If you would have told me before I left Chicago that the Bears would return from across the pond with their second loss of the season, I would have told you, “you’re crazy.” The Bears were coming off of a big win over Minnesota, so my natural reaction was Matt Nagy’s team would be amped up and ready to go in their UK showdown with the Raiders. I was sadly mistaken. Instead, the Bears are heading into the bye week with a 3-2 record and in need of some rest. They let one slip away over in the UK, falling 24-21 to the Raiders. Let’s jump right into my takeaways from the match.
The Chase Daniel Report
After watching Chase Daniel take over for Trubisky last week, I returned to earth after his performance on Sunday. He couldn’t really get much going early on in the first half, but came out of halftime to engineer the Bears offense to three touchdowns in the third quarter. Daniel was 22 of 30 passing for 231 yards, two TD’s and two interceptions. The interceptions were the bookends of his performance Sunday. The second interception to Anthony Miller was one he wishes he could have had back. Miller had to shorten his corner route after seeing the safety over the top. Chase had pressure coming from the right side of the line, which made him throw the ball off his back foot. It was hard watching Javon Wims open on the curl route, something Daniel should have seen. Daniel had his moments, throwing a few dimes, showing poise and command of the Bears offense at times. But he also illustrated bad decision making, which has plagued the Bears QB position early this season. With number 4 in the offense the last two weeks, I’ve seen more down-the-field passes than I did see with Trubisky under center. The key is to find consistency at the position, something this team has been searching for throughout the first five weeks of the season.
Bears Defense Couldn’t Hold Up
The Bears defense has been the one constant this season. On Sunday, that wasn’t the case. The often-hyped “best defense” in the league got punched in the mouth early in the game. The Raiders did exactly what I thought they would do: Run the ball at Khalil Mack and the edges of the Bears defense and not put too much on Derek Carr’s plate. Carr was operating mostly with short routes and handing the ball off. Teams have not been able to run on Chuck Pagano’s defense and no team has had a 100-yard rusher. Oakland RB Josh Jacobs successfully ran on the Bears defense, carrying the ball 26 times for 123 yards and two TD’s. The Bears defense looked like it just got off the plane in London that morning. They had a bunch of missed tackles, missed assignments, and looked like my choice of water for the weekend: flat! Of course, the defensive performance had led some to ask if there is more to come of this. But the answer is: heck no! The Bears defense will fix things because of their pride and the leadership. LB Danny Trevathan said after the game they are a bend-don’t-break unit. That’s true, but give them some credit. They’ve been holding up the offense all year. The offense needs to come out and win a game and give the defense a break.
Lack of the Run Game
I feel like a broken record. Establish the run game. Establish the run game. Week in and week out, we all know that’s what needs to happen. So far, none of us have witnessed that and instead keep coming back to the same message. Establish the run game! There are three reasons why we haven’t seen any change in Nagy’s philosophy. First, Nagy doesn’t really like to run the ball. Second, the Bears’ offensive running scheme needs to change. Finally, the offensive line isn’t playing well as a unit in the run game. Nagy has said over and over that they have to get better in the run game. But we have yet to see him fully commit to the run game. I’m still waiting for David Montgomery to have his breakout game. He deserves it. He finished the game with just 11 carries for 25 yards and a one-yard TD run. The inability to get him to the second level of the defense is something that I can’t get over. If you have something special, use it. The young man has all the talent in the world. We just haven’t been able to see it on full display yet. His time is coming, I hope. During the bye week, it’s going to critical that Nagy and his offensive staff figure out the changes that need to be made.
Bears Fans in the UK
As I sat in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I was taken aback by how many Bears fans were on hand. Of the 60,463 fans at game, seventy-five percent of them were Bears fans. It was supposed to be a home game for the Raiders, but that was tossed out the window with Bears Nation taking over the stadium in their orange and blue. Over the four days I was in London, I had the pleasure to meet Bears fans from all over the world – Italy, Sweden and Germany, just to name a few. They all said the same thing as we talked about how they fell in love with the Bears. Their love stemmed from the impact the ’85 Bears had during their Super Bowl run. I lost track of how many Payton 34 jerseys I saw – well over 200. Every person I saw wearing the 34, I tried to walk up to them and thank them for wearing it. I’m reminded often how much of an impact my Dad had in Chicago. But seeing and meeting the football fans from around the world in London really put in perspective the impact my Dad had on the game of football outside of Chicago. I have to say, Bears Nation is stronger than I ever thought and I would like to say thank you to every person that came up to me while I was in London. You truly made me feel like Bears royalty.
The dream isn’t over Bears fans. I know a lot of us came into the season with our minds set on one game at a time. The thing that I’ve seen throughout my playing career was sometimes you grow from a deflating loss. When you have a close group in a locker room, the guys band together when times get tough. That’s what I see happening with Nagy’s group. There are still a few things Nagy and Pagano will have to fix on the drawing board, but they can make those adjustments and more importantly have the talent to execute those changes. The running game is going to be critical for the Bears offense to get going as they move forward. For all the people that thought maybe the Bears should have left for London earlier, they didn’t lose because of that. They were out-coached and came out flat. That happens from time to time in any sport. This loss will not deflate this team, it will help them grow from the bad taste that was left in their mouth. There are some teams that wish they were 3-2 at the moment. While the Bears are not perfect, they have the capability to get better and better as the season goes on. My biggest concern is if the Bears can get constant QB play from whomever is under center. If they can receive that, the sky is the limit for how far this Bears team can go this season. I think we all need a week off from football, Bears fans. I will enjoy mine. I hope you enjoy yours. We will be back on the grind next week as we have the Saints coming to town. Beardown!