By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
It was another week and another win for the Chicago Bears after surviving a hotter-than-expected contest in the desert by beating the Arizona Cardinals 16-14 Sunday afternoon.
It was a nail-biter for sure and another example that clearly one unit on the Bears is ready to win now while another unit is still trying to get its footing. Never ever apologize for a victory no matter how ugly it is. The NFL saw upset after upset yesterday and the Bears were in line to be another upse victim until their defense took over the game.
Khalil Mack and company were as good as advertised yet again this week. The Bears defense forced four turnovers and four sacks in another great performance albeit one that featured a rocky start. The offense unfortunately showed a lot of the same of what we’ve seen all season, which to put it short is inconsistent play. But if you haven’t heard yet, the Bears are in first place in the NFC North after shocking losses by the Packers and the Vikings.
Suddenly it looks like a path has developed for the Bears and this season to potentially exceed everyone’s expectations both in and out Chicago. Before we get too ahead of ourselves, though, lets go over a few takeaways from yesterday’s victory.
The Bears are 2-1 on the season with a game to go before an early bye week. Chicago could not ask for a much better start record-wise, giving itself a chance to compete in the NFC North if both the Packers and Vikings continue to be as inconsistent as they have been so far.
But as the season continues the picture at quarterback becomes clearer and its getting closer to being a boom or bust situation for the Bears. The Bears will go only as far as Trubisky is able to carry them and the second-year QB will relatively “carry” once he gets a hold of his overall correctable inconsistencies, one would hope this could occur at some point in 2018. Continued inaccuracy on medium to deep throws seems to be Trubisky’s biggest bug and it led to his efforts in Arizona not being good enough and a continued issue to closely monitor.
It is difficult watching these games and not getting upset over Trubisky’s bad plays but quarterback development isn’t an exact science. Just because Trubisky throws a bad pass or makes a bad read doesn’t mean he isn’t developing.
On the field he looks like he is still thinking and swimming in this offensive system. When Trubisky reacts he looks much better and we saw some of those great downfield throws like he did to Trey Burton and Allen Robinson. Some people already believe Trubisky is a bust, which they have the right to believe, they may even be right. The odds certainly aren’t in the young man’s favor that he’ll become a world-beater at the position but one thing he has going for him is time, including 13 more games this season where a lot of things can happen.
No matter how you slice it, this is going to take time. We just don’t know how much yet, we do know the clock is ticking.
One thing that has to be catching everyone’s eyes is the fact the Bears have clearly been the better team in all three of its contests, outside of one half in Week 1. Ignore the 16-14 score for a second and listen to some of these numbers from Sunday.
The Bears ran 74 plays to just 50 from the Cardinals. Time of possession was 36 minutes to 23 of the Cardinals. Last week the Bears held the Seahawks to 80 yards through three quarters. Chicago is controlling the ball a lot and the defense has not been giving up much of anything outside of some blown coverages in the games against Green Bay and Arizona.
The Bears have not done a good enough job getting touchdowns and that is the reason why the games have been so close, but each week we’re seeing encouraging signs of what this team can become. Assuming Trubisky and coach Matt Nagy get better in their roles in preparing the offense then this team can really start stacking victories.
Through these first three games we are not talking about inexplicable special teams play or defensive mistakes hounding the Bears. We are not yelling at the offense to be more balanced, to have smarter game plans or to make better in-game adjustments.
It is impossible to fully deny the good that the Bears have done so far this season and you can acknowledge that positive storyline while also acknowledging that they need to continue to improve. That’s not a bad place for a young team to be especially as it sits in first place in the NFC North entering Week 4.
The Bears are doing everything well but the missed touchdown opportunities are stacking up and the concern will become more critical if things don’t get better as the games get more important.
The Bears’ offense has had their opportunities but have been unable to deal the killer blow or make the game-winning play. It has been a combination of all parties involved with Trubisky at the center and although ultimately he has to shoulder much of the blame he also can take most of the credit if he helps make this work.
This team is slowly changing our expectations for the 2018 season but they will not go far if they continue to let teams hang around. There aren’t many more Arizona’s on the schedule. The defense didn’t start out well but they got back into the game and ultimately made the game-winning plays.
Special teams, in particular kicker Cody Parkey, missed a field goal but they were solid for the most part outside of that. The offense held onto the ball and got the points they needed when they needed them but that will only work out for so long.
It is great to see the preparation and the in-game adjustments along with the overall solid play of the Bears resemble a team that can be in first place again but they have to figure out how to beat down teams like the Cardinals if they are going to truly challenge for the NFC North and beyond.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR