Bears rally in Arizona to lead NFC North

The Bears are top of the NFC North. How mad is that? Who’d have believed we’d be here after that shameful fourth quarter collapse at Lambeau Field a couple of weeks ago? It has as much to do with some surprising – you might even call them freak – results elsewhere as it does anything that Chicago have done, but the Bears are in first place…

While the Vikings were getting stuffed at home by the Bills (no-one saw that coming), the Packers were also losing in Washington. With the Bears kicking off late they knew a win in Arizona would give them the lead in their division for the first time since… I don’t even know. It’s a good few years, certainly.

So it was typical Bears then that in the blink of an eye they were 14-0 down to a terrible Cardinals team. It’s not how you start though, it’s how you finish. Chicago discovered that to their cost in week one against the Packers, but they’ve since closed out two games and might finally be learning how to win. Admittedly they’ve beaten two bad teams, but so what? The Bills are regarded as a bad team too but look at how they shocked the Vikings. It’s not easy winning games in the NFL, so the Bears being 2-1 feels good.

They aren’t exactly convincing though. Not on offense anyway. The defense is a lot of fun to watch. They were a little ragged early in Arizona and gave up a TD on the opening drive. The second score came immediately after Mitch Trubisky had fumbled the ball away deep in his own territory. Still, it wasn’t great from the D to allow a TD on the very next play.

You know Vic Fangio and his unit will make the necessary adjusts though. What we didn’t know is whether the offense were capable of crawling out of a 0-14 hole. They did, but only just.

Trubisky was bad. He missed several throws you’d expect an NFL quarterback to make and accuracy has been a problem so far this year. That’s not good, right? I mean, I know he’s young and has a lot of learning to do (such as don’t throw at Patrick Peterson), but he should be able to hit open receivers when under no pressure. Reading defenses and identifying blitzes are things you expect inexperienced QB’s to struggle with and that’s completely understandable. Surely accuracy should be almost taken for granted in the number two overall pick in the draft?

I dunno, maybe it’s a minor mechanical issue that can be straightened out, or maybe it’s just a case of trying too hard. Hopefully that’s all it is, because if the Bears have used the number two pick on a QB who can’t throw the ball accurately then it won’t matter how great Khalil Mack and defense are.

And Mack is great. Damn, is he great. He’s had a strip sack in all three games so far. He’s always around the ball, always making plays and in this game at one point he fought his way through a triple team and still managed to pressure the QB (who was sacked by one of Mack’s team-mates). He’s just incredible. What was Jon Gruden thinking? Imagine being a Raiders fan watching what Mack is doing right now.

The main thing you get from great players like Mack is not even what they themselves do. It’s how they make everybody else better. The Bears has been solid ever since Fangio came in, but they just haven’t really had that superstar talent to raise them to the next level. Look at them now, everyone feeds off Mack and they’re all making plays. Well, all except Leonard Floyd, but hopefully when that cast comes off we’ll see him contributing again.

In the second half of this game, the Bears took the ball away four times. It would have been five and a score from Eddie Jackson had Mack not been flagged for jumping too early. They were just phenomenal. Unfortunately, the offense are just very pedestrian. They don’t put up anywhere near enough points and that puts pressure on the defense to win games for them. Against Seattle and Arizona they were able to do it. Against the Packers they weren’t.

It will be like that most of the year unless Trubisky improves quickly. The one thing I would say about the offense against the Cardinals though, was at least they were able to sustain drives even if they weren’t putting up many points. Eventually that pays off because the Bears defense doesn’t get worn down and can still make plays late on. In Green Bay, Mack & co were goosed because the offense kept going three and out.

For the Bears to have any chance of winning games, Trubisky needs to be able to stay on the field long enough to keep the defense fresh. They need to lean heavily on the running game because Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are the Bears best chance of moving the ball at the moment.

Howard didn’t have a great statistical game against Arizona but he played a big part. The Cardinals keyed in on stopping the run but Howard was still able to just about make some hard yards and help to keep drives alive. Until Trubisky gets more comfortable finding receivers other than Allen Robinson, Howard and Cohen are going to be running against eight and sometimes even nine man fronts.

Few expect Chicago to stay at the top of the North, but if they can beat Tampa Bay next week they go into their bye in great shape and with a chance for Trubisky to work on some things with Matt Nagy.

I don’t have particularly big expectations for the Bears this season as the offense is still one of the worst in the league, but it’s a lot of fun watching what Mack and the rest of the defense can do. They’re so good that if Trubisky could even elevate his level to that of a middle of the road NFL quarterback the Bears would easily make the playoffs. Whether he can do that or not I have no idea, but I’m not getting my hopes up too much.

A game ball for….

Sherrick McManus. He doesn’t get to play much defense and he’s on the team for what he does on Special Teams, but McManus came up big against Arizona. He had a fantastic tackle on a punt return, as you’d expect, but he also chipped in with a sack and an INT on defense.

Dave Usher

David Usher (112 Posts)

Day job is writing about footy for 'the Liverpool Way' and ESPN FC. Love the Bears and Bulls too though, which is why I'm here.

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