Payton Presser: The Bears are Kings of the North
The meaning of the Bears-Packers rivalry is something I could try to put into words, but it wouldn’t have the same feeling as if I told you in person. My dad was locked in and focused just a little bit more during Packer week. From the day he stepped on the field wearing a Bears uniform, he understood what the rivalry meant, not just to the organization but to the people of Chicago. Sunday was a special day for me. Since joining WGN-TV and Radio, I’ve never covered a Bears division title. Well, I got that chance Sunday at Soldier Field. The Bears beat the team from Wisconsin 24-17 to claim the NFC North title. My son Jaden is 6 years old and since he’s been born he’s seen our favorite team struggle to get wins and be the brunt of jokes. Not anymore. My son will get a chance to see Matt Nagy and the boys get their shot at a playoff run. You could call Sunday’s game a changing of the guard in the NFC North. Nagy’s team came into the match-up with a lot on the table and the chance for payback after their week 1 match up in Green Bay. Let’s jump into my takeaways from the game.
This week, let’s start out with number 10. Mitchell Trubisky needed a strong bounce-back game after his outing last week against the Rams. The two weeks on the sideline dealing with that shoulder injury slowed down his progress. Now his bounce-back game was against a team that has destroyed the Bears for the better part of a decade. Trubiksy knew what was in front of him and he delivered. Everything he said he was going to fix from last week showed in his play. He acknowledged early the Packers were not going let them go deep, so Trubisky had to take the underneath stuff while taking advantage of opportunities in the red zone. The Bears were 3-4 in the red zone. The biggest reason why I’m proud of him is he took care of the football. Like I said last week, I can’t tell you how good he’s going to be in the future, but I like his temperament for right now. He just needs to take care of the football and make plays. His defense has his back and they are so darn good, it’s ridiculous. Trubisky took what the Packers defense gave him and was smart with the football. What more can you ask for, right?
The Bears offensive line needs some love today for only giving up one sack on the outing while helping Jordan Howard get the Bears on the board in the first. The Bears opened up the game running the football and, let me tell you, I was smiling from ear to ear. Howard would end his day rushing 19 times for 60 yards. He set the tone of the game. Howard also lived up to the comments he made back at last season’s Super Bowl when he said they were going to win the NFC North. Watching him RT his own account after the game Sunday had my laughing out loud. His counterpart Tarik Cohen keeps showing how amazing he is every week. Knowing the history of HBCU’s and the impact players they have had on the NFL, it’s awesome seeing him shine. Cohen had 5 carries for 21 yards and 5 catches for 31 yards on six targets. It’s his ability to make a play when the Bears offense needs one. Sunday, his speed and shiftiness were on full display. Cohen’s TD catch is the type of play that I want Trubisky to take advantage of more. On that play Trubisky found Cohen who was checking down, took the pass 12 yards before leaping into the end zone for the score. His ability to separate from defenders in space is a talent you just can’t teach. That fact that the last regime didn’t know how to use him just baffles me.
The story was once again about the Bears’ defense that keeps showing why they give this Bears team a shot of being in ATL representing the NFC. I’m not afraid to say it. You know why? It’s because I’ve watched them over and over: Live in action, NFL Game Pass, the coaches’ film, you name it. I’ve watched them grow since that last time they played the team from Wisconsin. They know they’re good. People are probably telling them how good they are, but they feel they can take it to another level. It’s at this time of the Presser that I would like to thank Jon Gruden once again for the early Christmas gift. Just like in week 1, Khalil Mack had another statement game on Sunday. He finished with 2.5 sacks bringing his season total to 12.5. He even found a way to use his back to get a half of a sack. The man is unreal. One thing we’ve seen over the last few weeks is the uptick in production from Leonard Floyd. He’s playing with so much more confidence and swag. He had two sacks on the afternoon. Roquan Smith once again showed force at the LB position. Smith racked up 10 tackles and keeps getting better and better every time he plays. Eddie Jackson found his hands on another interception as he ended Aaron Rodgers’ NFL record streak of 402 passes without an interception. All good things have to come to an end and I’m happy it did against the Bears. The only bad thing was Jackson suffered a non-contact injury on the INT return. With two weeks to go, the best thing to do is rest him. He’s one of their best players so I see Nagy giving him the two games. He did it for Trubisky, Mack and Robinson. What it all comes down to it, this defense is for real. Now we will see if, with Callahan and possibly Jackson out, will lack of depth be an issue.
It’s been a while since we’ve sat atop the division. After 5 wins last season, I was hoping for 7 or 8 wins this season. I thought that winning the NFC North would be good enough for me as a Bears fan. Now, my sights are set on, “Why not us?” Why can’t we make a run in the playoffs? For everyone that is looking long term, please change your glasses and focus on right now. The timeline I was working off of has changed as there are two games left in the regular season and the post-season right around the corner. We can worry about next year in the offseason. Matt Nagy has really changed the vibe and the culture with the organization. He has found a way to set his rules with his team but also give them their space to be them. Coaches like that get the best out of their guys. The biggest thank you should go to Ryan Pace for putting this all together. Pace hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been pretty darn good. That would also be true to say about this year’s Bears squad. They’re darn good and there is still a lot of football to play. I’m just glad I get a chance to keep watching them write their story. Same time next week, Bears fans. #BearDown