Another Sunday, another rollercoaster victory. Such is the life of a Bears fan.
Down 26-10 heading into the fourth quarter, the Bears scored 20 points in the span of four minutes and 27 seconds to come back and defeat the Falcons by a 30-26 score.
It was a rough start for Chicago, having scored just 10 points in the first three quarters and struggling to stop Atlanta’s offense, even without star wide receiver Julio Jones. The Bears’ poor offensive start saw them bench Mitchell Trubisky in favor of backup Nick Foles, and after starting off his first two drives with an interception and a three-and-out, the former Super Bowl MVP threw three touchdown passes and helped lead them to their third-straight win to start the 2020 season.
Though the game was ugly for a majority of the time, the Bears came away with a win, and that’s what matters most. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from this week’s victory.
This week’s game could long be remembered for being the game where the Mitchell Trubisky era in Chicago came to an end.
Trubisky had some solid throws in the first half and led the Bears to two solid opening drives and marched down the field, even if the first and second drives ended in a missed field goal and a field goal, respectively. It wasn’t the worst performance he’s had in his career, as he did make a couple of solid throws in intermediate range.
However, from first glance, he appeared to struggle with a lot of the same problems that have plagued him throughout his career. His internal clock was a tick too slow, as he made a handful of throws and struggled with going through his progressions and finding the open man past his first read. His footwork also struggled throughout the game, as his ability to transfer his weight to his front foot fell apart under pressure.
The Bears made the change to Nick Foles in the third quarter after a Trubisky interception, and while the backup did play better in relief, his time under center wasn’t perfect.
Foles actually had a lower completion percentage than Trubisky, tallying a 55.2 mark to Trubisky’s 59.1. He made a few questionable decisions with spotty footwork early on and took a while to truly get going.
However, the Bears stretched the field a lot more with Foles than they did with Trubisky, and the former proved to be more effective on the deep ball. Part of that higher sample size of deeper throws came from the Bears being down by a considerable amount, but it wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Nagy opened up the playbook a little bit more by running deeper throws with Foles under center.
The passing attack was aided greatly by Allen Robinson having his best performance of the new 2020 season. He caught 10 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, showing off the ability to consistently get open against the Falcons’ secondary and make catches in tight situation. His ability to shed tackles was on display in his 37-yard touchdown, as well as his ability to make catches in tight windows.
Jimmy Graham also had his best game as a member of the Bears, catching six passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns. He showed his value as a legitimate red-zone threat, as his two scores came within three yards of the end zone or fewer. While essentially every Bears fan alive panned the signing when it happened, Graham has admittedly surpassed expectations and played a valuable role in Chicago’s offense.
The rest of the pass-catchers weren’t consistently impressive: Darnell Mooney didn’t have a big game, Anthony Miller had a disappointing game before his 28-yard touchdown, and Tarik Cohen and Demetrius Harris—the other two players to catch more than two passes outside of Robinson and Graham—were mostly just targeted on short throws that didn’t amount to much.
It wasn’t the greatest performance on the ground for the Bears, though. It took David Montgomery 14 carries to tie the 45-yard mark that Trubisky reached with his lone run late in the second quarter. More of that blame admittedly falls on the play-calling and the offensive line, as the Falcons went with a blitz-heavy strategy for much of the game, daring Trubisky to make quick zone reads under pressure in the passing game, and especially daring Foles to make throws knowing he probably couldn’t outrun those defenders.
Those blitzes were often utilized in the run game, too, and that saw plenty of free defenders gunning down Montgomery in space. The second-year back was able to shed some tackles and fight for extra yards when the opportunities presented themselves, but the overwhelming rush Atlanta sent multiple times in the game made it very tough for him to get an open lane.
Overall, it was yet another example of the Bears’ offense playing very well for a small portion of the game and putting forth an inconsistent product. That result may not play out well for them against superior competition, but for now, it’s working, and with Foles now under center, there could be a bit more to be optimistic about going forward.
First thing’s first: the Bears’ pass rush looked the best it has all year.
Sacking Matt Ryan twice may not be an impressive feat in the stat sheet, but that total doesn’t tell the whole story. What may be more telling is the tally of eight quarterback hits. Chicago did a very good job of pressuring Ryan and collapsing the pocket. Akiem Hicks ended the game with 1.5 sacks officially, reaching a total of 3.5 sacks after just three games in the 2020 season. He was a force to reckoned with on passing downs along the interior with a whopping five quarterback hits. Khalil Mack also played at an extremely high level, contributing with half of a sack and three quarterback hits: and that’s not including a strip sack he had that was called back for a roughing the passer penalty on Mario Edwards Jr.
