Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears for WARR
So close, yet so far away…
Or maybe it was simply the best of halves and the worst of halves.
However poetically you want to say it, the Chicago Bears showed up in their 2018 opener with all colors of the rainbow behind them, representing everything from elated excitement to dismal despair in a unique contest with eternal rival Green Bay that already puts itself high up the list of memorable games in the NFL’s most storied rivalry.
The whole wild process in getting to the Packers’ 24-23 come-from-behind win also showed how long of a season we got ahead of us as one of the potentially most exciting teams in the league still needs to learn how to apply its new strategies and weapons toward playing a complete game.
As I write this the Bears may have already begun trying to put this game in the rearview, and they need to in order to successful prepare for Seattle in the home opener next Monday night. Matt Nagy and his staff has plenty of positives he can reinforce from Sunday night with even more teachable moments that will have to be instilled in this young squad for the future. Chicago gave one away yesterday, to the worst team it could have given a game to, and that never feels good.
In the past the Bears haven’t been able to run off strings of positive performances or correct mistakes that hurt them, we will find out soon what the Bears are made of in that way against a veteran Seattle team.
But before everyone turns the page on last night’s game, here are three observations from the latest infamous installment of the Bears-Packers rivalry.
Khalil Mack, Defense = Incomplete
Regardless of how the Bears’ offense fared against Green Bay, the defense had an opportunity to win this game themselves. Had corner back Kyle Fuller come through with his opportunity for an interception on the Packers’ final scoring drive then the Bears would have won.
Khalil Mack was dominant in the first half, looking like a true Monster of the Midway. The Bears have a fast linebacker group, especially when rookie Roquan Smith is on the field. When Mack and Smith can be on the field for most downs and play entire games, the impact of their play will be multiplied. Chicago’s corners and safeties were a little exposed at times last night, but ultimately they played well enough to get a victory.
Hindering the defense ultimately was the fact that they just couldn’t get the same pressure on Rodgers in the second half that they did when helping run up the Bears’ lead in the first.
The Packers made smart adjustments and Rodgers got the ball out of his hand quickly while playing with a hobbled left leg. It would have been great for the defense to set the tone and close out a win against Rodgers for Week 1, but they have to leave this game with confidence and they will need that when facing another elite quarterback on the national stage next week.
Tale of Two Drives
The offense was flat out awesome on its first two drives of the game, netting 146 yards and 10 points in those drives. The Bears showed different packages and a balanced attack on the ground and through the air.
After those two drives there was a lot of stagnate offense being shown. Had the Bears capitalized on just a few throws and play calling situations then the Bears could have been victorious regardless of simply passive factors in Rodgers’ miraculous performance. The Bears had multiple opportunities, including in their final drive of the game, when all they needed was a field goal.
Clearly the Bears have plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball but more so on offense. As the man at quarterback, if Mitchell Trubisky is this inaccurate late in games and Nagy backs him up with questionable play calls then games like Sunday night will happen again and again. For the Bears to take a step towards becoming a contender then Trubisky has to be good to great week after week, he can’t regress to average or below average play.
Remember, as coach Nagy’s most important job and role is to develop Trubisky. The events of Week 1 show there’s a lot left to be desired before that area is checked off.
The Bad, the Ugly, then the Good…
Last night was certainly disheartening, but that doesn’t mean no positives existed from the game. Defensively, this team should get better and better simply with more time playing together. The defensive unit did look gassed by the end of the game but it has to be remembered that key pieces like Mack and Smith are behind most others in their pre-season conditioning, they will indeed catch up and the others will get even better.
Talent is spread well across this team and it showed well in some areas in Week 1, among them the running backs, receivers and the offensive and defensive lines. The Bears have pieces throughout the roster that can really put pressure on opposing teams.
Media and fans alike will say the Bears have to show this talent before they believe in any real transformation and that is more than fair based on the team’s recent history, but the Bears have built well along both their lines and they have the ability to control the point of attack in all drives. That constitutes a great start in rebuilding.
Skill positions on both sides of the ball are featuring talent and whether it was seeing Jordan Howard bruise his way towards first downs or receivers like Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller get critical third down conversions — on top of the completely inspired play of Mack, Akiem Hicks and others defensively — we’re seeing something that just needs a little more time to come together to see the results we’d like.
Ultimately it will be up to Nagy and his staff to make the proper adjustments moving forward after giving a game like it did. Only a team who could find such a new way to disappoint us could find new ways to thrill us.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanbski; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio