Payton Presser: Together as one, Bears get their first win of the season
Heading into the third week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, I didn’t know what to expect from John Fox’s squad. In the first two games, we have seen two very different teams. The biggest issue that continues to plague this ball club is injuries. With that being said, would the Bears let all the things stacked up against them stop their progress or would they use them to band together to show there is life with their building process? The Bears showed me Sunday that no matter what people are saying outside of the locker room, they believe in themselves. They came out of the locker room united and that carried over into their showdown with the Steelers. They also showed that they will do whatever is necessary to win the ball game. As a Bears fan, I’m proud of how they fought their hearts out Sunday. It’s wasn’t a pretty win. But all that matters is they got their first W of the 2017 season. Time to jump into some of my takeaways from the 21-17 win over the Steelers. Man, it feels good to say that!
Two days ago, President Donald Trump made comments at an Alabama rally and called for NFL players who protest the national anthem to be fired. Sunday, the Bears were united when the anthem began at Soldier Field. The Bears players and coaches locked arms to show solidarity and togetherness with the divisive times we are living in. I commend them for using their First Amendment right. I’m all for a peaceful protest, but I also support athletes using their platform to express themselves on or off the field. My hope is it will keep the conversation going among us all so we can work towards unity and respect for all. Football, and sports in general, is normally an escape from the daily happenings of life. But it has also brought us together at some of the toughest times. The world was watching the NFL yesterday. Let’s hope it can once again bring us together. United we stand. Divided we fall.
The Glennon Report
After last week in Tampa Bay, most Bears fans that I crossed paths with wanted to know what would be in store for Mike Glennon in week 3 versus the Steelers. My response had been that I didn’t really know what to expect out of number 8. I think that’s the frustrating part about Glennon. You never know what you’re going to get. At Soldier Field on Sunday, we saw a guy that took what the Steelers defense was giving him. Most of his air assault was done via checkdown. Glennon finished his day going 15 of 22 passing for 101 yards, 1 interception and 1 touchdown. I left Solider Field feeling the same way I felt coming in about Glennon. He still holds on to the ball too long and has shaky decision making at times. But to his credit, he stayed within the game plan and did his part to help the team win. The problem is, Sunday’s game plan was one that rookie Mitchell Trubisky could have handled. The Bears offensive game plan seems to be all about not letting Glennon lose this one with all the runs and checkdowns. At some point, defenses are going to stop the run game and the Bears will be forced to air it out. The question is: Can they? We haven’t seen it so far this season. Glennon has bought himself more time under center. But the Trubisky chants seem to be getting louder and louder. At some point, the Bears front office will have to be true to themselves about which QB on the roster gives you the best chance to win.
Keep the running game going
Coming into the Bears match-up against the Steelers, I said the only way they could keep the game close was by running the football. If you ask any QB what the two things they love most are, they will probably tell you their offensive line and their running game. A tip of the cap goes out to the O-Line for the spike in the running game. Even the wideouts were blocking for the RBs. Looking at the box score, Glennon didn’t have eye-popping numbers. But he didn’t need to. All he had to do was put the game in the hands of, or dump it off to, his two running backs and let the offensive line do what they love to do. Jordan Howard has not looked like the second leading rusher in the NFL from 2016 in the first two games this year. A lot of that has to do with his banged-up shoulder. But Sunday I saw the guy that I saw last season running with a purpose. It was a gutsy performance from the second-year man because there were many times we would see him come off the field in pain. That didn’t hold him back one bit. We saw Howard’s ability to run with that forward lean while bouncing off of opposing defenders. Howard was the workhorse that the Bears offense needed to control the game on the ground and maintain the pace of the game. He finished the game with 23 rushes for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. His 6.0 yards average per carry was very impressive. Tarik Cohen, the other piece of the equation, held up his end of the bargain. The rookie bounced back after last week and showed why he is such a solid all-around offensive weapon. Cohen added 12 carries for 78 yards with 6.5 yard average. Both guys came up big in overtime when their team needed them the most. Cohen rattled off what looked to be a 73 yard walk-off touchdown, but it was called back after he stepped out of bounds. Not to worry, because his partner in crime Jordan Howard sealed the deal two plays later with a 19-yard game-winning touchdown. Benny Cunningham contributed when his number was called as well. Let’s not forget about the Bears winning the time possession battle too with 33:59 minutes. Right now, the Bears running game is their best shot to win games. That means moving forward 24 + 29 + more carries = offensive success. Let 24 and 29 spin!
The Bears had a handfull of plays that changed the game, some good and some bad. I first have to say that Sherrick McManis is a heck of a special teams player. He scooped up a muffed punt and then had a blocked field goal. McManis had himself a day and made some big-time game-changing plays. Off of that blocked FG came one of the weirdest plays of the NFL season so far. Marcus Cooper picked up the ball and proceeded to take it to the house, or close to it. Cooper slowed down near the 10 yard line and, at the 1, Vance McDonald of the Steelers punched the ball out of his hands. The moral of the story is never celebrate too early and always be humble, even when you mess up. Cooper was a stand-up guy after the game talking about the play. He would end up making some big plays on the defensive side of the ball in the 2nd half. Big-time plays go a long way with a team still trying to find their groove early in the season.
Bears defense still the rock
The Bears defense showed yesterday that they were ready for the challenge. They were taking on an explosive Steelers offense that can put up points in a hurry. Vic Fangio’s defense held Pittsburgh to just 282 yards of total offense on the day. They held Le’Veon Bell to just 61 yards on the ground. What stood out to me was the Bears defensive unit didn’t give up explosive plays, the big chunk plays that are hard to recover from. The biggest hurdle in beating the Steelers is getting pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and to get him on the ground. The Bears defense accomplished that task three times yesterday. Hats off to Kyle Fuller, Marcus Cooper, Prince Amukamara and Bryce Callahan for holding down their responsibilities in the secondary. Antonio Brown had 10 catches for 110 yards and no TD’s on 14 targets. I will take that any day going up against one of the best wideouts in the game. The defense said they would fight after last week’s loss to the Buccaneers. They certainly did that and held out their end of the bargain as the rock of this team.
Driving to Solider Field, I called three of my friends that I love talking Bears football with and said this game feels like one the Bears will win, even though the odds are stacked against them. I was right. The Bears knew that everyone outside of their locker room was talking trash about them. They heard them saying their team was closer to the team that got blew out in Tampa Bay and nowhere close to the team that almost knocked off the defending NFC champs. It got to them and they came together to achieve what most thought was unattainable. That’s what makes sports so awesome! It doesn’t matter what people say. If you believe and don’t give up, anything is possible. Sunday showed me something about life. Even when people count you out and make assumptions about you, if you can come together as one, you can soar to new heights. The Bears needed that win and they earned that win. Say what you want about John Fox. But one thing’s for certain, his players play hard for him. They never give up and that says something about his effect on his ball club. So, after their first win of the season, the Bears head to Green Bay next. If you think Sunday’s win was big, just imagine if they could pull it out on Thursday Night Football in Green Bay. Hey, anything is possible, right? #beardown