By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
In a game that played out completely differently than anyone expected, the Chicago Bears got a big time victory against the Los Angeles Rams, winning by an old-school accepted 15-6 margin.
This marquee match-up boiled down to the Bears defense against the Rams offense. By the end of the game it was clear who won that heavyweight fight, the Rams offense hadn’t been held down anywhere close to the way it was against Chicago.
With that main event a wash, the other big match-up left was essentially the Bears offense versus the Rams offense and the Bears unfortunately could not take advantage of the rare off night for L.A.
The Bears offense, like the Rams’, was mostly ineffective but it was so without any built in excuses regarding adjusting to the cold or having to deal with an incessant air horn when they were on the field.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was only slightly better than opposing quarterback Jared Goff number-wise, but both were surprinsly awful. The one real positive from the Bears offense was how impressive they were running the ball.
Many believed going into the game that the Bears had a supposed home field advantage with the expected cold temperatures included and as it turned out the Bears did the most reasonable thing in making themselves succeed given the conditions — they took to the ground like never seen under coach Matt Nagy and made the fanbase that Walter Payton once ruled proud once again.
Overall, this was a measuring stick game for the Bears and they walked out with a new level of national respect due to them. The Bears proved they are a team with the league’s nastiest defense and a team that no one will want to face in the playoffs. Bears fans now have a chance to celebrate a little before gearing up for a long-awaited rematch against the Green Bay Packers that could redeem the embarrassment of Week 1 and clinch the NFC North.
Lets dive deeper into the game-changing Bears victory over the Rams.
The Young and The Relentless
The Bears defense was simply remarkable last night, a Rams offense which came into the game averaging 34.9 points a game didn’t even score a touchdown against them.
Half of L.A.’s points came on a drive that had a fake punt conversion, had the Rams not gotten that fake punt then they would have likely been held to only three points. The Rams and Goff looked bothered by the cold but it wasn’t the primary reason the Bears were so great — the Bears were as great as they were because everyone did their job and played at an elite level when their moment came. This starts from the preparation as mapped out by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and ends with the individual resolve of each member of the defensive roster all the way to the last man on the bench.
Here is the thing with the Bears defense, which makes it such an exciting group to watch: not only do the Bears have legit superstar talent at every position, but every single defender is willing to contribute, even if its been a while since they were needed.
Backup slot corner Sherrick McManis stepped in for an injured Bryce Callahan and the defense didn’t skip a beat. The Bears had a tally of four sacks by four different players as well as seven quarterback hits by seven different players, four interceptions by four different players and five tackles for loss by five different players (sense the theme, here?).
Chicago’s defense is scary because when edge rusher Khalil Mack is healthy he consumes so much attention, which frees up everybody else on the unit to a degree — the other talented players are feasting and there are a lot of them to account for. What a terrific night by the Bears defense and kudos again to general manager Ryan Pace for making the Mack trade and building this fierce unit.
Then…the Other Shoe Drops
The Bears’ defense obviously stole the show against the Rams offense while neither team’s complimentary unit made much of a mark. The problem with that reality is that the Rams’ offense had 13 weeks of excellence which allows people to give them the benefit of the doubt after Sunday. The Bears’ offense…not so much.
As its been most weeks this season the Bears offense was up and down with some good and some obvious bad to its credit. Among the bad was mainly Trubisky with his three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 33.3. Rust may have played a factor in Trubisky’s rough night but that looks like less of an issue when he does the same overthrows over the course of the entire game as opposed to just the first quarter or first half.
Trubisky did make some plays with his legs and his arm, highlighted by a perfect execution of a goal line play that featured four defensive lineman and ended with a perfect throw to offensive lineman Bradley Sowell for the lone touchdown of the night.
The big positive takeaway for the Bears offense is that hopefully it learned how beneficial it is to implement a consistent running game going forward. Nagy trusted his perceived workhorse Jordan Howard like never before in this battle with the slightly-below average run defense of the Rams and the Bears did an excellent job of executing. In total, the Bears ran for 194 yards with 101 of those yards coming from Howard, his first 100-yard game of the season. Do everything running back Tarik Cohen also tallied 69 yards on the ground.
In the games to come the Bears will need Trubisky to be much better than how he played Sunday and it will be worth monitoring how he plays going into the playoffs these last three weeks, but the blueprint of a sound run game to compliment the defense was executed brilliantly. The Bears need a go-to run game to be a part of their winning formula with the stout defense they have and they proved Sunday that they are capable of doing it.
What’s on Tap?
Overall, no Bears fan should walk away from yesterday feeling negative about the team. There are some areas of concern and yet another missed field goal didn’t help, but the Bears made a statement. No team will look forward to playing this Bears team in the playoffs.
The Bears will have an opportunity to win the division next week against the Packers as long as the Vikings lose to the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Numerology has the Bears needing one more victory to get to 10 wins, which would allow the team to finish at worst at 10-6, losing Monday would have the Vikings only able to finish at best with a record of 9-6-1.
Imagine the Bears having the opportunity to outright win the division with a victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, it’d be quite the regular season climax.
A lot of different playoff scenarios are in play for the Bears. There is a chance the Bears can still get a first round bye but they would need the Saints or Rams to lose two games. The likely outcome is for the Bears to host a playoff game wild card weekend then see where it goes from there.
Its very possible the Bears and Rams will run it back again in January out in L.A. and it would be one heck of a game. The Bears can play with anyone and have proved it all year long, the final three weeks of the season should be a lot of fun.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR