Payton Presser: Bears defense shines once again
Prior to their Week Four match-up with the Vikings, I came across a lot of nervous Bears fans. Count me among them. “Injuries” was the number one thing I heard, followed by “How would the offense perform?” What would happen a week after beating a mediocre Washington squad? Could Mitchell Trubisky and company recreate some of their magic from Monday night? As we found out quickly, the offense would have to produce without their starting QB. The Bears handled business in his absence, beating the Vikings 16-6 Sunday at Soldier Field. Let’s jump right into my takeaways from the contest.
No Trubisky, No Problem
The Bears were hoping their starting QB would be able to build off his Monday night performance. But that was short-lived, as Trubisky suffered a left shoulder injury on the sixth play of Sunday’s game. The keys to the car were handed over to backup Chase Daniel to drive Matt Nagy’s offense. Daniel was efficient, completing 22 of 30 passes for 190 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Losing your starting QB is never a good thing. But Daniel might be the what this offense needs early in the season. He’s a vet and knows Nagy’s system better than Trubisky. The offense on Sunday had the best rhythm I’ve seen so far this season. The most impressive thing about Daniel’s performance was he did it against a competent Minnesota defense. He never showed any signs of nervousness but demonstrated confidence and control as the signal caller.
Is it crazy for me to say the Bears could be better off with Daniel under center for the time being? I’m not saying that it’s time to give up on Trubisky. But now that he will be out for a few weeks with a dislocated left shoulder and a slight labrum tear, maybe this will give the offense a chance to settle in while he’s out. If Daniel can keep the wins coming while he’s out, what do you do with Mitchell when he comes back? I don’t think anyone foresaw a QB controversy before the season started. Anyway, with the defense the Bears have, they just need a guy that can get the ball in the playmakers’ hands and take care of the football. After his outing on Sunday, Daniel showed he could be that guy that might not win you a game, but won’t lose either.
Still Looking for the Running Game
The Bears still have to find a way to effectively run the football. They are averaging 90.2 yards per game, ranked 25th in the NFL. Watching David Montgomery over the first four games, he is having a tough time getting to the second level where all of his attributes come in handy. In this RPO system, a lot of the runs are out of the shotgun. As a running back myself who ran a lot of that in the CFL, sometimes it’s tough to see the play develop. Maybe it’s time to add some other running schemes to see if it helps the line at the point of contact. I would love to see Nagy throw in some wide zone and stretch concepts. One thing is for sure. The Bears aren’t afraid to run the ball with a lead to close out games. The weather is changing though and, besides needing to establish the run game and close out the game, they will have to rely on the run game at some point.
Bears Defense is Darn Good
I’ve played and seen a lot of football in my life and I have to say this year’s Bears defense is beyond dominant. Their cohesiveness and the trust on that side of the ball is so evident when you watch them on the field. Kirk Cousins was terrorized all afternoon. The Bears defense combined for six sacks. But what was most impressive was how they defended the run. The biggest question coming into the game was, how would the Bears slow down Vikings RB Dalvin Cook? They shut him down on the ground holding him to 35 yards on 14 carries. The defense was ready for this match-up and you could tell by the way they were flying around playing physical football. Depth is something that Bears GM Ryan Pace has preached he was trying to build with this team and on defense he has succeeded. With Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith out of the lineup, it opened the door for big afternoons from Nick Kwiatkoski (LB), Nik Willams (DT) and Roy Robertson-Harris (DT). All three took advantage of their opportunity to get more snaps. Kwiatkoski led the defense in tackles with nine, two forced fumbles and a sack. This was the perfect game for Kwiatkoski against the run, who is a downhill player. Lester A. Wiltfong from Windy City Gridiron tweeted a stat that the three men combined for 19 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, 5 QB hits, a fumble recovery, and a forced fumble. Coming off the amazing season the defense had last year, I thought the Bears defense would be good, but maybe take a little dip in production. Boy, was I wrong. Through the first four games, they are allowing an average 11.3 points per game. They are playing great. But the scary part is, I believe they can get even better.
As the Bears head into Week Five, I have some concerns. One of the biggest is Nagy’s inability to make halftime adjustment with his offense. The Bears have shown in the early season that touchdowns in the second half are hard to come by. The other question mark is how will the Raiders play Chase Daniel after watching the game film on him. Last season, Chase was successful in his first start for Trubisky, then he struggled in the Giants game when New York had time to game plan for him. Can he be just as effective and take care of the football to give the Bears their fourth win in a row? I give Nagy credit for his part in a big team win on Sunday. With all of the injuries they had coming into the game, it would have been easy to mail it in. But he had his team ready for the challenge. As the season keeps rolling along, we still haven’t seen the offense put together a complete game. As they keep searching for their groove, the Bears defense is championship-ready. With just a little constancy on offense, there is no telling how far this team can go this season. #Beardown