So that was fun Bears fans. The Bears finally kicked off their season on Sunday night before a raucous crowd at Lambeau Field. We finally caught the first glimpse of new head coach Matt Nagy, new wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, new tight end Trey Burton, new kicker Cody Parkey, first- round linebacker Roquan Smith and second-round receiver Anthony Miller, and the $90 million-dollar man, Khalil Mack.
The build up to this game was almost painful. It’s like having your parents show you all your birthday presents and then putting them on a shelf for months before you can play with them. Excruciatingly painful! You know what was even more painful than the wait? The outcome. Aaron Rodgers just lives to torment the Bears, does he not?
After dominating the first half, and bringing a 20-3 lead into the fourth quarter, the Bears did the most Bears thing ever: they managed to lose. Most of the fans and talking heads are focusing on what went wrong. How could this happen, they say, or perhaps just extolling the suckage of these Chicago Bears. But aren’t these the same people who thought that the Bears would lose to the Packers anyway? Would they have been happier had they gotten blown out?
Now that the dust has settled, I have had time to reflect — plus watch some of the film — and I am looking at this a little differently. Yes, this loss hurts, it hurts badly, but it isn’t without positives, a lot of positives in fact. So, come down from the ledge and let’s talk about what we all saw.
Our first glimpse of Matt Nagy’s offense was really something. We saw some crazy formations, some interesting plays, tons of misdirection, basically, it was unlike anything we have ever seen from a Bears offense. In the first half, Mitch Trubisky was very sharp. He was accurate and on-time. The offensive line did an excellent job in pass protection plus opening holes for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Early on, they seemed to be rather efficient offensively. Obviously, that changed as the game went on, but the protection and running game was there all night. That is a great sign.
Mack wasted no time endearing himself to the Bears fan base. His very first snap as a Bear resulted in a hurried thrown and an incompletion. He was virtually a one-man wrecking crew in the first half. Later, though, it was clear that he didn’t fully have his legs under him or his lungs ready for the big stage, but that was to be expected. Anyone who was worried about Mack — and the cost to acquire him — needn’t be. What was also apparent to me throughout the game, was the impact that Mack had on his teammates, just ask Roy Robertson-Harris and Roquan Smith.
The Bears defense played hard and with a swagger that we haven’t seen around here in some time. That was wonderful to see and it’s only going to get better as the season progresses. Keep in mind that Leonard Floyd is wearing a cast on his hand and is playing the unfamiliar right side. Much like an offensive tackle, it will take him some time to flip sides, and adjust to that spot. There is one more addition that will come later this season and that is Smith. He only played eight snaps, but he managed to do a lot of damage in his limited action, including a sack. The added speed will allow this defense to match up with anyone in the league. We know this because we saw it for three quarters.
The Bears defense nabbed four sacks on the evening, but the offense also gave up four sacks. Upon further inspection, three of the four sacks were kind of bogus. On the first three sacks, Trubisky was never even touched by a defender. Two were scrambles for no gain and the other was a butt fumble. The 4th sack came on the last offensive play of the game, and Trubisky held the ball too long. Again, good line play is the key to victory, and the Bears gave us that.
There were a few questionable calls by Nagy, especially late in the game. But let’s keep in mind that this was his first game as an NFL head coach and he was calling the offensive plays. Either of those are difficult on their own, however, I expect Nagy to learn and grow from his first game, just like players will. We know that he can call plays, I am not worried about that. He just needs to figure out how to juggle both roles.
The strangest thing about this loss is that if any number of individual plays have different outcomes, the Bears win. Kicking a 54-yard field goal or punting instead of going for it on 4th-and-4. The Kyle Fuller interception that never was. Running the ball on 3rd-and-1 instead of passing to Dion Sims (remember that Howard averaged 5.5 yards per carry). Completing that pass to Robinson in the end zone instead of settling for the field goal. Heck, just a single first down on any of the three-and-outs in the fourth quarter likely does the trick.
Let’s also not forget who orchestrated the comeback for the Packers. Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL and his Hall of Fame resume will be lined with games like this. I am not sure that I can name another quarterback that could have pulled this off. Could the Bears have won this game? Absolutely! Should they have won this game? Yeah, this one should be in the win column for the Bears.
But alas, it was not meant to be. Bears free safety Eddie Jackson said that the Bears got lazy after the first half. I tend to believe him, and if that is true, this is a game to build on. Most people learn more from their failures, than from their successes. Let’s hope the Bears learned from this agonizing defeat, because nobody wants to feel the way we all did after that one.
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