By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
The sights and sounds at Soldier Field Monday night were mostly unlike the kinds we’ve gotten used to in recent years, there was a buzz that was so persistent it was almost off-putting at times.
How could this buzz maintain itself, how could we take this 24-17 win when it should have been as much as a three-touchdown game in the first half? A win’s a win and a Bears’ win is still a Bears’ win: keyed by defense, fraught with offensive teases and periled by offensive mistakes that sunk otherwise promising drives.
But then there’s that moment where it all seems worth it and at least one Bear makes a play to stick the other team down where we would otherwise be if we didn’t refuse to expel things like defense and intensity from our franchise’s DNA.
That moment: cornerback Prince Amukamara’s route jumping leaving Rashaad Penny stuck in the dirt and Russell Wilson’s ball in his control with a pick six in his sights. “Bear Down” was cued up as Amukamara made good on the first of his promised 10 interceptions this year and clinched Matt Nagy’s first NFL head coaching victory.
Nagy can do away with the stress of wondering when his first win will come, but he knows he still has work to do to formulate the team he really wants. It was obvious again Monday that his signal caller, Mitchell Trubisky, isn’t quite ready for prime time and that almost meant a painful repeat of the brutal opener in Green Bay.
Heading into the fourth quarter of last night’s game it seemed like the Bears might suffer deja vu with a shrinking lead and offensive sequences getting shorter and shorter. The majority of the game was dominated by the Bears, but even during their run of dominance Chicago couldn’t build a lead to more than seven.
Things were rocking around the lakefront, though, when Mack and the defense was on the field. This was far from a perfect game from the team but they did two of the things you need to do in the NFL: beat a weaker team and win at home. This was a game the Bears needed to win and now they will need stack momentum coming out of it.
The road ahead is clear, before going down it lets take a quick look at some observations from last night’s game.
Pass Rush Fever
One big takeaway from the game last night is just how much the clear strength of this team is now in its pass rush. After adding Khalil Mack the sky seemed to be the limit for the defense, and while he has been making plays, a whole lot of other lineman and linebackers are stepping up too.
A ton of good things can be listed from the pass rush against a Seattle team that just wasn’t ready or capable to handle these Bears: Mack gets another strip sack, Aaron Lynch looks active and productive in getting a sack and bringing pressure, Leonard Floyd’s ability to clean things up with his speed is impressive and Danny Trevathan is meaning everything in the middle (two sacks and a forced fumble). The newly minted Eddie Goldman provided a sack and showed that he’ll likely be more productive in this group while Jonathan Bullard drew a holding call on one of his better rushes and great activity was kept up by both Akiem Hicks and Roy Robertson-Harris.
This pass rush looks great right now and Mack’s presence has improved every player on the defense. In order to be a truly great defense the pass rush has to be one of the best in the league. In the NFL pass defense and defensive rush go hand in hand in determining the best from the rest.
In general did a good job against the run and overall held the Seahawks offense to 74 yards in total. Seattle’s Wilson looks most effective when he can make plays with his feet, he was mostly running for his life Monday night, his 5.7 yards a run was the Seahawks’ best but it only accumulated 17 yards on 3 carries. Penny led the thin Seahawks’ backfield with 30 yards on 10 carries.
The Arizona Cardinals, who have scored a total of six points in the first two weeks, should be a little worried about their match-up with the Bears on Sunday.
Mitchell “The Kid” Trubisky
Billy The Kid move over, there is a new kid in town.
Ok, maybe Trubisky isn’t exactly new, but he certainly looks it out on the field in his first two games of the season. In front of Seattle’s defense — without top linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner — Trubisky was similar to last week against the Packers with some improvement.
Against Green Bay, Trubisky had a QB rating of 77.2 with no picks, last night it was an 83 with two interceptions, both you can argue were a product of Nagy being more aggressive with the play calling. Had Trubisky completed a couple of his errant throws he would have possibly got a touchdown and made a sort of disappointing game easier to swallow, had he cleaned up the interceptions then he would have had a great game statistically.
Mitchell looked better in the pocket but he still suffers from his happy feet syndrome, which was obvious enough for ESPN’s broadcast to key on his inability to keep the feet planted on some of his worst throws.
When he is relaxed then you see why the Bears liked Trubisky as a prospect, he is a great athlete and he has the arm for this level but mentally he is still trying to learn this offense, he looks like he is still thinking through everything and not reacting with intelligence quite yet, not too surprising for a kid who hasn’t started 3 seasons worth of games since high school.
Patrick Mahomes is going to keep inadvertently bringing outrage from Bears fans about Trubisky’s development, but that is unfair to Mitch. Remember, Mahomes has had two years in his scheme in Kansas City, an entire year to just observe versus Trubisky’s one year in the same scheme effectively.
Others will point to Trubisky’s starts compared to Mahomes but again Mahomes has played way more football than Trubisky dating back through college. By the end of this season we will have a better idea on how to start grading the quarterback class of 2017, but no time before.
One of the four goals I laid out for this week for the Bears was being better at taking advantage of the moment.
Many fans were scared that deja vu was happening as the Bears absolutely dominated the first three quarters against Seattle and looked similar to Green Bay. It took until 6:37 left in the fourth quarter for Prince Amukamara to get got one of those moments that proved the Bears weren’t allowing this one to get away. This time he, and the Bears, took advantage.
This team under John Fox and Marc Trestman lost every piece of grit they had, and the talent followed soon after. The Bears have finally acquired enough talent to once again be competitive and now it’s about developing that grit to win games they should win and later take over games that are up in the air against better opponents.
The Bears coaches and players talked about how they liked the attitude of the team after Week 1’s loss, that same team came out and responded against the Seahawks. It will be fun to see how they react this Sunday, in a game where the Bears are going to be favored as much as they’ve been in a long time, and if this is the beginning of a really good stretch of football to come.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR