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Analysis Bears

Why Were the Bears So Successful Against the Lions?

The Chicago Bears got a big win over the Detriot Lions on Sunday afternoon.

Mitchell Trubisky has taken a lot of stick from the national media this week with several high-profile pundits calling him out. There are also pockets of fans who question his ability to become the Franchise Quarterback that the Bears project him to be.

Trubisky, as usual acting with class and dignity, said nothing. He chose to do his talking on the field and his response to his critics was emphatic. His first-half performance against the Detroit Lions was a work of art as he constantly made good decisions, completed perfect passes and racked up points.

Trubisky Perfect

More impressive than his stat line for the day (23/30, 355 yards, 3 TDs, QBR 148.6) was the way that he commanded the Offense. On the Bears opening drive of the day, he completed 5/5 passes, used cadence to unsettle the Lions front, and changed the play at the line of scrimmage on three separate occasions. That is accomplished professional quarterback play.

Trubisky clearly revealed in proving his doubters wrong. With 08:14 remaining in the second quarter he gave the Bears a 25-0 lead, effectively ending the game, on a QB draw. His celebration was a huge release of energy, violently spiking the ball and letting out a guttural roar that rang around Soldier Field. Vindication was his.

There will surely be bumps in the road as Trubisky continues to grow but Bears fans should recognize that he is working hard at his craft and it’s paying off. He even outperformed Patrick Mahomes in this one…

Great protection

The Lions Defense came into the game tied with the Bears for 8th in the NFL with 24 sacks so the pressure was expected. The Offensive line did an outstanding job giving Trubisky a clean pocket to throw from, Bobby Massie and Charles Leno both excelled in pass-protection allowing only one sack on the day.

Bryan Witzmann got the start over Eric Kush (Kush was rotated in as he continues to recover from a neck injury) and acquitted himself well. Not to be left out, James Daniels and Cody Whitehair opened up a huge hole in the stout Lions front for Tarik Cohen to score the opening touchdown. The Bears only managed to generate 54 yards on the ground but that could be attributed to a game script as they attempted to run the clock in the second half.

#1 Receiver

The Offense welcomed back Allen Robinson who proved to be worth every penny of the $11m that the Bears will pay him this season as he went off for 133 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. His 98 first quarter yards were the most for a Bears receiver since 1999. Robinson was open all day long and Trubisky continued to hit him in stride. Robinson’s first quarter touchdown saw him burn passed DeShawn Shead on a 36-yard fade route. Trubisky took a three-step drop, looked off the safety, and put the ball right the receiver’s back hip. Robinson contorted his body and made an impressive grab. It’s been a long time since the Bears had a “number one receiver” performance like this.

Rookie Learning Curve

Rookie Anthony Miller also had a big day with 122 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. Miller seemed to constantly find soft spots in the Lions secondary and has the speed to just outrun most defenders. Miller also made several mistakes in the game:

  • his illegal “bat” on the Lions on-side kick which resulted in a re-kick and recovery
  • a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the 4th quarter, third-down conversion
  • nearly starting a fight with Jarrad Davis after Davis’ out-of-bounds shove on Trubisky

With experience, Miller will clean up these mental errors. His talent and potential are undeniable and he’s starting to look like yet another bit of draft genius from Ryan Pace. For a more detailed look at how Pace is out-drafting the rest of the Division read my article here.

Offensive footnote:

Matt Nagy showed an interesting Offensive wrinkle. A week after Eddie Jackson lined up in the backfield, Jackson and Bryce Callahan were both seen in the same Offensive formation. Unfortunately, the Lions called a timeout so that players will remain a mystery for now. Maybe the intention was just to get the Lions to burn a timeout?

Dominant Defense

The Defense stifled Matthew Stafford all day, hitting him eight times and sacking him on six occasions, allowing a Quarterback rating of just 74.9. The Bears front seven were impressive last week but looked reinvigorated by the return of Khalil Mack who made five tackles and recorded two sacks.

Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols (who was credited with his first NFL start) mauled the Lions Offensive line and didn’t allow them to establish any kind of running game. Nichols showed that he’s adding to his array of pass rush moves as he executed a nice swim move over a guard before laying out to grab Stafford’s ankles, sacking the QB and nearly forcing a fumble.

Tackle Machine

Roquan Smith, yet again, led the team in tackles with ten. He also added a sack on the Lions first drive. On third and 9 from the Bears 29-yard line, Hicks bull-rushed the Right Guard Kenny Wiggins completely over-powering him. On the other side of the play, Eddie Goldman ate up a double-team as Smith ran a stunt around him. Hicks reached out to grab Stafford and diverted him straight into the path of the on-rushing Smith. The sack knocked Detroit out of field goal range and set the tone for the rest of the day.

No Fly Zone

The secondary put in another strong performance recording two interceptions and a forced fumble. Bryce Callahan made another outstanding contribution sacking Stafford in the first quarter and making an incredible diving, fingertip interception in the second. Prince Amukamara made a great hustle play to force Kerryon Johnson to fumble. Johnson had bounced a run outside and was fighting for additional yards when Amukamara hit his ball-carrying arm from the running back’s blind side. The football bounced to Adrian Amos who scooped it up and immediately put the Bears Offense into scoring range.

Defensive footnotes

After coming very close a few minutes earlier, Leonard Floyd finally got his first sack of the 2018 season. It was a bit anti-climactic as he effectively hugged Matthew Stafford to a standstill, but it still counts. Floyd looked incredibly relieved to get the monkey off his back.

The Bears Defense leads the league in several categories:

  • Takeaways – 24
  • Interceptions – 16
  • Point off takeaways – 89
  • They are also second in forced fumbles with 12.

Sharpening Up

Despite a dominant performance, there were several, notable issues that the Bears will want to clear up if they’re to win tighter games down the stretch:

  • Matt Nagy was late throwing a challenge flag on a missed call by the officials. Kyle Fuller laid a huge hit on Kenny Golladay forcing him to fumble the ball as he went to the ground. Replays showed that the ball was out and the Bears recovered but the Lions ran a play before Nagy could grab the red flag. The drive was allowed to continue and ultimately led to the Lions scoring their first touchdown of the day.
  • Prince Amukamara’s fourth-quarter interception is one he’d rather not have caught. Matthew Stafford’s long pass attempt was on 4th and 15. Had Amukamara batted the ball down, the Bears would’ve taken over on downs from their 47-yard line. As it was, the interception gave them possession on their 2-yard line and the ensuing drive was inches away from ending in a safety as Trubisky was sacked near the goal-line.
  • There were numerous special teams misfires. Taquan Mizzell appeared to have issues fielding two kicks, the Bears allowed an on-side kick to be recovered, and there was Cody Parkey
  • The weirdest mistake of them all? Through the first half, Prince Amukamara was wearing a jersey that had his name misspelled on the back “Amukamara”. It was corrected in the second half, in time for him to make his highlight plays.

The Bears now prepare for next Sunday’s prime-time clash with the Minnesota Vikings. A win would move them to 7-3 with an 84% chance of making the playoffs, a loss would drop that likelihood to 62%. Every game is important but this one looks like it’s shaping up to be pivotal.

You can follow Matt on Twitter

Image: AP

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