While the pass rush was commendable, the same could not be said for the Bears’ run defense. They gave up 144 yards and two touchdowns on the ground on 25 carries, reaching an average of 5.8 yards per carry. Todd Gurley and Brian Hill both had plenty of space to move around at the second level due to Chicago’s defensive line’s struggles with winning battles at the point of attack and their linebackers’ problems with disengaging from blocks from offensive linemen climbing to the second level.
Heading to the All-22 game tape will tell a more complete story about the Bears’ performance in the secondary, but they appeared to struggle a little bit more against Atlanta than they did in the first two weeks. Calvin Ridley had his way against their secondary with 110 yards on five receptions, but luckily for the Bears, no other targets put up incredible numbers. The secondary ended the game on a high note with Tashaun Gipson’s game-clinching interception.
While the Bears allowed 26 points in the first three quarters, their defense stepped up in the fourth quarters. Their last four defensive drives resulted in three three-and-out drives and an interception. It took a little while for them to get everything together, but they held the Falcons’ offense when it mattered most.
Chicago’s defense will likely perform better against other defenses, seeing as though the Falcons have a talented offense with a more-than-capable quarterback under center. It wasn’t a perfect game on the defensive side of the ball, but they played just well enough to keep their team in the game right when their offense started heating up.
Three and out
3. As if it needed to be said, Foles will be the starting quarterback in Week 4.
Head coach Matt Nagy declined to announce a starter in the postgame press conference, but it wouldn’t make much sense for the Bears to start Trubisky after benching him in the middle of the third quarter, especially after Foles led them to a comeback victory in the fourth quarter.
Trubisky has been better in three games than he was for much of 2019, and while the Bears started off the season at 2-0, he has still suffered from a lot of the same issues that have prevented him from breaking out in the first place: poor footwork, questionable decision making and inconsistent accuracy.
Foles is far from a great quarterback, but his low points don’t come as often as Trubisky’s do. He isn’t as good of an athlete as Trubisky, but he does have better deep ball accuracy, which has already proven to open up the Bears’ playbook with him under center. Whether the move proves to be the better long-term decision is currently unknown, but since the Bears ended up winning with Foles under center, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t the best decision for Sunday.
2. It’s early to be having accurate talks about a team’s realistic draft targets, considering there’s still plenty of NFL and college football left to be played. However, that doesn’t mean it’s too early to highlight some potential needs on the Bears’ roster.
The quarterback position should still be a focal point in the draft this year, regardless of how Foles plays in relief for Trubisky. With the Bears at 3-0, though, it’s highly likely that they’ll be out of the range necessary to take any of the three top draft quarterbacks—Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance—without trading up. They could target an offensive lineman, as Germain Ifedi is a free agent after this year and could be too expensive for them to re-sign with his nice start to the year. Bobby Massie has also been playing pretty well, but the possibility of saving $8 million in cap space could prove to be too good for the Bears to pass up.
The Bears are set at most positions on defense, but look for the inside linebacker and safety positions to be potential targets. Danny Trevathan has been brutal to watch this season, and while Roquan Smith has made some very nice plays this year, he’s still not taking that next step just yet. While Gipson had that crucial interception late in this week’s game, he is on a one-year deal and may see a fate similar to that of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix next year.
1. The Bears take on the Colts next week, and while they’re currently the underdogs despite playing at home at Soldier Field, both teams are still pretty unproven to this point.
Indianapolis had a field-day demolishing a dismal Jets team, and they also picked up a resounding victory against the Vikings, but they lost to the Jaguars in the opening week. It’s tough to get an accurate reading on who they are at this point in the year. While the same can be said about the Bears and their three nail-biting, comeback wins to mediocre teams, there is a solid chance Chicago starts off the year at 4-0.
If the Bears are able to generate a pass rush against Philip Rivers, then the veteran will be forced to take sacks or force throws under duress, as he doesn’t have the agility to evade would-be tacklers at his age. The Colts’ defense has been playing at a high level, but this game could very well end up coming down the wire like the last Bears games have done.