The Chicago Bears are one of the NFL’s best teams; full stop.
They sit at 5-1 and after the Packers blowout loss to the Buccaneers, who themselves felt the wrath of the Bear’s top 5 in DVOA defense, sit atop the NFC North. With that being said, the effectiveness of the Bears’ three phases of the ball have been in flux many times this season with pundits and fans alike confused at how a team can be this inconsistent yet still have this good of a record.
What has led them to this success? T
he obvious answer is the defense. Khalil Mack is being Khalil Mack; after a slow start to the season for him in the first three games, only totaling one and a half sacks and one tackle for loss, he’s exploded in the last three games with three sacks and five tackles for loss. Akiem Hick continues to prove why he is the anchor to the Bears front with 3.5 sacks that makes him second among the NFL’s defensive tackles, and Kyle Fuller is playing like the All-Pro cornerback that he is, ranking in the top 18 amongst all NFL defensive backs in passes defended. At this point in the Bears history as a franchise, you expect them to consistently have good defenses. From the Butkuses, the Singletarys, to the Urlachers and now the Roquan Smiths, who himself is 6th in the NFL in total tackles. Defense is a constant in the organization. What also has been a constant for the Bears? An inconsistent offense. The Bears came out to a hot, albeit frustrating start with Nick Foles connecting to Cole Kmet for his first NFL touchdown. The Bears stayed on top from start to finish in a game you would consider to be successful if you only saw the box score, but inconsistent play-calling and mental errors kept this game a lot closer than it needed to be.
Nick Foles showed flashes of the same brilliance we saw in Philadelphia but also the negative through an ugly interception after the Bears just got the ball back from a turnover. The Bears were able to give the ball to David Montgomery in the running attack more, with 19 carries on the day, but only for 58 yards in another game that the offensive line struggled in. That’s only 3.1 yards per carry in a league where the gold standard of a good running back is four or more yards per carry. Montgomery showed flashes of brilliance last year in both the running and passing game and while his touches have increased in the passing game (with 20 recs on the season, he’s already on pace to surpass last year’s 20 receptions) he’s failed to meet the expectations in the running game. With a talented back in Montgomery, yet an offensive scheme that relies on inside zone to an almost dangerous level, the focus begins to fall on Nagy’s lack of play diversity for him. Those inconsistencies represent things that can possibly be fixed, so it’s not something that Bears fans need to give up all hope on yet. Allen Robinson alluded to the growing chemistry of the Bears as a team and believes they are trending upward. He and Nick Foles have managed to form solid chemistry, connecting for 32 receptions for 367 yards and a pair of touchdowns since the Foles takeover. That puts Allen Robinson at 474 yards on the year and 8th amongst all wide receivers across the league. With the combo performing the way that they are, Allen Robinson is poised to have a breakout year and return to the dominant performances Bears (and Jaguars fans) have known him for, and for him, he feels the best is yet to come:
“Like I said before, we’re sitting at five and one right now…almost at the halfway point of the season and again, for us, we’re still trending in the right direction. No, we haven’t played our best football, you know, our best ball is ahead of us, but at the end of the day, we’re 5-1.”
With the play on offense being inconsistent, yet showing signs of growth, fans can at least end the games with a hopeful disposition. As time goes on, they will just have to wait and see if their faith will be rewarded. With that being said, there is room for rightful dread toward the ugly side of the Bears as a team and that is the offensive line. The Bears line struggled to make room for Montgomery tonight and though they did not give up any sacks, Nick Foles found himself with pressure in his face almost immediately, with an average time of 1.7 seconds before the defense is within arm’s reach of him. With the loss of James Daniels for the season and a struggling left tackle in Charles Leno Jr., Bears fans certainly have reason to be nervous. Matt Nagy does not have a standout replacement at the left guard position and the Bears will have to wait and see if Lamar Miller will help shake up the sluggish running game. As of now, however, the Bears can briefly bask in their past two wins against tough teams and look forward to facing the Rams on Monday Night Football. Bears fans can certainly receive these wins with a bit of uneasiness, but as Nick Foles said today, “would you rather lose pretty or win ugly?” I assume it’s the latter and with the next 3 games being against some of the NFL best teams record wise (Rams 4-2, Saints 3-2, Titans, 5-0) Bears fans will have a chance to have an even better understanding of who this team truly is.