Payton Presser: Bears rookies give hope for the future
The question heading into Sunday’s game was, “Could the Bears stop their 5-game losing skid and overtake a banged-up Bengals squad?” As we have seen this season, there are no givens when it comes to John Fox’s ball club. Sunday, the Bears stopped the bleeding and got their 4th win of the season, beating the Bengals 33-7 at Paul Brown Stadium. How did they do it? They played a balanced game on offense and got back to playing tough-nosed defense. It’s amazing how things can turn around when everything is clicking on all cylinders. Some will say that the Bengals were banged up. But when it comes to the NFL, you have to get wins by any means necessary.
Bears fans: We got a chance to see Mitchell Trubisky play his best football as a Bear. The rookie took the step that I’ve been waiting for since he took over as the Bears’ signal caller. I think we’ve all seen those flashes that I talk about every week. But Sunday he put it all together in his best performance as a pro. Trubisky finished his day going 25 of 32 for 271 yards, one passing touchdown and also rushed for a 5-yard touchdown. It was leaps and bounds from his last few outings where he struggled to get the little things right. He was cool, calm and collected in the pocket and also showed the accuracy that I saw in his film from UNC. The Bears running game helped set up the play action game, which allowed Trubisky to throw on the run. Before Sunday’s game, I thought we would see more shots downfield. But the game plan was like it has been all season: Take what the defense gives you. Not only did they score points, but the Bears’ offense orchestrated long scoring drives which ended in points and that’s something we haven’t seen all season long. The process in his development hasn’t gone like most Bears fans envisioned. But it’s games like Sunday that give you that hope he can be the guy for years to come.
One of the biggest keys to the victory was the play of Jordan Howard and the offensive line. FINALLY Dowell Loggains unleashed his bell cow and let him run the rock. The Bears established the run game early and when that happens the rest of the offense opens up. Howard finished the day with 23 carries for 147 yards, averaging 6.4 per carry and 2 touchdowns. Howard is the first Bears running back ever to run for 1,000 yards in his first two seasons with the franchise. It’s no secret: If this team wants to win, they have to put the game on 24’s back and let him carry them to victory. It was a Pro Bowl day for Howard. There was also an Adam Shaheen sighting on Sunday in Cincy. The rookie tight end who has been nonexistent became Tubisky’s security blanket. He caught 4 passes for 44 yards and 1 touchdown. I believe the Bears need Shaheen to continue to grow, as that will help Trubisky’s development. A QB’s best friends are a running game and a tight end. Throw Tarik Cohen in the conversation with Howard and Shaheen and you have pieces you can build around on the offensive side of the ball.
The Bears defense held up their end of the bargain, holding the Bengals offense to only a touchdown. Andy Dalton and company finished with 164 yards through the air and 70 yards on the ground, a great day for the defense. A. J. Green was a non-factor and Kyle Fuller kept him in check all game. Green finished the day with just 5 catches for 64 yards. Watching Fuller this season has been a treat. He has really found his groove within this Vic Fangio defense along with the confidence to match up with whoever is across from him. Rookie Eddie Jackson had another big day and it came on his 24th birthday. Jackson’s first takeaway was an intercepted Dalton pass that bounced off of A. J. Green. His second takeaway came on the next Bengals possession, stripping the ball from A. J. Green before Green could step out of bounds. When Vic Fangio is creating takeaways, most of the time good things happen for this team.
Most people look at this season and how it’s gone and say, “What is there left to play for?” There’s a lot to play for in my opinion. The goal should be to finish the season strong. The reality is this coaching staff will look a lot different next season. The goal right now is to end 2017 on a high note. If you ask guys on this year’s roster, they will tell you they’re playing for their jobs – not just with the Bears, but with other teams around the league. Sunday’s win has people excited and they should be. But this organization has a way to go. One thing that is inspiring is the youth moment of this organization. Over this season there has been one theme in every game for the Bears and that’s the rookies are not only making plays, but are becoming the main contributors on this roster. That is a good sign as this organization tries to build for the future. #BearDown