The Chicago Bears are (3-0) for the first time since 2013, but it’s honestly hard to understand how they’ve even arrived to this point. For the third straight game, it came down to the final seconds of the contest. As I begged for all last week; can this team please start winning some games in less heart attack inducing ways?
On the other side of things, it’s hard not to feel for Atlanta Falcons fans after they blew yet another big late-game lead this year, which always brings up the thought of them blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. It’s hard to see how the Dan Quinn era doesn’t come to an end at the conclusion of this season.
Despite being being just one of seven teams that will close out Week 3 undefeated, it’s still fair to say this team has some warts that will need to be addressed in the coming weeks if this hot start will turn into a playoff run. With that in mind, let’s go ahead and jump straight into this.
1. The Bears have a new starting quarterback and it was nice to finally see a quarterback run this offense that understood what he was being asked to do
Don’t get me wrong, I feel for Mitchell Trubisky. For what he has lacked on the field, he has tried to make up for in hard work and overall dedication to this team. None of his failures are for a lack of trying and it’s hard not to root for a genuinely good guy. Which is why it’s hard to see him so dejected on the sideline, knowing that all of his work was simply not good enough to overcome his mental lapses.
With all of that being said, he’s simply not an NFL-caliber starting quarterback and despite taking the first steps to realizing that this off-season, the Bears officially pulled the plug in the third quarter on Sunday’s game. Trubisky finished the game 13/22 for 128 yards, with a touchdown and interception. It wasn’t like his numbers as a whole were overly poor, but what happened beyond the numbers were. Not only did he miss multiple deep balls, but he struggled against zone coverage once again, and ultimately his lone interception was the final straw and a throw that should have never happened.
Enter Nick Foles.
While the veteran may not be anything special, he has proven that he can not only succeed in this offense (see the Eagles in 2017 and 2018) but he can win in big situations. Things started off a bit rocky but he finished the game 16/29 for 188 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Ironically enough, his one interception should have been a touchdown and one of his completions should have been an interception. Regardless, Foles played big when the moment called for it and that’s what the Bears will get making this switch.
On top of all of that, it was very evident from the moment he entered the game that he simply understood the offense and more importantly, he understood what the opposing defense was doing in their coverages. That’s just as big as any athletic play that Trubisky has made over the years and one that allows Foles to be the superior quarterback in this situation, despite having considerably less talent than the younger Trubisky.
The Bears have yet to commit to who will start Week 4, but we all know who it is going to be.
2. It’s going to be interesting to see what changes we see after Foles gets a full week of practice with the starters
As most know, during a season the backup quarterback doesn’t get many reps. Mainly because each week the coaching staff is attempting to install this week’s game plan and it doesn’t do them much good to have a backup taking reps away from the starter.
Assuming head coach Matt Nagy names Foles the starter for Week 4 (EDIT: It’s official), this will be the first time since the team named Trubisky their starter a week before the season, that Foles will see practice reps with the first team.
For as impressive as his final drives were, it’ll be interesting to see what other wrinkles the Bears can add and more importantly, how much more familiar Nagy the play caller can get with his new starting quarterback.
3. David Montgomery’s importance to this offense just became even bigger after the loss of Tarik Cohen
It’s hard not to feel for any player that loses his season due to injury, but especially a guy like Cohen, who the team reportedly fears tore his ACL. To make matters even worse, it came on a fair catch and just a freak accident where a Falcons player was pushed into Cohen’s planted leg as he was catching the ball.
Now, the Bears must rely even more on Montgomery, who finished the game with just 54 total yards from scrimmage.
Obviously the team will try and pick up the slack in other areas with players like Cordarrelle Patterson, but losing a player like Cohen leaves a hole on an offense that is still searching for consistency. The good news? Montgomery may not have the same speed of shiftiness that Cohen does, but he has the ability to be a factor not only as a runner but also as a pass catcher. This will be a big opportunity for the 2019 third-round pick to increase his snap count and overall value moving forward.
4. It’s safe to say that Akiem Hicks is officially back
After Week 1 (despite the sack), I had somewhat wondered if Hick’s best days were behind him. Last year was a string of bad luck, as he missed the majority of the season and in the first game of the season, he simply did not look like the same player.
Since that point, Hicks has quickly turned back into his old dominating self and Sunday’s game was no exception. Hicks finished the game with five quarterback hits, four tackles, 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Much like in 2018, there’s an argument to be made (so far) that Hicks is close to as valuable on the inside as Khalil Mack is on the outside. Speaking of Mack, don’t sleep on his start either. Despite not putting up eye-popping numbers, he has played great as well to start the season and the numbers should follow soon.
For this Bears defense to figure things out and get back to form, Hicks is going to play a big role moving forward, but through three games I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen.
