Payton Presser: Running game and takeaways get Bears their 2nd win
It wasn’t a pretty one, but the Bears came out of Sunday with their second win of the season, topping the Ravens 27-24 in overtime. Most of my focus during the game was on Mitchell Trubisky and his development. But all three phases were on display for various reasons. It feels like the Bears always have the deck stacked against them this season. But they weathered the storm Sunday to grind out a victory. The Bears get a much-needed and hard-earned win. Time to jump into my takeaways from Sunday’s game in Baltimore.
Trubisky Second Start
Even though Sunday was Trubisky’s second NFL start, there were still some firsts for him, including his first road start and first time having a short week to prepare. The rookie had an outing similar to his Monday night debut. There are flashes of competency when you watch Trubisky. But you see a young QB that still has a way to go. It’s all part of his evolution as the signal caller. Trubisky once again didn’t have eye-popping numbers, finishing his day 8 of 16 for 113 yards and 1 touchdown. His biggest improvement from the Vikings game was taking care of the football and with no interceptions. I was pushing for Trubisky to play because he gives the Bears the best chance to win with his ability to extend plays, which he illustrated by stepping up in the pocket, locating Kendall Wright and throwing a beautiful pass for 18 yards to set up the game-winning field goal. That was a signature moment for the rookie QB. The touchdown pass to Dion Sims was also solid because of the pressure he encountered. He did what he does very well: keeps his eyes downfield and makes plays. Trubisky also threw the ball away when things weren’t there. He made progress yesterday in his second start. Listen, there are still a bunch of things in his game he will have to refine. But the rookie showed me that he is ready to take his high and lows as a NFL QB. With a lack of weapons at the wideout position, Trubisky is doing the best he can. The running game was key for the rookie as he leaned on Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to move the chains. Eventually the Bears will have to toss the rock around a little more and I think that will come in time as Trubisky gets more and more acclimated to the feel and speed of the game.
Running the ball
I tweeted before the game that Jordan Howard needed 20-plus carries if the Bears wanted a chance to win the game. Let’s just go with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains creeping on my timeline because the Bears controlled the ground game. Not only did Howard get his touches, but Cohen got his as well. What made it possible was the Bears never had to play from behind in Baltimore and stuck to their game plan. Howard had 36 touches for 167 yards, with his biggest play of the day coming when he put the team on his back with a monster 53 yard run in overtime. Howard is the guy that makes the Bears offense successful. Not only did the Bears running backs run the rock, they helped out in the passing game as well. In the 2nd quarter, Cohen received the toss from Trubisky, pulled up and threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Zach Miller in the end zone. I give props to the Bears offense for being able to run the ball even though the Ravens knew that would be the recipe for the Bears to win. Ground and pound is the key to the Bears having any success this season. Keep calling for that same recipe week in and week out until Trubisky progresses and the Bears will have a chance to win every week. Just put 24 & 29 in and let them spin. Simple as that.
Put some respect on the Bears defense
The Bears defense came into Sunday’s game with three takeaways for the entire season and they doubled that on Sunday with three against the Ravens. Before the regular season started, the Bears defense was who I said needed to be the rock of this team. They would have to not only create turnovers, but they would have to turn them into points somewhere down the line. The Bears defense held the Ravens to just 291 yards of total offense. Ravens QB Joe Flacco had 180 yards through the air and was sacked 3 times, while giving up 2 interceptions. Bryce Callahan recorded the first interception of the day and the first of the Bears season on an amazing diving catch which set up Cohen’s touchdown pass to Miller. Then Adrian Amos’ had his first career interception and run-back for a touchdown. They also got another turnover when Christian Jones forced a fumble, recovered by Danny Trevathan. The defense did what I expected them to do from the start of the season on Sunday. It says something about a defense that has lost some key pieces due to injury. The Bears defense never asks, “Why us?” They just use the next-man-up mentality and move forward. As a Bears fan, I’m proud of how Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos have bounced back this season. Both guys were left for dead before the season started and, due to injuries on the defensive unit, they have been able to play and shine. It was really good having Trevathan back in the lineup on Sunday. No matter what his numbers look like, he’s a difference maker and the QB of the Bears defense. This unit is nowhere near a finished product, but I think it opened eyes around the league. The biggest thing I walked away with after the game on Sunday was: You better respect the Bears defense.
The Bears had their share of misses yesterday. The special teams gave up a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 96-yard kickoff return late in the third quarter to cut the Bears’ lead to 17-10. Special teams is the unit that gets forgotten about until it almost costs you the game. Jeff Rodgers has his hands full to get things right moving forward. Another issue that seems to be a constant is the shotgun snaps by Cody Whitehair. Thankfully, Trubisky is athletic enough to recover bad snaps. To his credit, Whitehair is still getting settled at center with the early injuries to the offensive line. But he has to be better and I know he can be better.
In the NFL, wins are hard to come by, so any chance you get to walk away with one is a success. That’s the case for the Bears who have struggled to put full games together this season. Sunday taught me a lot about the fight in this team. Things started off good for John Fox’s team but they would leave the door open for the Ravens to come back into the game. The Bears didn’t panic in crunch time. They fought and clawed their way to their second win of the season. The lapses this team has at times are mind boggling. But it’s something that I’ve come to expect with John Fox-coached teams. Even with that being said, they cut down on the penalties that have hurt them the past few weeks which gave them a chance for a victory. This season is all about growth for me. Seeing this team win more games than they did the year before, watching guys that were written off before the season become viable contributors to this team, and seeing a young QB get his first road win all make me happy and really gives me hope. With Aaron Rodgers’ injury, the NFC North is wide open. With the Bears schedule, I will enjoy my Bears victory Monday and I hope you’re enjoying yours. Till next time. #BearDown