Payton Presser: Bears bailed out by defense again

Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, left, forces fumble on Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford (9) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Bears recovered the fumble and defeated the Cardinals 16-14. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

After watching another full slate of NFL games this weekend, I was reminded that there is a reason they play the games. In a weekend where Green Bay lost to Washington and Buffalo destroyed Minnesota, I thought a theme was developing and had a bad feeling about how the Bears would fare against Arizona. By the middle of the second quarter, it seemed like those feelings were becoming a reality. If last week was all about having patience, Week 3 was about having faith. The Bears found a way to escape Arizona with a 16-14 victory. After giving up two early touchdowns in the contest, the Bears defense clamped down and shut out the Cardinals the rest of the way. Starting in the 3rd quarter, the Bears defense created 4 turnovers on 4 straight drives. Very impressive after seeing how they started the game. The question is how good can they be?

The Bears’ defense was already a top defense. But with the addition of Khalil Mack, it looks like they are taking it to the next level. I’m still amazed by how much talent Mack has. He’s an incredibly smart player with a nose for the ball. Mack’s big time play in the 4th quarter with the Bears down 14-13, forcing Sam Bradford to cough up the ball and Danny Trevathan recovering the ball at the Bears’ 16-yard line, was a monster play by the man that is the spark of the Bears’ defense. His stat line read like this at the end of the evening: five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. That’s just every game for him. The man is unreal.

With Mack and the rest of the guys upfront causing all sorts of havoc, it allowed the secondary to get in on the fun with interceptions. Eddie Jackson is one of my favorite draft picks and watching him ball is always fun. It’s hard not to be a big fan of Alabama players. Nick Saban’s guys play ball very well, especially on the defensive side. Watching Jackson cover the ground he did Sunday to reel in that interception was poetry in motion. It was also great to see Sherrick McManis and Bryce Callahan get a chance to step up and make some big plays in the absence of Prince Amukamara, who was sidelined in the second half with a hamstring injury. Having a solid starting 11 is great. But to sustain the high level of play, the goal is to create dependable depth at each position and the Bears are succeeding. To answer my own question, this Bears defense can be as good as they want to be. The hope is that all the key pieces can stay…and well, you know what I want to say, but I don’t want to be the one who jinxes them.

The Bears’ offense, on the other hand, must get better. Sunday was another week that leaves us with an offense with no identity. This week, Matt Nagy tried to get the ground game going, but it was tough sledding against Arizona’s front 7. That in turn put a lot of the pressure on Mitchell Trubisky to beat the Cardinals with his arm. This offense hasn’t shown us they have an aerial attack, illustrated by Trubisky chipping away with short passes. His longest throw on the day was a 39-yard pass to Allen Robinson in the 3rd quarter. Anything down the field was over-thrown, under-thrown or off-target, anything but caught. Trubisky went 24 of 35 for 220 yards, with an interception and a fumble. He was also sacked 3 times for 26 yards. Trubisky has to get better. The Bears’ defense is on the rise and, while it can win championships, you don’t want to rely solely on your defense. Other QB’s from his draft class, like Patrick Mahomes, aren’t helping quiet the chatter from Trubisky skeptics that will likely not die down any time soon. The Bears’ offense needs an identity. A good place to start would be a balanced attack.

Who would have thought the Bears would be sitting alone atop of the NFC North standings after 3 weeks of the season? Not me, but I’ll take it. It’s a far cry from where we were over the last few years under John Fox. Nagy and Tubisky both have to grow, and they will have to do it together. Not only does Trubisky have to make plays, Nagy has to set him up to be successful as well. That is going to take time, trust and repetitions. It might sound like a cop-out, Bears fans, but it’s true. Trubisky isn’t going anywhere for a while so we can only hope that he materializes into the guy that Ryan Pace hitched his wagon to. I always knew that the defense would have to carry this team. But now, seeing how far along they are, it makes the struggling offense stick out like a sore thumb. This defense is ready to win now, while the offense is waiting for their number to be called. The patience we talked about is getting harder and harder each week. We have to keep the faith, Bears fans, and just keep praying that things will start to form for this Bears team as a whole next week against the Buccaneers. For now, please enjoy being atop the NFC North! Man, that sounds good. ‘Till next week everyone. #Beardown

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