Ryan Bukowiecki is a student at the Illinois Media School and a contributor to The D & Davis Show
Winners for the first time in a road game since 2015 (whoo-hoo!), the Chicago Bears engaged in quite the affair in Baltimore as fans were delighted to a hotly contested battle between two teams that are average at best.
Though there was some bad play during the game, which the Bears pulled out 27-24 in overtime but should have won going away in regulation. There were also some real positives to take away as a Bears fan and coming out on top makes it easier to take both pluses and minuses in stride.
The focus from here on out will be on recently instilled rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, more than being the hope of the franchise, he is their guy on the field NOW.
Trubisky’s second week wasn’t the most pretty, it was another first (first road start) featuring a stat line of 8 of 16 completions for 113 yards and a touchdown along with a QB rating of 94.0. There has been plenty to feel good about regarding Trubisky albeit our continued reading of a small sample size, clearly his athletic skills as a QB is far superior than Glennon and with the room in control the lackluster Bears offense has a chance to compete now.
More good things were seen with the ground game as Jordan Howard and the running attack had a big day, in total the Bears had 231 yards on 54 carries, a cool 4.28 yards per carry. And overall the Bears’ passing attack had a better day than their opponent, a rarity thus far in the 2017 season. One last positive for the offense was the time of possession, won by a decisive 38:51 to 31:09.
Chicago’s offense was better than normal but the real key to the victory came from the defense, which absolutely won the game regardless of the effort from the coverage units on special teams trying to give away the game. Coming into this game, the Ravens have had a questionable offense at best and their signal caller Joe Flacco has really struggled so far.
The Ravens may have as bad of a wide receiver core as the Bears. The only thing the Ravens have been able to do for themselves is run the football. This was a silver platter type game for the Bears’ defense and they took advantage of it, getting three turnovers, including a pick-6.
Bears defenders did a nice job of getting off the field on third down as well, holding the Ravens to a 3 for 18 conversion rate. The only problem was that third phase…
Indeed, the special teams needs to be called out as they can never play as poorly as they did Sunday. Both the kickoff and punt coverage units gave up touchdown returns. On the kickoff return it was a mental lapse where players assumed the Ravens player was down when he wasn’t. Replay showed no Bears player clearly touched Bobby Rainey even though he looked down in live action.
And when the game was looking over, the Bears’ punt coverage allowed a TD to pull the Ravens within two points late in the fourth. The Ravens went on to tie the game on the strength of Chicago’s weak punt defense, which featured a poor directional kick by Pat O’Donnell and a coverage unit that didn’t cover their lanes and stayed in the middle of the field.
Hopefully the Bears don’t see another performance that bad from their special teams this season.
The Bears find themselves at 2-4 in a suddenly interesting NFC North division. As long as Trubisky is the starter here, there are things worth watching for this team for the rest of the season. So here is what to take away from this latest victory over the Ravens.
Mitch Trubisky has real potential, you can see it in the velocity from the ball coming out of his arm, you can see it in his first game last Monday night as he rolled around dropping dimes everywhere, at least until he got a little too careless with the ball and the game-settling interception came to Minnesota’s Harrison Smith.
Jay Cutler spent time here and had some of the best arm talent ever along with the problem of playing QB and leading the team without turning the ball over. Mitch was Cutty-like in his first start, less so against the Ravens. Trubisky did have a fumble — securing the ball is something he is going to have to work on — while throwing the ball he showed improvement. That is the key for Trubisky each week, showing himself better than his last start.
One thing teams want to see from their rookie QB is the ability to make adjustments quickly. Of all the passes thrown by Mitch Sunday, none were in harms way and he was willing to throw the ball away to live another down. As Bears fans we haven’t seen specifically a talented QB throw the ball away knowingly in maybe ever.
Trubisky’s TD throw to Dion Sims was basically perfect, he threw it over the corner and under the safety only where Sims could get it…and it was on the run. Later with the game on the line, Trubisky threw a rope to Kendall Wright from a collapsing pocket where Trubisky had to jump in order to make the throw since there was no room to step up with a defender coming at him.
Again, when plays were needed Trubisky put the ball only where his receivers could get it. The rookie’s poise was on display again and it would be fun to see Trubisky with some real weapons down the line, but week to week it is looking more like appointment TV just seeing his progression.
Fuller, Hicks Lead Strong D
Apparently the Ravens’ pass attack were trying to target cornerback Kyle Fuller in their game plan — big mistake. Fuller constantly made plays with three pass deflections and great tackling.
Fuller matched up with whatever receiver that lined up against him and Flacco couldn’t connect with any of them. It was exciting to see Fuller play like a real NFL corner and it may change the Bears’ minds in regards to investing in the young corner.
Either way, when the Bears have a good cornerback on the outside this defense looks a lot better. Another part of that better look better from the Bears defense is the play of the front seven, which played well yesterday and out of this group Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan stood out most, both had a sack and Trevathan recovered a fumble.
Last week against the Vikings, the middle of the Bears defense seemed exposed without a suspended Trevathan, and the injured Freeman and Kwiatkoski. Trevathan was all over the field with five tackles and shored up the middle of the linebacker corps after sitting for his controversial hit on the Packers’ Devonte Adams in Week 4.
Was the defense perfect? Absolutely not, seeing as the Ravens had 125 yards rushing. But the Ravens could not take advantage of the middle of the field and the Bears contained the running game enough to secure their win.
Hicks constantly deserves a shout out for all his play, the Bears gave him a contract extension earlier this season that was well deserved and now he’s probably the team’s defensive MVP. Hicks constantly had a push on his rushes and was an anchor in the runsh defense against Baltimore. Hicks and this defensive line have put together a couple weeks of good performances, it will be key for them to continue to bring it each week for the Bears to build on their success.
Howard Eats, Offense Feasts
One thing that has been frustrating dating back to last season is the offense not giving enough carries to Jordan Howard, who looks like a legit running back and is the best playmaker on that side of the ball. Might not be saying much there, but Howard deserves a lot of credit.
Howard is so hard to bring down and he has terrific vision and feet with enough speed to be a real problem for defenses. Howard for his career is averaging 4.9 yards a carry…a carry! Averages half a first down per run is just incredible and the second-year bruiser was definitely incredible yesterday, rushing 36 times for 167 yards.
The Bears need to continue to use their two best offensive players heavily for the rest of the season. Trubisky is one and Howard is the other, the No. 1 weapon for this season. When Howard gets established and gets going, the Bears are a much better football team.
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