The 2020 Chicago Bears finally won a game.
The Bears defense ended their fall/winter hibernation and showed up.
Khalil Mack had a sack, a QB hit, a safety, and a fumble recovery.
The Bears had a game with no turnovers.
Weeks ago, Matt Nagy proclaimed that this team had not showed its true potential, when all three phases would be in sync. Granted, this team wasn’t squaring off against Green Bay or Kansas City, but this group badly needed a convincing win, and they at last vanquished an opponent that they should beat.
I thought our offense was very efficient in the first half.-Matt Nagy
“We got touchdowns when we needed to,” said Nagy after the game. “It started obviously with the first play from scrimmage and David [Montgomery] having an 80-yard touchdown run. You know run-after-catch, I thought was big today for our offense. Defense, and then the other thing, too, was the selflessness of our wide receivers blocking on the bubble screens and the different throws that we had. Defensively I thought we swarmed them. We had six sacks. You felt that. And then special teams-wise, we had great field position, we had the turnover and Cairo [Santos] has been kicking really well. Feels real good for us to have this. We’re going to enjoy it, but then we are also going to reset and refocus for next week.”
Khalil Mack had a game that reminded Bears fans of why Ryan Pace made the blockbuster trade to bring him to the Windy City. Nagy: “Yeah, he’s an impact player. So when you make impact plays, you see it, and you get a safety at that point in time to get the ball back to get two points and to beat guys one-on-one. He’s been doing that all year long in a lot of different ways. He’s had a couple sacks called back from him, but that’s a part of the game. But trust me, he wants it and he showed it today and he’s going to continue to keep doing that.”
Texans coach Romeo Crennel discussed his team’s pass protection of quarterback Deshaun Watson. “We didn’t protect him well enough so he took some hits, and we don’t like to see him take hits, but hits are part of the game, and so he’s a competitor and he wants to try to win every play, every snap, every game. And so that’s what we were trying to do, particularly when we got behind pretty early in the game.”
Watson was asked about his receiving corps, which has been a veritable revolving door this season. He replied, “It’s tough, but I can’t sit here and make any excuses. I’ve just got to continue to control what I can control, go through my reads, try to bring those guys along with me and build that chemistry as fast as we can because that’s just how the NFL works. Yeah, those guys are out there, they’re professionals, and just try to, like I say, get that rhythm and chemistry as fast as we can in live action.”
The biggest talking point in the post game media availability from Nagy was his emphasis of this team’s identity. “I think you’ve got to be able to run the ball. You’ve got to be able to pass protect,” said Nagy. He added, “You’ve got to make good decisions and then when you get the football in your hand you have to be able to make plays and our guys did that today. I thought our coaches did a hell of a job, all of us of communicating and being able to talk through what we like, and then the players got to execute it. They did that. So when you’re able to do that, it gives you a chance to score points.”
Right out of the gate, Mitch Trubisky was asked to comment about this notion of ‘identity.’ He replied, “I think just a balanced football team. I think we just need to continue to run the ball well and off that, just have a bunch of movements, and keep taking what the defense gives us. You see the positive plays on first and second down. If you can just stay out of those third-and-long situations, which we have and just keep moving the ball down the field and keep our defense off the field and let them do their thing. I think we are starting to establish rhythm on offense, and then the defense doesn’t necessarily know what’s coming. They are running the pass and we are able to avoid third downs and move the ball down the field and sustain a rhythm. It’s an ongoing process, we’re still trying to establish that identity, but I think we are starting to find one and just the way these guys are working in practice, I think it’s a testament to just how we went out there today and it’s starting to come to life with the execution.”
Trubisky had perhaps his best game of the year, going 24/33 for 267 yards, 3 touchdowns, and most importantly, no interceptions.
I think today it really all started with the offensive line up front, and they sprung David free on the first play and to start a game with an explosive play for a touchdown like that, I think it sends a message to the whole team and to everyone about the mindset that we came out and played with today.-Mitch Trubisky
Trubisky displayed a confidence under center that hasn’t been seen since 2018. “I just went out there today and took what the defense gave us. They tried to show us some different looks and mixed up some man, zone, and I just wanted find the underneath completion and let these skill players go to work the with ball in heir hands, and make them tackle our ball care. We had some good stuff in the run game that definitely helped us in the pass game. And for me, it just allowed me to find completions and take us down the field. And it was really good that we finished in the end zone. We just want to keep finishing with touchdowns and keep continuing to get better. I thought we could have locked in a little more in the second half and really finished more drives off with the touchdowns instead of field goals, but I think that’s something we can build off of this week.”
That confidence boost will be a required accessory next week when the Bears travel to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings. Chicago still has a chance at a playoff berth, given the expanded field this season. This was not something that was discussed or seemed realistic, even a week ago.
The Trubisky to Allen Robinson connection will be crucial to keeping this team in the hunt. Mitch says of his favorite target, “He’s been huge. He’s a leader of our offense. He’s our number one receiver. The way he practices and handles himself on a daily basis, I think all the young guys look up to A-Rob as the ultimate pro, and everything he earns on the field, he puts in the work for. He’s a great teammate. His locker is right next to mine, so we spend a lot of time talking about football and a lot of other stuff, too, outside of football. So he’s been a great friend, a brother to me, and it’s been awesome to share the field with him and I’m just lucky it throw him the ball.”
Robinson talked about the chemistry with his quarterback, “Just over communicating. Even like the touchdown we had before halftime. That’s something we talked about. A look that we didn’t even get this week in practice. I told him, if we get this look, this is how I’m going to run the route. So we were on the same page. So he knew where I was going to be. That’s how we’re talking it to the next level. It has to be that level of detail. That level of attention to finish how we want to finish.”
Robinson made a significant observation that relates to the teams offensive success of recent. “I feel like we’re getting into a groove and being able to create some explosive plays on first and second down. I think hat’s been the biggest difference. We’ve been able to get some chunk plays. We haven’t just had to try to defend on third, and third and short.” He cited as an example David Montgomery’s 80-yard touchdown romp. scrimmage. Only one Houston defender even had his paws on the running back, who scampered otherwise untouched for the game’s first score on Chicago’s first offensive set.
Nagy was asked on Monday, if the team has finally unlocked Trubisky’s potential. “We’ve changed some things schematically as to this offense, even from two years ago, to try to work around the strengths of our players. I believe that for a lot of different reasons (Mitch’s benching for five games this season) is going to end up really helping him out in his career. What it’s done is enabled him to take a step back and see where we’re at. And now, these last three games, we’re feeling an identity within this offense, and he’s a big part of that.”
It remains to be seen if that translates into enough wins to leapfrog into playoff contention. As mentioned previously, the first big test comes up this Sunday at Minnesota.