It was a snowy day at Soldier Field. That sounds like the start to a classic Christmas fairy tale. But Sunday was no jolly day. Just the 2-9 Bears versus the 1-10 49ers. To most football fans, watching these two teams battle it out is more like a nightmare. I have to be honest, I was one of the few that was looking forward to watching how this game would play out. These two organizations are fighting for not just draft position, but to bring respect back to two of the NFL’s storied franchises. I was watching old film from back in the 80’s when the Bears and 49ers played games against each other and it meant something. This game was far from that, but it put in perspective how much needs to change, what they can build on and what needs to go. The game wasn’t pretty from the start. But the Bears found a way put together a win that was much needed for a locker room that has been giving their all without the results we’ve been looking for. Let’s jump into some of my takeaways from the 26 to 6 victory over the 49ers Sunday.
Barkley Showing Progress
With the weather conditions at Soldier Field, the Bears had trouble getting anything going on offense. The Bears would not get their first completion of the game until 1 minute left in the first half. They ended the half with a solid 8 play 81-yard drive orchestrated by Matt Barkley and capped off by a Jordan Howard TD. The one thing that was different about this offense was after ending the 1st half on a high note, they came right back in the 2nd half and didn’t let off the gas. They came out and put together a 10 play, 75-yard drive with another Howard rushing touchdown to end it. He brought the Bears down the field their next time up for another Howard score on a 4 play 59-yard drive. Listen, I’m not saying that Barkley is the answer. But I can say he has a chance to be a serviceable bridge QB or back up in this league. Things happen for a reason, right? Well, we are getting a chance to see what we have at the position because of an injury. There is not much to look forward to with the season coming to an end. But watching Barkley’s development process is something you and I will have our eye on for the rest of the season.
Howard Shines Through the Snow
Coming into this week’s game, Jordan Howard was playing with a some added fight. Howard was wearing custom cleats Sunday to honor his late father, Reginald “Doc” Howard, who passed away when he was 12 years old from pulmonary fibrosis. I had the pleasure of sitting down to interview Howard this past Thursday. I asked him how many touchdowns he would have in the new cleats. He responded, “I hope a lot.” The rookie came out and played some inspiring football Sunday. The day was set up for him to get the ball and get it a lot. He finished the day with 117 yards and 3 TDs. This was a different type of game for Howard because he had to put the Bears offense on his back and grind it out. Howard gives this Bears offense the ability to be in manageable 2nd and 3rd downs and get the match ups they like on the outside because defenses are so worried about his run game.
Young Defensive Studs
I have told you guys over and over about how I like some of the pieces of the Bears defense. There are two guys that stand out the most in my opinion. First has to be the progress of Leonard Floyd. After spending two weeks in the concussion protocol, the rookie was back to full speed. The 49ers Trent Brown had a tough day with the rookie. Floyd finished his day with 2 sacks, a tackle for loss and a QB hit. His instincts keep getting better and better with each game that he plays. His understanding of his assignments lets him play freely without overthinking plays. He is a star in the making and, let me tell you, I’m loving the process. The second stud is DT Eddie Goldman. Goldman is one of those defensive anchors that makes it so tough to run the football against. He makes running backs have to bounce the football outside where they are greeted by linebackers. His play sometimes goes unnoticed, but he is top of mind in my book. The biggest thing for Eddie is if can he stay healthy because, if so, he has a bright future ahead of him.
I know most people are upset that the Bears didn’t try harder to get the better draft pick. But for true Bears fans, it’s hard to think like that. I’ve seen this team struggle through injuries, suspensions and rumors in the media this season. Being at Halas Hall throughout the week, the vibe hasn’t changed in the locker room. This team wants to win and they are going to fight till the end. That says something about the locker room and the guys in it. I’ve been on both sides of the fence when it comes to winning and losing locker rooms. The game is about wins and losses, but you can’t put a price tag on heart and determination. I would be lying if I told you this season hasn’t been frustrating as a fan, but my vision for this team might be different than yours. This team needs a few more drafts and free agencies before we can really dig this regime. Just for the record, John Fox isn’t going anywhere. So all you Fox haters, relax. It’s unfair to judge him on this season with all of the injuries that have occurred. The best thing right now is to have faith in the process and let’s ride this thing out. I have confidence in Ryan Pace. The Howard, Floyd, Whitehair and Goldman picks give me hope. We are sitting in bad football purgatory right now. But trust me, things are getting better. Trust the process! #Beardown
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