By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Thanksgiving, simply, is a day to be thankful and that exact feeling should be exuding from the Chicago Bears after a 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions on the holiday this past Thursday afternoon.
For the second time this month, a late scratch at quarterback seemed to seal the Lions’ fate going right into a game with the Bears. But also for a second time the Lions played gamely and confidently and took the Bears to the last possession of the game, this time with David Blough.
Back on November 10th, it was announced in the morning that quarterback Jeff Driskel would start in place of injured quarterback Matt Stafford. Yet again the scenario played out with Driskel being too injured to play paving the way for Blough, a rookie who would be taking his very first snaps in the NFL.
It wasn’t pretty and there were plenty of moments which felt like the Bears would blow this game on a national stage. Alas, it all worked out well enough for the Bears and they boosted themselves back to .500 at 6-6, Thursday’s win being paired with the modestly successful 19-14 victory over the New York Giants four days prior at Soldier Field.
Now the focus turns to this coming Thursday in another must win versus the Cowboys, who themselves struggled mightily on Thanksgiving and have only benefited playoff-wise by being in an NFC East where no one knows how to win consistently.
With all eyes returning to the Bears in time for Dallas and another nationally televised game, here are a few more observations from the Bears’ winning week.
Mitch Comes Through
It has been rare to give quarterback Mitchell Trubisky any real credit this season because of how poor its been overall. But at least for one day, Trubisky deserves some real credit.
The Bears would not have won the Thanksgiving game without a pair of huge touchdown drives after a key second half interception. Trubisky’s overall stat line had the type of numbers everyone was looking for to the tune of 29 completions on 38 attempts for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns, a rating of 118.1 with yards per attempt of 8.9.
Overall, it wasn’t an amazing game from Trubisky but he showed the type of game management fans want to see complimenting the Bears defense. Another game where play calling could be questioned with how little the Bears ran it but this is the type of offense head coach Matt Nagy wants to run.
Concerning the Bears play caller, he wants a quarterback making a majority of the plays with a worked in run game to keep defenses off balanced. At least this week Trubisky was able to answer the call of his head coach unlike a majority of the year. Still Nagy has to be cautious about letting Trubisky throw it nearly 40 times a game.
Looking ahead to next week, the Cowboys are similar to the Bears with a good defense and a turbulent offense. If Trubisky can have another game like he did on Thanksgiving then perhaps the Bears can steal a victory at home against the Cowboys.
Roquan Steps Up
A Bear that has been really coming on as of late is inside linebacker Roquan Smith.
It has been an up and down season for Smith both on and off the field. But over the last month, the numbers are starting to look a lot better and Thanksgiving was quite the showing for him. He lead the team in total tackles as well as solo tackles with 15 and 10 to go along with two sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. This is the type of monster that fans were hoping to get all season.
It hasn’t worked out that way in year two of Smith’s career but he still has another month to keep growing. Part of the Bears plan for the season has to be continued player development since the playoffs are still highly unlikely. Getting Smith primed for next year is the type of consolation prize fans want to see throughout the roster if the playoffs aren’t in the cards.
Smith is one of the few Ryan Pace draft picks in the first round that can become an elite player. Needless to say, his development is extremely important as a core piece and defensive signal caller on the field. When Smith is going right, he is playing fast sideline to sideline gobbling up tackles. Fans are seeing that type of player again and imagine if the Bears get injured defensive lineman Akiem Hicks back.
With Hicks in the fold, that gives guys like Smith more room and freedom to attack ball carriers as well as quarterbacks. Dallas next week will want to run the football and get running back Ezekiel Elliott involved in the passing game. A guy like Smith will be instrumental in shutting down the Cowboys gameplan just like he was against the Lions.
Building Block Game?
Neither of the Bears wins in the past week were perfect games exhibiting all of Chicago’s talents, and many will say the Bears should have won by more. Reality is that the Bears are just not a team that can blow out other teams.
On Thanksgiving the Lions usually play some of their best football but still the Bears won and they have stacked a couple victories in a row. Is this a little turning point for this Bears team? We will find that answer out quick with a brutal December schedule ahead. The month starts with a Thursday tilt at home against the Cowboys followed by a road contest against the division leading Packers, then their final home game against the Chiefs, finishing up with a season finale at the Vikings.
If this month is going to go any type of smooth or positive for the Bears then they will have to steal a victory or two from these tough teams fighting for the playoffs or playoff seeding. The month of November was a good month for a team that looked dead in the water before the month began. All the good or positive developments will be undone with an awful closing month to the season.
In the NFL its all about winning when your team is hot and trying to end losing immediately before it sets in almost like a disease. Right now the Bears are a team on the rise and a good game next Thursday against Dallas should keep the growth of the team pointed in a positive direction.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR