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Payton Presser: The next 3 weeks for the Bears are crucial

Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) rushes past Buffalo Bills free safety Jordan Poyer (21) to score a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Back-to-back wins, Bears fans! Man, that feels so good to say. This was another pivotal week for Matt Nagy’s squad traveling to Buffalo. The Bears were playing a team they were supposed to beat, and they did, cruising to a 41-9 victory at New Era Field. I thought the Bears would take care of the Bills the way they did. This game was a confidence-booster for Nagy’s ballclub as they head into the next three weeks taking on divisional foes. Let’s not kid ourselves. The next three weeks are going to be vital for the Bears and will give us a barometer on where this team really stands in the division. Let’s break down some of my takeaways from Sunday’s victory.

The Bears defense was once again without Khalil Mack as he tries to get his ankle healthy for the back end of the schedule. I’m glad Mack got a chance to watch from the sideline because Vic Fangio’s unit didn’t need him for this contest. The Bears’ defense came to play against a struggling Bills’ offense with Nathan Peterman under center. They were strong from the start and finished strong allowing only 264 yards offense on the afternoon.

The pressure from the Bears front 7 was a lot better, which gave the back end of the Bears defense a chance to make some plays. The defense had 3 takeaways in the first half, first coming from Eddie Jackson in the second quarter. Jackson stripped Bills tight end Jason Croom and returned the fumble 65 yards for a touchdown. Adrian Amos would get his first interception of the season as he located a defected ball by Terrelle Pryor. Leonard Floyd recorded his first career pick-6 and Kyle Fuller made an amazing play to rack up his third INT on the season. The Bears 4 takeaways on the day push the total to 21 for the year. The Bears recorded their first sack of the game late in the 3rd quarter. The only issue on the day for the defense was that they gave up their first rushing touchdown of the season to Peterman. There should be an asterisk by that one.

The Bears’ defense has held their own while Mack has been out, but I have a feeling that Mack will be active this week against the Lions. The guy who keeps improving is rookie Roquan Smith. Smith lead the team in tackles with 13, 11 of those solo. The Bears’ defense has had to grow without their game changer, but my feeling is the unit is in a good place heading into this stretch of division games. The fact they could be getting a healthier Mack back makes me really feel bad for Matthew Stafford, who was sacked 10 times Sunday versus the Vikings.

The Bears’ offense wasn’t anything special Sunday, but they did enough to hold up their end of the bargain. Mitchell Trubisky’s numbers weren’t eye-popping, but he managed the game well. He completed 12 of 20 passes for 135 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Trubisky’s stat line from Sunday’s game mirrors how he’s played most of this season. One thing that we didn’t see from the QB this week was his running ability. Trubisky had only 6 yards rushing on the afternoon. Trubisky is still having issues with his accuracy and it’s evident in his deep ball throws. Nothing that he can’t fix, though. He will get better with time and with more snaps. The issues I’m touching on won’t overshadow the fact that he’s learning and getting better under Nagy’s care and supervision. What makes Trubisky’s process easier for me is that I came into this season accepting he would have games like Sunday. He’s having a good season, but the search for more consistency out of the young QB continues.

As a former running back, you know I’m going to keep harping on the fact that the Bears need to lean on the running game a little bit more. Jordan Howard had 14 carries for 47 yards and two rushing touchdowns. I’m just old fashioned and know that when the weather starts to get colder here in Chicago and around the country, you have to be able to control the game on the ground. Howard should have no less 20 carries a game. I understand that Nagy’s offense is predominantly run out of the gun, but Howard needs more touches. The Bears had fullback Michael Burton active Sunday. Why not let Number 24 get a few runs out of the I-formation? Just a thought. Howard can put a team on his back and carry them…I’ve seen it before. New Hashtag: #24NeedsMore.

Wouldn’t it be nice to play the Jets and Bills every week? The Bears’ true test starts next Sunday. The question is what team will we see over the next few weeks? One thing’s for sure. The Bears will need a boost in all three phases of football. The Bears’ offense will have to find more balance as they have the Lions this week and a good Vikings defense the following week. The really good offenses in the NFL can hurt you with both the pass and the run. Defensively, the Bears hope to have Mack back in the fold. If so, they will have their game-changer back and a little bit healthier than a few weeks ago in Miami. They have had their issues this season. But if they can hit and tackle like they did on Sunday, along with providing a more consistent pass rush, they’ll be just fine. Like my dad would always tell me, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” That’s the same mindset that Nagy’s group has to focus on: Not only worrying about the big picture, but the little things along the way. For instance, the Bears have to clean up the crazy amount of penalties from Sunday’s game. Disciplined teams win a lot of games. Everyone keeps asking me if this is a playoff squad. I tell them, if they keep on winning games they will be. That’s all Nagy’s team can control. One game at a time. Happy victory Monday! Same time, same place next week. #Beardown