Well, well, look who’s finally shown some backbone.
Look who’s shown some intestinal fortitude.
Look who’s displaying some huevos again, sunny side up.
We’ll keep on the sunny side of life after this week’s performance, as shocking a result as the Bears could offer at this point of this disappointing season.
Beating the Cincinnati Bengals 33-7 marks not only the Chicago Bears’ best, most complete win of this season, it marks the high water mark of play from the last three seasons with the team controlled by coach John Fox. The Bears haven’t seen 30 points on their side of the board since midway through Fox’s first season in a win at the then St. Louis Rams. A 24-point victory (37-13), that Rams win provided the Bears with the best final score of the Fox era before Sunday.
The last time the Bears beat anyone by better than 26 points was in the high point of Lovie Smith’s last season, 2012, in a 51-20 thrashing of Tennessee that brought the Bears record to 7-1 at the time, a blazing start that ceded to a 3-5 finish and Lovie’s canning.
By the end of his time with Chicago, Lovie Smith knew what it was like to lose control of his ship. John Fox has steered his like the Skipper on “Gilligan’s Island” during a 3-year tour in Soldier Field that’s felt like forever. Imagine being Cincy though and having that 3 years x 5 with Marvin Lewis.
Lewis, definitely, is a talented coach, he’s done as much winning in Cincinnati — at least in the regular season — as any coach is going to do there, but he has to be long gone spiritually by this point and physically in the near future. The Bengals did more than bungle against the Bears, they barely showed up. This was a team more suited to be extras on a Georgia TV production getting their fake heads chopped off by Andrew Lincoln than they were trying to tackle Tarik Cohen or Kendall Wright.
The Bengals are hardly an NFL team right now and that observation is the only thing that could sour an all-around great day by the Bears executing on offense with confidence and consistency and defending with aggression, discipline and guile. For the first time in a long time the Bears neither played above their heads to survive or at the level of an opponent or lower in losing an opportunity to win.
Now, what does all this do beyond providing the first truly enjoyable Bears Sunday since Week 7? We can’t forget the #firefox movement, it doesn’t seem like its subject is even too sure of his fate at this point. The coaching staff deserves credit for likely doing its best job all season in preparation for the Bengals, but that praise should exist in a vacuum and be sucked right on up after today’s wave of recapping.
We can’t forget that after holding the Carolina Panthers, a possible division winner, to 3 points in October that the team has lost 4 games by a total of 19 points —- they lost to a Green Bay team without Aaron Rodgers who were still shell-shocked regarding that fact when meeting the Bears, they lost to a Lions team that seems to spot every opponent they play 14 points and just wings it beyond that and they lost to San Francisco who didn’t need to score any touchdowns or anything to get the better of the so-called Monsters.
Again, I started out this piece stating my intention to keep on the sunny side, but its hard not to think of lost promise in the wake of a game like this. The Bears on some level reached a breaking point re: embarrassing losses and took their frustrations out on a team even more miserable than them despite coming into Sunday’s game with two more wins.
It’s not hard to imagine an 8-win Bears team given the close results in many weeks this season (with no mention of the one-score losses in Week 1 to Atlanta and Week 5 to Minnesota).
Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, an out-of-nowhere playoff run built on brash young talent to match those in Jacksonville or with the L.A. Rams, but weirder things have happened in the NFL than the Bears forging a winning season with a strong run attack, a sloppy at times yet effective quarterback and a smothering, ball-hawk defense. Think one particularly heralded Bears team got along with a formula like that.
Somewhere on the spectrum between still-burgeoning talent and wastes of space, the Bears sit. Many aspects of their franchise stand to be jettisoned in the coming weeks, but there is a glowing nucleus that can’t be ignored and they did their thing on Sunday. They are the Class of 2017 and they are becoming more and more famous each week.
Sign My Yearbook?
One half of the Score’s mid-morning team certainly caused a stir with this tweet during the game. Let it be known I agree 100 percent with this take. General manager Ryan Pace has made his fair share of mistakes but he has been essentially been slugging through his first starting job, much like Mitch Trubisky currently.
Pace came up as a supposed pro personnel wunderkind but ironically (and very Bears-like) it hasn’t been with free agent pickups and trades where he’s stood out. Outside of deserved Pro Bowler Akiem Hicks, Pace’s pickups haven’t been dazzling to say the least. As of now he’s most known as the guy who ramped up the market for Mike Glennon in a one-man auction.
