By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Another week, another placement on the national stage for the Chicago Bears.
Everyone in Chicago is hoping for an opposite result from the previous installment while nationally the Bears’ status as a team to really pay attention to this season is up in the air.
Not so much emotion should be instilled the game this time around, even though it is a home opener — in facing off against the Seattle Seahawks (7:15 pm, ESPN/ABC 7, WBBM 780) a once elite team that is constantly restructuring and re-contextualizing itself while trying to retain playoff status, Chicago is being given a rare second-consecutive chance at a winnable game against a team that they’d really impress the rest of the league with if they won.
Whereas the Bears’ struggles in Week 1 were obvious, the Seahawks had their own struggles last week in Denver. Von Miller had an epic day himself with four quarterback hits, three sacks, three tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Seattle had issues throwing the ball also as Russell Wilson threw two interceptions.
Positive marks for Seattle included its defense collecting three interceptions. Neither team was able to score after the Broncos’ touchdown at the 11:00 mark in the fourth quarter and Denver held on to a 27-24 win.
What we saw from the Seahawks in Week 1 showed that though this is a winnable game for the Bears Seattle will in no way down easy with a competitor and play-maker like Wilson at quarterback.
Lets take a look at the goals for the Bears in order to impress the home base and get their first win of their season.
Four Quarter Pass Rush — The Bears got an immediate impact from Khalil Mack with his unprecedented first half in Green Bay. It looked as though Mack lost a little bit in the second half and wasn’t as explosive, something you certainly couldn’t be surprised at given that his conditioning wasn’t ready for a full game yet.
Week-by-week Mack’s conditioning should improve and the same can be said for the team’s other pass rushers who seemed gassed late. The offensive line of the Seahawks is not great and many believe Green Bay has far more talent on offense. Wilson is a dual threat from the pocket but he will be without top receiver Doug Baldwin, one of several starters who will be out on both sides of the ball for Seattle.
If the pass rush is consistent throughout the game and the Bears are able to contain Wilson, then they should have a lot of big plays and stops that result. Everything starts with Mack giving a four-quarter effort followed by Akiem Hicks and then the rest of the guys winning their resulting one-on-one match-ups.
Lots of Jordan Howard…Lots — The Bears received great news entering the weekend: two of the best Seattle defenders, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner, are ruled out for Monday night.
Those two being out is a huge loss for the Seahawks and it opens things up for the Bears, especially in the run game. Seattle is not the defense they used to be and without their star linebackers the middle of the field looks ready to be taken over by the Bears offense in multiple ways.
The passing game should certainly benefit as Wagner is one of if not the best linebackers in regards to defending the middle of the field. On top of that, the Bears averaged over five yards a carry against arguably a better defense in the Packers so nothing less than that should be seen in this next contest.
Nagy will want to be balanced in his run-pass ratio, but this might be a game to favor the run, especially if the Bears get their pass rush rolling and puts the ball in the offense’s hands quickly.
Going Off Script — While watching the offense last week for the Bears, what looked clear was after the Bears went off script with their play calls the offense struggled and Mitchell Trubisky looked less assured after each snap.
The first 10 to 20 plays are usually scripted by every team in preparation throughout the week of practice and used to set a certain tone in the opening drives of the game. Once those plays are reeled off then teams start calling plays one at a time based on what they begin to see from the opposing defense in real time.
Chicago did not look good off script, which you could say was a combination of a rookie head coach, still an inexperienced play caller himself, working with a second-year quarterback in a brand new system.
Another way to categorize all this is as “growing pains.” Nagy will have to do a better job in play calling and getting Trubisky prepared prior to seeing Seattle’s defense on the field. Meanwhile, Trubisky needs to put extra time in practice from within the pocket.
These two want to be great, which won’t happen overnight but a good step in that direction would occur by starting out fast and finding ways to sustain drives when they go off script.
Take Advantage of the Moment — The most frustrating thing about the loss against the Packers were all the various opportunities to end the game and how they were all bungled. Remember, the Bears were up 20-3 in the fourth quarter.
Whether it came through questionable play calls, errant throws, missed tackles or a missed interception, Chicago showed itself able to lose in a total team effort. Now its all about taking those negative turns and making them positive.
The Bears are going to be in more situations like last week because they are a better team this year than they’ve been the past three years. The talent is there on both sides of the ball and it is evident based on how they played and how many times they could have won that game against the Pak. Monday night might be a blowout, or it might be a close game, but the Bears will have moments that will decide for them whether a win or a loss is at hand.
It would help the Bears to throw out last week from their minds and execute, they are likely going to be an improved team but perhaps not a playoff team because of the strength in the division and the conference. If they want to make the playoffs, though, then they better win the game this week.
From Odds Shark: “since 2007, 91 teams have started 0-2. Only 10 (10.9 percent) of them turned it around to make the playoffs and one of those (the 2008 Chargers) made it with an 8-8 record.”
Basically, if the Bears want to start going places then they need to look at Monday night as an ideal moment for them to take advantage and make a statement.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR