The Chicago Bears have started changing their outlook after stretching their winning streak to three games. They look nothing like the team we saw over the first half of the season. Whether or not they complete the improbable run to the playoffs, they have shown a lot of growth over the past month or so. They’re reaping the benefits now, but it also bodes well for their future as long as they keep things in perspective.
Win in Prime Time Changes Outlook for Bears
Not an Illusion
The first thing that must be noted is that what we saw from the Bears on Thursday Night Football was no illusion. Everything we saw in the 31-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys we saw over the last month, just not in all in concert. The results are what everyone thought they were getting after a 12-4 2018 season
It started against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 11; a game where Mitchell Trubisky was pulled (for injury, not performance). One of the defining traits of the third-year passer is his leadership. Some believe that was, at least partly, the impetus for the more assertive, decisive Trubisky we have seen recently.
He is completing 70 percent of his passes for 860 yards, seven touchdowns (to four interceptions), and a 99.1 passer rating. His use of his legs has been even more encouraging. He has run 21 times (10 against Dallas) for 85 yards; an average over four yards per carry. Trubisky is a dangerous runner and that helps offset his inconsistent accuracy.
Two of the games came against the bottom-feeding Detroit Lions, a team Trubisky has typically performed well against and rebuilding New York Giants. His performance against Dallas, though, showed he can be accurate in the face of a talented defense. Yes, they are struggling and injured, but Trubisky was throwing with precision for most of the contest.
It is Sustainable
Conventional wisdom tells us that Trubisky will have more shaky outings. But what was encouraging was seeing how he and the rest of the offense shook it off. They went on to score 17 unanswered points. It wasn’t just the players that overcame the turnover either. Head coach Matt Nagy didn’t stray from his gameplan or go into a shell.
The reigning Coach of the Year called a balanced game against the Cowboys and has been doing so for several weeks. Chicago has rushed fewer than 23 times just once in seven games since running the ball only seven times against the New Orleans Saints. The one time they didn’t they had 18.
Leading teams run the ball more so attempt totals can be fool’s gold. But in the third quarter Thursday the Bears still had a 50/50 run-pass ratio. Chicago was seven of 12 on third down and much of that was due to getting manageable second and third downs because they found success running the ball early. Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller also stayed hot.
A balanced attack led to the Bears winning the time of possession battle. It also helped them overcome losing the turnover battle after Trubisky’s pick and David Montgomery’s (20 carries for 86 yards) fumble. Nagy going right back to his rookie workhorse also likely helped reinforce everyone’s confidence in him. A steady coach gets a steady team.
Staying alive for the postseason is the most prominent impact the win had. But the more significant aspect is that it is sustainable. The Bears allowed a 17-play touchdown drive on the first Cowboys possession before going on their run. Because Chicago was so multiple in their offense they sustained drives and kept the defense fresh.
The Bears must maintain this mindset through their remaining schedule. They’ll face a gauntlet featuring road trips to the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings wrapped around a visit from the Kansas City Chiefs. Divisional games are never easy, especially on the road, and the Chiefs offense is the parent to the Bears system.
Chicago is hopeful they will get defensive lineman Akiem Hicks back from an elbow injury sustained against the Oakland Raiders in Week 5. If he can return when first eligible next week against the Packers it’s possible the emotion combined with the sound new approach could lead to the Bears getting their first win in Lambeau Field since 2015.
If getting Hicks back has the expected impact, a critical win over a hated rival would do wonders for the overall confidence of the team. Khalil Mack in particular, who has had a resurgence of late, would benefit. And should everything come down to Week 17 against the Vikings, it will be hard to bet against the Bears, who’ve won the last three meetings.
Prime Time Win has Bears Outlook Changing
It wasn’t all good though. Injuries once again made their presence felt as the Bears likely lost Roquan Smith for the season to a pectoral injury and Javon Wims to a knee injury. Nick Kwiatkoski, who started in place of Danny Trevathan, had an injury scare of his own but continued to play well. Kevin Pierre-Louis stepped in for Smith and had a good game.
It is also important to note the Bears outlook is changing and has not fully changed. Mainly, Trubisky will need to have consecutive performances like the one he had Thursday to prove he is “the guy”. Many have long been convinced otherwise. They will add to their quarterback room this off-season. But his performance will dictate what kind of addition that will be.
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