week 17.
2. Like I pointed out last week, this team has not given up on Matt Nagy and that will be highly considered when the regular season concludes in two Sundays.
A few weeks back, I had completely counted this team out. I figured after blowing a (5-1) start to the season, that would be it. Since their last minute loss to the Detroit Lions, the Bears have been on somewhat of a tear and have put themselves right back in the playoff race. Even for Nagy’s biggest critics, everyone has to admit that there’s some value to this team not giving up and packing it in after losing six straight games.
Another thing I would give Nagy credit for is this- He knew they needed to make changes. That started with him not calling offensive plays anymore and also meant him swallowing his pride and putting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky back in as the starter. Since that point, the Bears have averaged over 30 points-per-game and to put it bluntly, have carried the defense through some rough performances. These are the types of things that will weigh heavily at the end of the season when the decision makers try to figure out their next steps as an organization.
3. Speaking of Nagy and their recent resurgence, any hope of big changes happening in January are quickly diminishing.
With every win, it seems less likely that we’ll see sweeping changes. Now, obviously that could indeed change if they somehow lose both of their last two games, but that doesn’t seem likely considering their Week 16 opponent. Admittedly so, I was very much on the wagon and to be fair, we haven’t seen this type of fight from a team that was collapsing in quite some time.
Some folks compared Nagy to Marc Trestman but as we’ve over the last few weeks, this team has far from quit.
With all of that being said, I still would not rule out some sort of change with Ted Phillips’ job title. That may include removing him from all football operations or from the organization as a whole. An (8-8) finish would give the Ryan Pace and Nagy tandem a (28-20) record over three years, which doesn’t usually call for a complete house cleaning. While I’m still not sold this truly helps the Bears, they’ve played themselves out of the top 10, so in essence, the tank is off.
4. Despite playing a quality game, Mitchell Trubisky’s turnover late in the game brings back into focus where the more major issues are in his game.
By and large, Trubisky played a good game. He did what was asked of him and was pretty dang accurate (especially to his usual standard). When you look at the box score, you won’t see a lot of yards or even passing attempts but again, for the most part, Trubisky did his job... Except for...
His errant throw in the back of the end zone that almost cost the Bears the game. This was the second late-game turnover in his last three games that loomed large. Luckily for him, they were able to overcome it and win the game. A few weeks back, they weren’t so lucky.
What this does tell us is this- Trubisky is a good game manager when he’s not being asked to do too much. He’s better on the move and it’s good to see Bill Lazor actually playing to his strengths. With that being said, he’s never going to be a game changer and those critical mistakes appear to be a matter of when, not if. That’s still an issue.
It’s been great to see the former North Carolina product somewhat turn his career around since coming off the bench, but every time there’s a slight belief that he could have truly changed, these critical mistakes continue to pop up.
5. David Montgomery’s stretch of excellent play since returning from the concussion continues to be one of the most impressive aspects of this offense’s resurgence.
As stated a few points back, the Bears offense is averaging over 30 points-per-game in their last four games. There’s been plenty of changes including the quarterback, play caller, a settled offensive line and of course, Montgomery.
Montgomery didn’t have a good start to the year. The play calling was predictable, the line was bad and Montgomery was simply not confidently hitting holes when he needed to. Since coming back from his concussion, he’s been a different back. Not only is he hard to bring down, he’s collecting touchdowns, ripping off big gains and being more decisive behind the line of scrimmage as a runner. He’s now put himself in a very good spot to break the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career and he becomes the first runner since 2016 to have back-to-back 100 yard rushing games. He’s a bright spot in this offense’s future.
6. Center Sam Mustipher is quietly playing himself into a starting role for the 2021 season and quite possibly beyond.
This is not a knock on Alex Bars because he has absolutely carved himself out a role as a key reserve moving forward, but man, Mustipher has been a pleasant surprise. I guess that really shouldn’t be a surprise on a Notre Dame offensive line that has churned out NFL stars over the years. Even so, he continues to be the most stabilizing piece on the interior and this may end up being a big win for them down the road.
7. Yes, it was a big win and there were plenty of positives, but what in the hell has happened to this defense?
It started with getting blown out on National Television against the Packers. It was followed by another bad performance against a rough Lions team without two top offensive records and after a nice performance in Week 14, they were back to not being good on Sunday.
Part of that is likely due to injuries, especially in the secondary, but defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has done himself no favors with his defensive calls. Whether it’s blitzing at the wrong times, playing far too loose in coverage and just simply not getting to the quarterback enough or forcing enough turnovers, things are a far cry from what Vic Fangio left.
Adam Hoge said it best...
There's way too much talent on the #Bears defense to look this bad.— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) December 20, 2020
8. While we are on the topic of the defense, two players really stood out as positives in Week 15.
- Defensive lineman Bilal Nichols. Simply put, he has been the team’s best defender over the past two weeks. I’m sure it’ll get fixed at some point, but I had Nichols with a sack and a half and officially, he had just one sack according to ESPN and the NFL’s official website.
- Edge Rusher Robert Quinn. For as much crap as most Bears fans, including myself, have given him, he had a very good game on Sunday. He had his first sack since Week 2 and finished the game with multiple pressures on Cousins.
9. 2020 is starting to feel an awful lot like 2012...
For those who choose to remember, the Bears got off to a scorching (7-1) start but faltered down the stretch. They did just enough to make Week 17 meaningful, but ultimately got left out of the playoffs because of a Minnesota Vikings win. Going back to that season, their loss to Seattle really killed them in hindsight. Could we be looking at something similar with that Week 13 loss to the Lions? Only time will tell, but this is shaping up to be another situation where the Bears enter Week 17 on the outside looking in.
10. Even though the Bears find themselves in the middle with two games left, it’s still fun to be in the playoff mix, isn’t it?
For as “All In” as most of us were on them losing out for draft positioning and a house cleaning after Week 13, the Bears have clawed their way back in the mix for a playoff spot. While the off-season would have been much more interesting and their chances of landing a top quarterback would have been much higher, having these final games matter shouldn’t be overlooked or underrated.
I know some still haven’t changed their mindset on wanting better draft positioning or a big changes in leadership, but that ship is sailing away quickly. So we might as well all jump back on the playoff train and enjoy it until we see it all play out.