By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Usually fireworks season accompanies the summer but Chicago Bears fans were delighted to a full display of aerial delights on a cold day in November.
As the Bears beat the Detroit Lions 34-22 Sunday afternoon they asserted themselves offensively in a way not seen since the near-record performances that defined their blowout win over Tampa Bay earlier this season.
It was Chicago’s first win in the NFC North in over two years, and it wasn’t anywhere near as close as the final score let on. The entire team was uplifted before the game as its best overall player and best offensive player made their returns in edge rusher Khalil Mack and wide receiver Allen Robinson — the energy that naturally accompanied their respective returns after two games off propelled the Bears throughout Sunday’s efforts.
The story of this game began with a dominating first half performance by the offense and the defense doing whatever they wanted to the Lions. The only real criticism was potentially overpaid kicker Cody Parkey missing two PATs, but the Bears held a lead of 26-7.
Parkey continued his awful day in the second half with two more missed kicks but this time they were short yardage field goals. Oh, and in completely utter impossible fashion, Parkey missed every kick off the uprights. The few mistakes made by the Bears opened the door slightly for the Lions to try and make a comeback but the Bears were just too good on Sunday as they made the plays they needed in order to win the game.
So its one game down in a tough stretch of two more games to come in 11 days. Next comes the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football with the winner owning sole possession of first place in the North. Before we look too far ahead, though, lets look back at three takeaways from Sunday’s victory.
The Bears arguably put together their best all around performance of the season against Detroit. After a couple of cruise control victories against the Jets and Bills, the big takeaway from those games was that the Bears are a very complete team compared to the majority of the league.
Winning against the Lions and winning decisively establishes the Bears not only as a complete team, but as a potentially dangerous team. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky played efficiently to the tune of 23 of 30 completions for 355 yards with three touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 148.6. The Bears aren’t going to get beat by many teams when this offense is rolling because it is complimented with one of the stingiest defenses in the league.
The defense didn’t get 10 sacks like the Vikings did the week before against the Lions but they collected six and forced two interceptions along with a fumble on top of them. Concerns do exist for the offense as they continue struggling to run the ball when Trubisky doesn’t gain a lot of yards himself on the ground. Even with the modest run game, Trubisky ran for an important first down in the fourth quarter and made huge completions on third down, much like last week against the Bills.
Trubisky also made throws down field consistently and looked in total command of the offense. This is the type of win that ascends a team more than the casual win since it came from the division and taking more control of the division further establishes the Bears as a threat in the NFC.
A win next week against the Vikings would turn the ascension into separation as the Bears would only need to win three of their last six games from then on to get to ten wins and a likely 2018 division title.
Part of the day’s great performance came from the fact that the Bears got back two very important players from injuries. It is clear now that when Trubisky, Mack, Robinson and cornerback Kyle Fuller are all playing well, the Bears have a lot of star power at the most important positions in the NFL.
Mack made his presence felt again with a pair of sacks and multiple tackles for loss, his presence alone effects opposing team’s play calling and blocking assignments, which is something defensive coordinator Vic Fangio takes total advantage of with timely blitz packages. Trubisky has weapons but the best player on his offense is Robinson — his ability to get separation with his size is impressive.
Robinson ended his daywith six catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns, his big play ability was on full display while making tough catches, getting great releases off the line of scrimmage and out-running defenders. Getting him and Mack back is huge for this stretch and the rest of the season. Robinson declared himself 100 percent healthy a couple days before the game and he looked it.
Mack may not quite be a hundred percent but against Detroit he looked more like the guy from September than the guy we last saw stumbling against the Patriots. Great job by the Bears in managing these two, so far it’s paid dividends. As long as there aren’t any setbacks, the dividends will only be greater.
Potential Rain in the Forecast
No one should try to rain on the parade of Sunday’s victory because the overall good and flashes of great from the Bears far outweigh any possible negatives.
That being said, the negatives from the Lions game are items the team will have to sure up and fix. Kicker Parkey hasn’t had a bad season but he definitely doesn’t look like the 9th best kicker in the league which his contract lines him up as. Parkey can have a Mason Crosby-type day as long as he has a Mason Crosby-type bounce back because the Bears will need Parkey to make big kicks as the stakes get higher.
As the games get more significant, mistakes like missed PATs and short field goals can end a team’s season in an instant. Parkey is the Bears best option at place kicker for now as long as he responds to the ugly terrible day at the office against the Lions. The other potential problem for the Bears is the lack of production from the running backs.
In today’s NFL the run game has become devalued but the good teams are able to run when they need to. On top of everything, the Bears have a bad weather stadium they have to factor in and being able to run the ball will increase in importance the further they play into the winter. Losing guard Kyle Long has certainly hurt the run game and he won’t be back anytime soon, it may mean more weeks like this one whether we like it or not.
The Bears will have to do whatever it takes to raise their meek 2.5 yards a carry average to something more respectable, otherwise look out for another, less welcome reminder of warmer days — a raining on these good times.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR