The 2018 Chicago Bears scrapped away at the Arizona Cardinals and left State Farm Stadium with a 16-14 victory. It wasn’t always pretty, but they did what they needed to return to Chicago atop the NFC North.
The defense can be leaned on when needed
The Cardinals took advantage of an uncharacteristic Bears’ start in which the Bears’ defense allowed multiple broken plays that went for big yardage. After the Cardinals capitalized on good field position from a Mitch Trubisky fumble, the Bears’ defense locked in.
Matt Nagy discussed how he felt about the defense’s performance. “How were we going to respond as a team and as a unit?” he said. “When I say special, our guys and our coaches, they feel that right now. They feel that they can be in a different league of their own but it takes hard work. It can’t be something that you do for one quarter at a time. Really since the third and fourth quarter at Green Bay, they’ve been playing well.”
The Bears’ defense did not allow any further scoring throughout the game and forced three turnovers by Sam Bradford, eventually forcing a change at quarterback. Rookie Josh Rosen did not fare much better when he was thrown to the wolves for a four-minute drill. The Bears’ pass rush did what it had done all day and made Rosen’s life miserable, tacking on a sack and taking away an interception.
The pass rush continued its dominance this week, with Khalil Mack stuffing the stat sheet with two sacks, five tackles and a forced fumble. Sherrick McMannis and Akiem Hicks each added a sack of their own to finish the Bears’ day with four. What really stood out was the Bears’ secondary taking advantage of the pressure created upfront. Bradford and Rosen each had very little time to set their feet in the pocket and it resulted in bad balls primed for interceptions. On a 3rd and nine in the third quarter, Eddie Jackson played an overthrown ball perfectly and the Bears scored a touchdown. Later in the quarter, the rush forced Bradford out of the pocket, eliminating his vision to one side of the field. He forced a ball into double coverage for a McManus interception that led to a Bears field goal.
Long drives paid off
The Bears had three plays that lasted over ten drives. The longest drive for the Cardinals lasted eight plays, and it ended with an interception. Trubisky took shots down the field but was unable to convert, making chunk plays hard to come by. They didn’t need the big plays though. The offense moved the ball methodically all day, and that led to their defense staying fresh and the Cardinals’ wearing down. The Bears had over 36 minutes of possession time compared to the Cardinals’ 22. Their offense had 21 first downs while the Cardinals only had 13. They ate away at the clock with the short game and scored just enough points to secure the victory.
“I felt that I got my rhythm and we just need to continue to connect when we go deep. Take what they give us underneath and move the chains.,” Mitch Trubisky said postgame. “We did a good moving the football, getting first downs and controlling the ball.”
There are plenty of things for Trubisky to clean up, particularly his deep ball accuracy and recognizing blitzes before they come. There is an unfair expectation, especially with the success of Patrick Mahomes, for Trubisky to light the world on fire in his first season in a new offense. Sunday was a great chance to do so, but it wasn’t meant to be. The story on Trubisky is very incomplete, and any declarations of his future standing in the NFL should still be reeled in. At the end of the day, the Bears got the victory.
A comeback is never a bad thing
It’s obvious the Bears got off to a very concerning start against the Cardinals. A two-touchdown deficit had been a rarity with the level of play at which defense has been all year. It is also telling, however, that the defense clamped down so quickly and kept the Cardinals from any possible momentum. Sam Bradford can be a dangerous quarterback when he sets into a rhythm, and the Bears’ defense kept him from doing so, while the offense kept him off the field entirely. The offense will hopefully pick up the pace, and Trubisky expressed confidence in that possibility, saying, “It feels close. We are right there and the great thing about it is we find ways to get W’s as a team. We know we are not even close to where we want to be on offense. I am really tough on myself and I know I can play a lot better. but the defense is good enough to give the time to reach that point.”
Nagy discussed the impact the defense has on the offense’s ability to grow within the system, saying, “It’s huge. They mean everything. Right now, they understand that. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize we’re winning games because of our defense, but that doesn’t mean our offense isn’t a huge part of the score, or special teams.” As the old saying goes, a win’s a win, and the Bears are in first place of the NFC North for the first time since five years.
Twitter: @crbevins11 @radiomogul