For as well as the Chicago Bears played in the first half on Sunday night, their second half performance was equally as bad, as the Bears coughed up a 20-point lead on their way to defeat against the rival Packers on Sunday night. But despite leaving Lambeau Field 0-1 following a heartbreaking meltdown against the Packers, there was plenty of good on Display by the Bears in Week 1.
After forcing the Packers to punt the ball on the opening series of the game, and then proceeding to march 86 yards en route to a Mitchell Trubisky rushing touchdown, all seemed well for the Bears.
After taking a 10-0 lead on a Cody Parkey field goal, things got really exciting for Bears fans. Linebacker Khalil Mack introduced himself formally in a big way, stripping Packers backup quarterback DeShone Kizer of the football to stifle the Packers first trip to the redzone on the night.
On the ensuing drive, the highest paid defensive player in NFL history found himself in the backfield once again. This time he intercepted Kizer and took it back 27 yards for a touchdown, thanks to pressure on Kizer provided by Roy Robertson-Harris. The Mack pick-six gave the Bears a commanding 17-0 lead with less than a minute to play in the first half, and the Bears hit the locker room with their largest halftime lead over the Packers at Lambeau Field since 1948.
But just when Bears fans were beating their chests, sniffing a huge upset victory on the road on opening night against the hated Packers, Aaron Rodgers reminded us all why he’s a surefire Hall of Famer, leading the Packers to an epic 24-23 comeback victory on Sunday night.
Did the second-half meltdown sting like rubbing alcohol on a gaping open wound? You bet your ass it did, but for goodness sake, can we take a step back from panic button this morning?
Look, our talented team of Bears writers will be analyzing the piss out of this game all week, and you can even hear Clinton Cole and Steve Ahrendt do it on today’s episode of Monsters of the Mic, but that’s not what I’m going to do this morning. This morning, let’s take a step back and act like we’re not a fan-base deprived of any shred of logic, and appreciate some of the good things that were on display last night.
As vanilla as the second half play calling was, as deflating as Kyle Fuller‘s dropped interception late in the fourth quarter was, and as mind-boggling as the lack of run plays on third and short was — there was enough good in this game to prove to everyone that the Bears are well on their way to being a pain in a lot of team’s asses.
Khalil Mack and the Front Seven
Let’s start with the obvious here. Khalil Mack is damn good at football, and worth every penny and draft pick the Bears spent to acquire and extend him. From the moment he entered the game, he made his presence known. Pressuring Aaron Rodgers into bad throws, opening up holes for other pass rushers to get to Rodgers in the pocket, and wreaking havoc on the Packers after Rodgers was briefly replaced by DeShone Kizer in the second quarter.
Mack ended his Bears debut with three tackles, a sack, a forced and recovered fumble and the aforementioned 27-yard pick-six for a touchdown.
Mack wasn’t the lone defensive player flashing brilliance on Sunday night, however. Roquan Smith logged his first NFL sack on his first NFL snap, and Bryce Callahan looked excellent while logging a game-high eight solo tackles. Akiem Hicks and Roy Robertson-Harris both logged sacks as well, giving the Bears four on the evening. Unfortunately, the four sacks all came in the first half.
The defense looked winded in the second half, struggling to create any semblance of a pass rush once Aaron Rodgers and the Packers came out with a much faster tempo on offense. Roquan Smith needs to see more action in Week 2. The former Georgia linebacker saw just eight defensive snaps, and that isn’t going to cut it moving forward, especially with Nick Kwiatkoski looked lost in coverage on passing plays.
Jordan “Hands” Howard
Heading into training camp, there were two major questions surrounding Jordan Howard. With the first being what type of involvement would he have in Matt Nagy’s offense, and the second being, can he catch the football consistently. On Sunday night, Howard logged 82 rushing yards on 15 carries (5.5 yards per carry), and caught five passes for 25 yards, easily answering those two questions in the affirmative. Howard was on the field for 71 percent of the Bears offensive snaps, and he reeled in all five targets fired his way.
Despite being on the field for 71 percent of the snaps, Howard needed 5-10 more runs, at least. Not going to Howard on third and short in the second half was one of Nagy’s fatal mistakes in that game, one that needs to be corrected before week two.
Despite not throwing for a touchdown on the evening, Mitchell Trubisky threw no interceptions to a much improved Packers secondary. He coughed up a pair of fumbles (one recovered), with the second one ending the game, but that was a blindside sack that would have resulted in a turnover on downs regardless. The second-year quarterback finished the night 23-35 for 171 yards through the air, complimented by 32 yards and a score on the ground.
Trubisky wasn’t great on Sunday night, but he wasn’t awful by any stretch of the imagination. He looked excellent when Matt Nagy was working with a full playbook during the first two drives of the game, but once Nagy went vanilla on the sidelines, Trubisky followed suit, opting to protect the ball and tuck and run rather than taking shots downfield. The kid doesn’t call plays. It’s up to Nagy to call plays that will enable him to succeed, and that didn’t happen for a large portion of Sunday night’s game.
Trubisky’s new offensive weapons (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton) combined for 101 receiving yards on 10 catches, with Trubisky hooking up with both Robinson and Gabriel on passes longer than 30 yards.
My biggest concern with Trubisky last night, was his inability to get his head up and look downfield after using his legs to escape the pressure in the pocket and extend the play, but that will come with experience.
We just need to dissect this game for what it really is, one ugly loss, and move on. There’s 15 more games this season, and the next four are very winnable. It’s Week 1, the Bears are 0-1, but the world isn’t going to come to an end. A rookie head coach and an inexperienced second-year quarterback got beat by a future Hall of Fame quarterback in his house, in prime-time. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
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