I began working for the New York Giants late in 2004 when the Giants were under the direction of the late great General Manager George Young. I had a very good relationship with George in that George, who began his adult working career as a high school teacher, loved to teach. As a young scout, I was eager to learn, so I soaked up all the information I could from him. One of the first things I learned from George is when your team loses a game, there are going to be some positives that come out of that loss. A team has to lean on those positives in order to get better.
Yesterday, the Chicago Bears lost their second straight game on the road to a Division rival, this time the Minnesota Vikings. The game started horribly for the Bears as Minnesota took the opening kickoff and marched downfield on a long drive for an easy touchdown. The Bears followed that touchdown with a drive of their own, and while they couldn't finish the drive in the end zone, they were able to salvage a field goal and three points out of it. What was different about that drive was the Bears' play calling seemed to be more aggressive.
For most of the rest of the first half, it was a total disaster for the Bears as the defense had their worst showing of this young season. Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins was flawless, and the Vikings easily scored on their next two drives to go up 21-3.
The Bears did nothing on their next drive and punted, but this is when the game turned. The defense was finally able to stop the Vikings and force a punt. That punt only traveled 15 yards, and the Bears had great field position to start their drive at the 50-yard line. I immediately felt that if the Bears could score a touchdown, they would be back in this game as they were set to receive the second-half kickoff.
The Bears' drive was not conservatively called like we have seen most of this season. They started aggressively with a 39-yard pass to Darnell Mooney. Three plays later, the Bears scored on a nine-yard run by David Montgomery.
To open the second half, the Bears' offense was again aggressive with an 8-play 67-yard drive to make the score 21-16. Later in the game, the Bears kicked two field goals to go up 22-21. While they would end up losing the game 29-22, the Bears, and especially the offense, looked totally different than we have seen up to this point.
When the Bears were down 21 – 3, they could have done two things, fight to get back into the game or just give up and try again next week. They chose the former and fought to not only get back into the game but also take a lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Yes, the Bears lost the game, but there are a lot of positives to take from it. The offense came alive starting with that final drive in the first half, and that continued for the entire second half. Young quarterback Justin Fields may have looked the best of his career in that time, looking more patient and poised in the pocket, making good reads and throwing with accuracy.
The offensive scheme the Bears are playing is not easy to learn. Everyone needs time, patience, and practice to get on the same page, especially when very few of the offensive personnel have ever played in that scheme before.
A perfect example is the problems Russell Wilson is having in Denver. The Broncos play basically the same scheme as the Bears, but their Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson who is one of the better quarterbacks in the League, is struggling to get comfortable within that scheme. He eventually will, but IT TAKES TIME.
Minnesota also plays a similar scheme, so what has their quarterback Kirk Cousins been able to play as well as he has this year? Cousins had played in this scheme before, as he played under Kyle Shanahan in Washington early in his career before going to Minnesota. The scheme and the philosophy of the scheme were not totally new to Cousins as they are to Fields and Russell Wilson.
Going forward this season, I expect the offense to be much more aggressive and the passing game to continue to improve. I don't have grandiose delusions in thinking this team will win a bunch of games and challenge for a Playoff spot. They won't, but as I have said for months, I believe this team will win eight games and build a solid foundation for success in the future.
This season is about building that foundation. The coaches and front office are learning who the real "players" actually are. The players they feel comfortable with will be around for the long haul, and the others will be gone.
Next spring will be about acquiring new talent to put around the talent already here. The Bears will have plenty of money to spend in free agency as well as have the most Draft capital they have had in three years. The path to getting better is there!
Don't expect Ryan Poles to suddenly go on a huge spending spree and buy players with vast amounts of money. Knowing Poles' background, I doubt that will happen. I believe he will be smart in free agency and try to acquire the "right" players, which may not necessarily be the big names. When a General Manager is in the process of team building, it's always about bringing the right people into the building. History has shown us that the high-priced free agent isn't always the best person to bring into the building.
Yes, yesterday was a loss, and losses suck, but I saw the positives, and I believe the Bears will build off those positives for the remainder of the season. It will be interesting to watch.