Chicago Bears Avoid 0-2 Start, Not Offensive Woes

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 15: Eddy Pineiro #15 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after kicking a fourth quarter game-winning field goal against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on September 15, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bears avoid going winless with a 16-14 victory but all is not well. The kicker played the hero in this one but quarterback questions subsist.

Bears Get First Touchdown, Avoid Falling to 0-2

What Happened

David Montgomery broke the touchdown drought and Chicago escaped with a victory over the Denver Broncos. But a lot of what plagued them in the opener showed up again. Nursing a seven-point lead late in the fourth, the Bears offense failed to muster much more than three and five-play drives to give the defense a breather.

The touchdown was the capper on a drive that featured nine runs and no passes. There actually was a pass play called, but it was an incompletion (that would have brought up fourth down) that defensive holding erased. The rookie handled seven totes for 19 yards, but the big plays came from Cordarrelle Patterson and Taylor Gabriel on end-arounds of 46 and 14 yards, respectively.

They punted four straight drives between their field goal and scoring their first touchdown since the fourth quarter of their Wild Card loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. A lot of this game felt like that one, actually. The Bears got a lead after allowing a field goal early. But they stagnated and allowed the other team to find a crack in the defense and take the lead.

But this time, Eddy Pineiro drilled a 53-yard, no-doubter to exorcise at least one demon the Bears have. It was his third kick of the day and second from 50-plus. The early returns on him are a welcomed sight. Exercise caution, though; Cody Parkey started 2018 for 4-4 on field goals. That is not to take away what could be an emerging great story.

 

Touchdown Hints at Harsh Reality

Many will point to Mitchell Trubisky’s lack of input on the lone drive to produce a Bears touchdown this season. He only threw 27 passes for 120 yards; in stark contrast from his 45 heaves against the Green Bay Packers. The troubling part is Trubisky’s 4.4 yards per attempt (and 29.9 QBR).

The encouraging part is Trubisky avoided turning the ball over, something that cost Joe Flacco. And when they needed it, he got them into position to win the game. It was his sixth time leading a drive to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career. But it was his first win.

The Bears had 28 non-quarterback runs showing a renewed commitment to the run as Matt Nagy vowed. It was good to see them commit to the ground game but it has seemed like they are keeping Trubisky too confined within the offense.  They still didn’t get him out on the edges or use play-action as much considering their success on the ground.

5.3 yards per tote will do that. And facing a Vic Fangio defense with Von Miller and Nick Chubb also played a role too. In the end, it worked as Denver failed to register a sack and only two hits on the quarterback. Perhaps the passing game will get going against the Washington Redskins. Their secondary is allowing 291 passing yards per game this season.

 

Defensive Status Quo

Chicago allowed the Broncos to score that opening field goal but then proceeded to force five straight Denver punts. A second Broncos field goal came after the Montgomery touchdown but Denver’s touchdown came after the Bears sandwiched eight plays for 19 total yards around an interception by Kyle Fuller in the red zone to end a 16 play, 74-yard drive.

The defense also struggled to get off the field at times. Denver only converted three of 14 third downs, but they managed to convert all three of their fourth-down attempts. Chuck Pagano called a pretty solid game overall, but he also went to softer coverage late in the game. Maybe that was due to the defense being fatigued from being on the field too long and the altitude.

Emmanuel Sanders, who caught the Broncos touchdown, looked a lot like Albert Wilson did in the Miami Dolphins game last season. His quickness gave the defense fits with 11 grabs (13 targets) for 98 yards, that touchdown, and the go-ahead two-point conversion. They corralled the rest of the receivers but did allow 48 yards on five catches to running back Royce Freeman.

Khalil Mack and Nick Harris each had a sack apiece but the front seven was in Flacco’s lap all day getting six quarterback hits. The constant pressure caused Broncos tackle, Garett Bolles to be called for four holding penalties. Another was incorrectly assigned to a teammate. Pagano also showed his willingness to blitz, but there were still the long third-down conversions.

 

A Win is a Win

No one can take away the victory. But the Bears know they have a long way to go if they are to make a deep playoff run. Trubisky has struggled most of the two games this season but has gotten the offense into scoring position late both games. Touchdowns are the goal, and his week one interception was inexcusable. But he has shown some poise in those situations.

The question is how can they get the late game, between the twenties Trubisky to play that way the entire game? They found a way to go from double doinks to turnovers, now, to field goals. The next step is putting the ball in the end zone and doing so with the frequency we saw early in 2018. Trubisky has made better decisions, his interception notwithstanding, but his accuracy has been highly suspect.

Pagano is doing a good impersonation of Fangio and the defense has been the main source of optimism so far. With scarce preseason reps for the offense, the defense is going to be tasked with doing the heavy lifting. Possibly all the way until the bye in Week 6. Their next three opponents, the Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, and the Oakland Raiders are beatable giving them time.

It just always comes back to Trubisky and what his ceiling is. Two games in and the jury is still out. He has looked lost at first blush, inaccurate upon further inspection, and a roadblock to an otherwise championship-caliber roster if being cynical. There is still time to change this perception. But patience is thin even in the glow of victory and that is unfortunate.

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