5. The Bears need help stopping the run and the only way that can happen is an outside addition
Bilal Nichols is a good player, but he’s not a nose tackle, and that has become very apparent over the first three weeks of the season. Before Sunday’s game, they placed true nose tackle John Jenkins on Injured Reserve with a thumb injury. The likelihood of him returning any time soon is not good, so that means the team will need to look for outside help.
The most obvious name is Damon Harrison Sr. It was reported last week that “Snacks” would be taking a visit to Seattle this week, but that the Bears were one of four teams to show interest. If I’m Ryan Pace, I’m doing everything I can to get him in the door before he gets on a plane to Seattle.
For as rocky as the Bears defense has been at times, their inability to stop the run is their biggest issue. The only way to fix that is going to be to properly replace Goldman and Harrison makes the most sense, if they can make it happen. And no, Daniel McCullers isn’t going to be the magic answer to the defense’s woes, even for as massive as he is.
6. It’s time to start worrying about Danny Trevathan
Over the last two weeks, I’ve been asked about Trevathan plenty in our weekly mailbags. I’ve been preaching patience but that patience has just about run out. For the third straight week, the veteran just looks slow. Not just a little slow, but a step or two slower than he has been in past years.
His snap count increased this week back over (70%), but he was still a liability in the pass game where teams are realizing they can attack him with regularity. Considering he’s in the first year of a virtually fully guaranteed three-year deal, it would be a hard pill to swallow if Trevathan can’t somehow get back on track and play like he has before.
I’ll be curious if the Bears go back to using Deon Bush more next week, but that’s just a band-aid and not a real fix, especially when you consider the veteran’s contract status over the next handful of seasons.
7. It’s safe to say that Cairo Santos is not the answer to the team’s kicking woes
After Week 1, many (including myself) were pleasantly surprised with how Santos performed. Since that point, his Achilles heal has showed up in a big way as he has missed two field goals in two weeks, both beyond 40 yards.
Since 2017, he is 6/16 in that department, which is why he has found it hard to stick on a roster. It doesn’t appear that his inconsistencies in longer field goals is something that is going to change, which is why the Bears have to hope that Eddy Pineiro is close to coming off Injured Reserve soon because this team cannot afford a woeful kicking game to cost them wins moving forward. They are just lucky that it hasn’t yet.
8. We’re finally seeing the Jimmy Graham that this coaching staff hyped up in training camp
Looking back to March, many (nationally and local) were scratching their heads when the Bears set the market at the tight end position by giving the veteran a two-year, $16 million deal with $9 million guaranteed. Fast forward to August and the team’s coaching staff was hyping up their new addition, which had many fans wondering what type of Graham the Bears would get.
Through the first two weeks of the season, it had been a mixed bag with not-so-great numbers, but that changed on Sunday. Graham finished the game with six catches for 60-yards and a pair of touchdowns. It became clear that while he may not be the same athletic freak between the 20’s that he used to be, he’s close to an unstoppable force inside the 10 and one that the Bears need to use as much as possible while they continue to figure out how to consistently score touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball.
While rookie Cole Kmet is still playing sparing in the early going, Graham by himself can bring a big change to a tight end group that failed to put up 500 yards combined in 2019.
9. Despite the loss of Cohen, the Bears appear to be one of the healthier teams moving into Week 4 and that’s nothing to scoff about
Over the next day or two, it will become “official” that Cohen is lost for the year with a torn ACL but even so, the Bears have found themselves as one of the healthier teams in the NFL. That was pretty evident on Sunday as they faced a Falcons team that was missing more than seven total Week 1 projected starters. That’s not something to overlook moving forward.
As we’ve seen in years past, health is a big part of the equation when looking at team’s overall success. Especially in a year where there has been minimal off-season programs and no preseason, the teams that stay the healthiest are the teams that will be around heading into the playoffs. Andre Tucker and Jason Loscalzo have done a great job since taking over in 2018 and through three weeks, it’s been a big factor so far in 2020.
10. As Week 3 concludes, the Bears will be just one of seven teams to find themselves at (3-0)
Again, this is nothing to scoff at. Does this guarantee a playoff spot? No but winning games in the NFL is hard and starting off like this is even harder. For reference, the last time the Bears did this was 2013, which happened to be Marc Trestman’s first year as the team’s head coach. Obviously they didn’t make the playoffs then, but health and a quickly aging defense had a lot to do with that.
The Bears are just one of three teams in the NFC to start undefeated, but the only issue there is that the Green Bay Packers are one of those three teams. Only time will tell how this season plays out for the Bears, but with a favorable set of games still yet to come, it’s not hard to see this team being in a great spot heading into late October or early November.
It’s also worth noting that the Football Outsiders have the Bears current playoff odds set at (64.2%), which is up almost 10% over last week.