The Chicago Bears won the game. That is my only take away from this week and I cannot think of any feasible reason to question that the Chicago Bears will not be a playoff team (smashes “Submit for Review” button, slams iPad shut).
That is what I wish this article could say, but unfortunately and obviously, it will not. The Bears, despite the victory, showed plenty of red flags – and not just the banners hanging from the rafters in Arizona. Here is what we learned from the Bears victory over the Cardinals.
1. Khalil Mack is unbelivable
Once again, we start with the positives: the Bears have themselves an elite pass rusher. Mack dominated the game from start to finish, putting pressure in Sam Bradford‘s face throughout the duration of the afternoon. He came up with two sacks and a forced fumble on one of them, costing the Cardinals a combined six points on two plays (one drove them out of field goal range and the other stripped the ball away when they were in it).
Mack is the first player to accumulate a sack and force a fumble in each of three consecutive games since… also Khalil Mack, in weeks 12-14 of 2016. The man is worth every single penny that the Bears are giving him and those two first round picks that they gave Oakland seems like a bargain at this point.
Long goes in this group because excellent offensive linemen never get nearly enough credit as they should. He has been nothing short of dominant, especially in the screen and outside run game (more on that later). He came into this season with essentially an ultimatum: the Bears became cap-strapped with the Mack trade and Long, with his injury history and growing age, made sense as a potential casualty. So far, he has played like he knows this and would like to remain a Bear.
Callahan intercepted a pass on fourth down at the end of the game yesterday and he has made his presence felt throughout the first three games of the season. He is one of the best tacklers on this team and became more aggressive in taking out receivers after the catch from last season to this one. The young nickelback CB out of Rice is making a case to be paid handsomely after the season and that could prove problematic for Ryan Pace down the line.
Finally, Nichols has been stout against the run in the last two games and he made the play that might have saved the Bears, which is not being talked about nearly enough. He beat his man clean and tackled Chase Edmonds (for some reason – how on earth was David Johnson not in the game?!) for a three-yard loss, setting up a much tougher fourth and five that the Bears capitalized on.
3. Plays I would like to see more: RB screens, outside zone runs out of shotgun to Tarik Cohen and jet sweeps.
The first one here is simple: teams notice that the quarterback struggles against the blitz and bring extra men on passing downs? Fine. The Bears have three tailbacks who excel at this play and this would make life much easier for their young signal caller.
The next two really go together in that Matt Nagy needs to utilize the speed that he has much more in order to open things up for Jordan Howard. The big third-year back ran very well today yet fell short of three yards per carry thanks to extremely minimal holes created. Teams stuff the box on a consistent basis, so the Bears need to spread out defenses much more often. Jet sweeps to Taylor Gabriel worked beautifully last Monday in Seattle, but we didn’t see one in week three. And the Bears are failing to utilize Cohen enough.
Both of the speedsters need to be a much larger part of the Bears’ game plan going forward.
4. Mitch Trubisky needs to be better. A whole lot better.
I’ll keep this short and sweet because any viewer that watched the game knows this and I don’t need to detail his struggles with a full paragraph. To put it simply, Trubisky stunk. And for the Bears to reach their potential, with this dominant defense, this will not cut it.
He was the second overall pick. It’s time to start acting like it.
Follow Jack on Twitter–Featured Photo Credit: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune
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