As a kid, I understood the importance of when the Bears played the Packers. I witnessed my dad take his preparation to an even higher level with laser focus on the game plan. Words weren’t necessary; his eyes spoke volumes as to what the game and the rivalry meant to him. Now that I’m 34 years old and cover this team, I really get it now. Last night was a big win, not just for this franchise, but it was also big for John Fox and the new regime. Thinking back to week 1 of this season, the Bears put up a good fight and almost upset the Packers at Solider Field. Tracy Porter said something after the game that jumped out to me, “the team felt like they were the homecoming team on the night Green Bay would retire Brett Farve’s jersey”. The Bears blocked out all of the outside noise and found a way to get the win where the Bears and Jay Cutler era have struggled repeatedly. I have slowed down the playoff thoughts and now just looking at the Bears as a team that is building a foundation for the future. Time now to jump into my 5 takeaways from the game.
1. Jay Cuter got a signature win. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been praising the play of Cutler and rightfully so. Cutler has been the reason why this Bears team has won this season. Coming into the season I know he would have to will this team to win and he has shown me that he has what it takes to get it done. His ability to not only throw the ball, but his movement inside and outside the pocket to keep plays alive is evident. After Eddie Lacy fumble in the second quarter, Cutler converted three 3rd downs on the drive and capped it with a huge TD to Zach Miller. Cutler would finish the game going 19-for-31 for 200 yards and a touchdown. Watching the evolution of the Jay Cutler that came to Chicago a few years ago is exciting.
2. The Bears defense came up big. The Bears knew coming into this game it wouldn’t be easy to stop the great Aaron Rodgers. The Packers were coming off of a big win against the Vikings last week and seemed to have found their mojo. Vic Fangio called a great game and put his guys in situations to be successful. Two guys that jumped out to me last night, and have the past few weeks, were Willie Young and Tracy Porter. Both guys have stepped up their games and it has been beneficial for this Bears defense. Young would record a sack on the night along with a couple tackles. From rumors over the last few weeks that Young wanted to be traded, to now finding a place on the defense is phenomenal. Tracy Porter has been my favorite player on this Bears roster. Every week he has been getting closer to an interception and Thursday night he turned it into a reality. I know I singled those two guys out, but over the last few weeks I’ve seen improvement and confidence with this Bears defense and I like it.
3. Adam Gase won’t forget the run. The Bears didn’t have the big numbers on the ground versus the Packers, but one thing he did do was stick with it. Watching the Bears in the Trestman era, I was so used to watching the Bears run the ball, but then get pass happy and abandon the run. That’s not the case with how Gase calls games and it’s great to see. Jeremy Langford and Matt Forte combined for 92 yards on the ground on 27 carries. Those numbers show the balance of this offense. The Bears won the time of possession battle and kept Aaron Rodgers off the field which was a key component in the win on Thursday night. In the day and age where the NFL has become all about the pass, the Bears and Gase understand that you can’t win without controlling the game on the ground.
4. Penalties keep hurting this team. After having zero penalties last week against the Broncos, the bears committed too many in Green Bay. They ended the game with 12 penalties for 95 yards. That has to be fixed. If it’s not, moving forward it could cost them games. The Bears were hit with 5 penalities in the 1st quarter alone and after coming out after halftime they would be hit with 3 on the opening drive, ending that drive. My coaches always said that a team that keeps getting hit with so many penalties is an undisciplined team. I understand that this team is building this year, but I hope they can fix the problem before it sets into the foundation.
5. The Alshon effect. Coming into Thursday’s game the question was, “how healthy is Alshon Jeffery”? I’m not sure how healthy he was, but he sure was effective. The Bears are a different team when he is not in the game. You could see the pain he was playing through after a few plays when the camera would pan toward his face. He did what any number one wideout would do and make plays to help his team get the win. Jeffrey would finish with 7 catches for 90 yards and the Bears needed all of those on Thursday night. When you need a big time play, he makes it for his ball club and when you need a win, you need him in the lineup.
The Bears have had their ups and downs this season so far, but they shown that when they are prepared for a game they can dig deep and find a way to win. That’s a good treat to have as you are rebuilding a team. John Fox said that this game didn’t mean much to the new regime but deep down inside I know it did. You remember when Lovie Smith came to Chicago; the 1st thing he said he wanted to do was beat Green Bay. This was a big time win, over not only a big rival, but also one of the best teams in the NFC. When you can win a game of this magnitude it can bring a sense of confidence to a team that is still trying to find their identity. Jay Cutler gets his 1st win with the Bears against the Packers and now the monkey is off his back. The Bears main focus should be how they can build on this game and finish the rest of the season strong, not on the playoffs. Everything else will take care of itself. I can’t lie; beating the Packers brings a smile to my face. I asked my dad back in the day after he retired what it left like beating the Packers. He couldn’t put into word, but I could tell by the glare in his eyes. #BearDown
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