For all the talk about the 2019 Chicago Bears’ defense regressing from the 2018 team, little indication of such a trend had manifested in the first two weeks. That course continued Monday night in Washington as the Bears’ defense piled up six quarterback hits, four pass deflections, three interceptions, two fumbles and a pick-six that on Washington’s third play from scrimmage.
It’s a mouthful.
The notion that the Bears’ defense would take a step back was based on concrete evidence that a defense generally does not sustain dominance on a year-to-year basis. Because turnovers are often born out of a cocktail of random factors, it is particularly difficult to sustain a number-one ranked defense that was as reliant on them as much as the Bears were last year. And yet, there is something about a defense littered with athletes at every level, barely gives an offensive line time to form a pocket and can lose a starting safety and slot-corner without missing a beat that can buck that historical trend and keep a dominant defense as dominant as before.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was traded from Green Bay to Washington last year and signed a one year, prove-it deal with the Bears, showed Monday night that he was the right man to fill the void left by Adrian Amos, collecting two interceptions, one for an early touchdown and another for a 59-yard return to end a promising Redskins drive.
“Being a part of this team, we emphasize on scoring,” Clinton-Dix said after the game. “We don’t care about catching the ball, we care about scoring.”
Kyle Fuller, in a way we have become accustomed to, jumped a comeback route intended for Paul Richardson in the Washington drive following a forced fumble by Khalil Mack.
Mack himself had a dominant, vintage performance, twice sacking Redskins quarterback Case Keenum and forcing two fumbles. Washington made the fatal mistake of letting their tight ends, Jeremy Sprinkle and Vernon Davis, try to block Mack, and he made them pay by consistently beating them in his rush and getting in the face of Keenum. He also had three tackles, while linebacker Danny Trevathan had eight total and a sack for good measure.
“The caliber of guys we have in this locker room, man, we built for this,” Mack said postgame. “We built for these moments. We want to go out and show the world, every time we step out, what Chicago Bears football is all about.”
Washington appeared to have a comeback in the works, scoring a touchdown on a 97-yard drive and marching along on a 66-yard drive after. But a lapse in judgment resulted in Case Keenum sticking the ball out on a fourth and one quarterback sneak, only for it to be knocked out of his hands and recovered by Eddie Jackson.
The Bears’ offense yielded positive results, albeit against one of the worst defenses in the league. It was a different look from a schematic standpoint, putting Mitchell Trubisky on the move and using no-huddle, while giving him easier, simpler reads. Trubisky often found crossing routes underneath to Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller, giving their speedy weapons a chance to make a play in space. Trubisky’s passing chart, via Next Gen Stats, still reveals a reliance on throws at or near the line of scrimmage, but he was much more willing and able to push the ball beyond the first down marker, a positive step from the previous two weeks where he couldn’t connect on throws with any significant depth.
“It helps, and for different reasons. There’s a calming presence to it. You have to go on the ball to have that so that you have time and you don’t lose that time on the play clock. Doing that yesterday was good. Again, who knows if that’s something we end up continuing to do or if we decide that it was a week-by-week type thing.”-Matt Nagy on the no-huddle offense
The use of no-huddle functions to both keep a defense off balance and to keep a look the offense likes on the field. Trubisky got in a rhythm when he went hurry-up and was able to move the ball incrementally. He exploited the area near the line of scrimmage, often out of bunch formations when Washington was in press coverage. It was clear one of Nagy’s goals was to get Trubisky in rhythm and build up his confidence after a disastrous first two weeks, and he schemed up open throws for his quarterback to hit.
Trubisky’s first two touchdowns were a prime example of Nagy taking advantage of an undisciplined defense. The first touchdown near the goal line, Nagy sent Tarik Cohen in motion to the right. Allen Robinson, Cordarrelle Patterson and Trey Burton all ran the same direction, while Taylor Gabriel leaked out from the right side of the formation to the left. Washington took the bait and followed the flow to the right, and Gabriel was wide open for an easy touchdown completion. Washington bit hard on the play-action to score the Bears’ second touchdown, and a miscommunication between Landon Collins and Josh Norman sprang Gabriel wide open for a touchdown.
Trubisky’s best throw of the season, and perhaps of his career, came in the third quarter when the Bears’ offensive line failed to pick up a stunt by Washington’s defense, giving linebacker Jon Bostic a free run at Trubisky. Trubisky sidestepped to his right and delivered a beautiful ball to a streaking Taylor Gabriel. After initially being ruled out of bounds, the call was reversed for Gabriel’s third touchdown of the night. It was the first “Wow” throw we’d seen in a while, and perhaps it could be a sign of a step in the right direction.
We’re trying to find exactly what our identity is, how do we help these guys out on offense, how do we help ourselves out as coaches. So, we did simplify a little bit, and you almost have to do that when you’re playing a little bit faster. You have to be able to do that. So, I felt like, again I told the guys last night, offensively, there’s steady, incremental improvement. You get into that mode where it was 28-3, right? And you’re staying aggressive. And that’s kind of where I’m getting to is we were right there to be able to really put that thing away, and I feel like that’s where we can take that next step.-Matt Nagy
It was by no means a perfect night for Trubisky, who threw an interception on a woefully underthrown fade to Allen Robinson, but it followed a formula that got them to the playoffs last season. He finished his night completing 25 of 31 pass attempts for 231 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. The defense dominates and Trubisky plays well, instead of treading water like he did against Denver. The Bears will square off with an impressive Minnesota Vikings defense on Sunday, so it will be a true test as to whether or not Trubisky can build off a solid performance against a bad team.
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