Payton Presser: Bears defense shines once again under the bright lights
Big games have become a common thing for this Bears team this season. Sunday night at Soldier Field was no exception. The Rams came to the Chicago with the best record in the NFL. When you want to know if a team is for real, you measure them against the best. Sunday, the Bears faced their biggest test of the season thus far. Most wanted to know how the Bears would handle the Rams’ high-powered offense and vaunted defense under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football. The Bears did what they’ve done all season long, came out and found a way to win. It wasn’t a high scoring game, but it was the type of game you have to win in the post season. Matt Nagy’s squad handed the Rams their 2nd loss of the season with a 15-6 victory. With no further ado, let’s jump into some of my takeaways from Sunday’s game.
I know every week we start out with the Mitchell Report but this week, were going to switch it up a little. We start with the Bears defense this week. Each week I feel like I rant and rave over the Bears defense, but I have no shame in doing so again this week. Vic Fangio had his biggest test of the season on his hands and his unit delivered. They held one of the league’s most prolific offenses to just 98 yards in the first half and 214 yards total. Jared Goff threw 4 interceptions and was sacked 3 times Sunday night. The amazing part of all of this is the Rams didn’t even score a touchdown. The reigning Offensive Player of the Year, Todd Gurley, had a tough time getting anything going versus the Bears front 7. He finished the game with 11 attempts for 28 yards. That’s saying something when he was averaging 137 yards from scrimmage coming into the game. Not only did they make Gurley a non-factor, they disrupted Goff all night long. Goff never seemed to be comfortable with all the moving parts of the Bears defense. Eddie Goldman’s safety in the 3rd quarter changed the momentum of the game. Goldman got a lot of praise from his defensive brothers. I bet Goff had nightmares dreaming about Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. Kyle Fuller recorded his 7th interception and Eddie Jackson keeps growing as a safety and as a leader game by game. This Bears defense is for real. They are special. But the scary part is, they can still get better.
The Bears missed having Trubisky in the lineup the last two weeks, but his time watching from the sideline was necessary. The Bears can’t afford not to have him on the field. After a week of stacking practices, Trubisky was ready to go Sunday night. Before the game, I thought Trubisky would struggle a little bit in this outing. I’ve come to learn one thing about Trubisky this season. He continues to grow each snap he takes. He’s still learning, and the time off messed with his progression, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. Trubisky ended his day going 16-of-30 for 110 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. It’s not the return that Bears fans had hoped for, but it’s what you got, and it got you a W. There is still plenty of room for him to grow, and as fans, we want to speed up the process to where we think players should be. But I’m here to keep you guys in check. I’ll say this: The Bears defense is so good that Mitchell needs to just take care of the football and they have a chance in any game they play.
One thing I was happy to see was the Bears were able to run the football Sunday night. The Bears have struggled to not only run, but to sustain a balance within Nagy’s offense. The person who it’s hurt the most has been Jordan Howard. Howard is the same guy that has rushed for over 1,000 yards the past two seasons. But his role has changed with so many new playmakers on offense. Add that to Nagy’s philosophy and that means the run is the second or third option in this offense. Howard had 19 carries on the night for 101 yards. Sunday night marks his 1st 100-yard game of the season. With the weather getting cold, Howard is just what you need to ground and pound a game to a victory.
One thing that has been refreshing has been Nagy’s unique and unexpected play calling. Nagy has a knack for knowing his personnel and the ability to set his guys up for success on the field. So far this season, we’ve seen the T-formation, Akiem Hicks bring out his inner Fridge on the goal line, and Tarik Cohen’s touchdown pass in a do or die moment against the Giants. The list goes on and on. Sunday we saw it again with Trubisky finding OT Bradley Sowell for a 2-yard touchdown pass to give the Bears a 15-6 lead in the third quarter. Nagy would also have a play up his sleeve before halftime. The only thing you can predict with Nagy is that his play calling is unpredictable. Nagy is just scratching the surface with his play calling. I believe the best is yet to come.
The Bears showed me what they’ve shown me all season long on Sunday. This team can play with any team in the NFL. They also shown us that the bright lights of nationally televised games do not rattle them. Coming into Sunday’s game, the pressure was all on the Rams. In last week’s Presser, I said that the loss to the Giants would work in the Bears’ favor. It wasn’t pretty by any account, but a win is a win and you will take it when it’s against one of the best teams in the NFL. Sunday was a statement game for all the haters that said they haven’t played any teams with substance. Now that’s out of the way. We can focus on what’s important and that’s beating Green Bay next weekend. This Bears team is changing the hierarchy, not just in the NFC North, but in the NFL. They have put people on notice pulling off a prime-time performance. They wanted to flex the game and Nagy’s squad flexed up and delivered a solid win. I look forward to what’s next and payback seems like it’s right around the corner. Have a great week everyone and I will see you guys back here next week. #Bearsdown