But Pace should get all the props for his 2017 draft. With their play this season the Fab Four listed by Parkins (Trubisky = McCartney, Shaheen is definitely Ringo, who’s Lennon?) should have afforded Pace the ability to choose one more coach in Chicago, the coach that’ll either make him a clear success here or an ultimate failure.
But back to the freshies — no regular newcomers, these guys just about all came in with swag and at certain points have all shown themselves to be worthy of the looks they’ve gotten.
First Cohen blazed into our consciousness with his wild returns and little man elusiveness, more of which came in Cincy with 80 yards rushing on 12 carries (6.7 yards per) and more scores called back than most of the team will get honestly by the end of this season. Jackson came later with his highlight reel game against Carolina, he’s since rightfully assumed his role as a defensive leader, already no one on the team defensively is more of a magnet for the football, we’re going to love him here for a while.
A tight end who’s value is strictly in his catching ability, Shaheen’s story will link in very much with Trubisky’s. As Trubisky continues to grow and master more of the offense he’s allowed to execute it can only be assumed that Shaheen will benefit more than most. Sunday was a great example as seen in Shaheen reeling in the lone touchdown pass of the day and compiling a respectable 4 catches for 44 yards.
Shaheen should be able to get his fare share of looks in this offense going forward but for Trubisky to connect with 8 receivers as he did against the Bengals is among the best developments of the day, he and Kendall Wright in particular worked in concert so well (Wright — 10 catches, 107 yards), you could be mistaken to believe that the Bears actually knew of a defensive deficiency and worked it to their advantage, you know something that winning football teams do regularly.
On defense, Jackson celebrated his 24th birthday with 2 takeaways, marking his biggest impact in a game since the Carolina game, which had marked 1 year since his college-career ending knee injury occurred at Alabama. This guy is good at marking special occasions with memorable performances, his girlfriend must really love him.
More than One, Jordan
Jordan Howard has not one, but two 1,000 yard rushing seasons to his name in only two seasons.
It goes without saying that Howard is currently the most important and impactful draft pick of the Pace/Fox era, he’s no worst than a third team all-pro (two deep) at his position and in this historic second season of his he’s proven himself to have a level of staying power that previous high profile drafted Bears backs have lacked.
For instance, Howard just passed Raymont Harris with his performance Sunday, both famed scrambling QB Bobby Douglass and ancient-yet-still relevant Bear prototype Bronko Nagurski should be passed by him before this season is over as he creeps closer to the top 10 of the franchise’s all-time rushing list in record time.
Howard is making himself familiar among the all-time greats of the Bears but eventually we may have to put him in the pantheon of Chicago’s most legendary, the kind of level occupied most prominently by the guy who’s last name Howard shares with his first.
Michael Jordan gave influence to parents of many 1980s and 90’s babies who wanted to name their offspring after someone great in aspirational fashion. It’s not clear if Howard’s parents were among them, but they lucked out anyway.
Beyond that direct name connection its time to officially give the guy a public nickname worthy of his play. To that end, maybe we should re-explore the options provided by Phil Thompson in this Tribune piece from last season — “Ground Jordan” is starting to grow on me.
Kings of the (AFC) North
It’s safe to say that playing the AFC North has provided the Bears with most of their best moments this season, on a meaningful level having that division be the Bears’ intra-conference rivals in 2017 has saved the season from being a complete disaster.
The Bears are 3-0 against the AFC North, beating its two playoff contenders (Baltimore and Pittsburgh), who put on a hell of a game Sunday night, along with the listless Bengals. A win on Christmas Eve against the Browns, which is only a risky proposition when placed against the law of averages, would allow the Bears to have complete bragging rights on the division, which will last until 2021 when they have to face those guys again.
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean much to beat these AFC opponents down. On the scale of most needed wins in any season, intra-conference match-ups fall behind inter-conference games (out of division but within the NFC) and way behind divisional games.
Unfortunately, the script gets flipped on Chicago in those divisional games where they are 0-4 (three games by a TD or less, btw), marking the difference between true success and whatever it is the Bears are labeled with right now. But getting the better of the “other” North division is a decent consolation.
There’s a good chance the Steelers could be one of the final four or two teams playing in the season this year, but at one point they were just another gassed team trying to catch the Human Joystick, something for the AFC East to keep in mind for 2018.
Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio; Follow Kyle Means on Twitter @Wrk_Wrt