The 3-1 Chicago Bears faced their toughest challenge yet on Thursday when they took on 3-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers who were currently riding a three-game winning streak after losing their first game. On the surface, the main focus on this current Bucs team is probably Tom Brady, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, quarterback of all-time. The Bucs, however, are not a one-sided team as also have a highly skilled and effective defense, ranking no.1 and 2 in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) for the first 4 weeks of this NFL season. This was another tough challenge for the Bears who only four days earlier took on, and lost, to the current no.1 team in DVOA, the Indianapolis Colts. The Bears went down by 13 early in the first half and gave fans the and pundits alike to makings of either another Bears come-from-behind win or a game that was going to unravel for them quickly.
A great drive from Nick Foles and an impressive forced fumble from Kyle Fuller helped the Bears quickly surmount the deficit and enter in the half with a 14-13 lead. Several lead changes later, the Bears, on the foot of Cairo Santos, were able to secure a 20-19 lead and ride some big plays on defense to a victory and cement their first 4-1 start since 2012.
So, what are we to make of the Bears win against the Bucs? Is there a cause for concern or a cause for a celebration? Maybe, it’s both There are several takeaways from this game, both positive and negative, but the biggest is that the Bears defense is finding their “groove” and just the right time. Khalil Mack was all over the field with 2 sacks (an additional one called back due to a penalty) 3 total tackles and a pass deflection. The Bears defensive line was also able to force 6 other PDs and 8 QB hits on Tom Brady. In our previous article, I talked about how the Bears controlling the LOS was key to a victory for them Thursday and they did just that. In addition to their bruising interior defense, Nick Foles was able to find a rhythm on offense towards the end of the 2nd and 4th quarter. Jimmy Graham continues to prove that his career is not yet finished and Allen Robinson, despite some drops, was able to show his worth as a number one wide receiver.
What are we then to be cautious of? A 4-1 start is big for any team and wins in the NFL are not easy to come by but with that being said, the Bears found themselves in familiar territory to start this game, namely the slow starts on offense, the sloppy play of the offensive line, and the abandonment of the run game. The Bears found themselves down in the 1st half for the third game this year and had to claw their way to victory. This wasn’t solely because of what the Bucs did on defense, though they are a very disciplined squad, but more so of what the Bears did not do on offense. Nick Foles missed several wide-open players Thursday, including a wide-open Darnell Mooney who was sure to score a touchdown if the pass was placed correctly. The Bears offensive line continues to struggle and hold the line of scrimmage for Nick Foles, who was sacked three times and hit seven times. With the offensive line struggles in passing, they continued to fail as maintaining gaps for running back David Montgomery, who seemed to be met with pressure the moment he touched the LOS. After the Bears got down by 13, Matt Nagy seemed to all but abandon the run game, with the team tallying only 14 carries for 35 yards as a team. These trends continue to be dangerous territory for the Bears but despite it, they still are amongst the league’s best with their 4-1 record. The takeaways are not insurmountable for the Bears and can be fixed but, like everything in life, the clock is ticking.