Kicking off the regular season with a victory would have been the ideal welcome for the start of Matt Nagy era in Chicago. Off the heels of an uber-aggressive offseason addressing virtually every weakness combined with a hot streak of drafts and a certain highway robbery for generational defensive talent, it seemed as if the first win against the detested Green Bay Packers since 2015 could’ve and should’ve been an earned cakewalk. After all, this years’ Packers squad appears pretty zapped of elite talent outside of the quarterback position and the Bears theoretically outdo them on paper.
But alas, the bad man quarterback Aaron Rodgers worked his magic once again and sunk a curiously sudden hapless Bears team. They enjoyed an explosive first half seeing total defensive domination and spark plug offense but eventually coughing away a twenty point lead, this comeback easily ranks as among the finest performances we have ever seen from Rodgers. Yet, walking away from this disappoint, the Bears still showed Chicago it hasn’t seen from their football team in years.
The second half may have been a lifeless joke, but the first half saw front-page highlights on both sides of the ball. The obviously breathtaking Khalil Mack, in merely the first half, recorded the first stat stuffing sack-interception-forced fumble-fumble recovery-touchdown game since he accomplished the same feat in 2016. Freshly signed receiver Allen Robinson mossed rookie corner Jaire Alexander for his first reception as a Bears while Trubisky made some really clean passes into tight spaces. Heck, first rounder Roquan Smith dragged down DeShone Kizer for his career sack on the very first play of his career.
It felt like a triumphant return to form for the founding franchise of the NFL. While candidly brief, the inevitable rebuilding period came off as far more brutal after so many consecutive seasons of serious contention. Savoring the legendary mid-2000s Bears defense but with disappointingly little to show for it and subsequently a cataclysmic tumble into the abyss riddled with Jay Cutler bumbles and failed offensive experiments rained hard on the city’s pride for the Bears.
However, come the turn of halftime, the astonishing brouhaha screeched to a half and the more conventional Bears emerged right along Rodgers jogging out from the locker room. But even then, all rawness needs to cook a tad before it can truly achieve full potential and this game, while a stinging dud, should be the learning experience required for a young team to take a step forward. Really, the entire franchise has something to learn from this contest and the culmination of these lessons should be the springboard to a 9-7 or a 10-6 level season.
Besides, the Bears clearly displayed incredible talent, albeit in short spurts, and almost entirely choked out a decent Packers team on both sides of the ball. Letting both Smith and Mack off the chain for an entire game will only result in increasing amounts of chaos for opposing offenses and Nagy’s playbook did have the boundless creativity fans had hoped for. Mistakes, not lopsided talent, doomed this contest for the Bears and there has to be solace in that. These mistakes can be fixed, poor coaching or a weak roster cannot.
First off, it may have been his head coaching debut, but Nagy’s miscalls down the stretch crippled the Bears in closing the Packers out. A third-and-one resulting in an incompletion should never happen, especially with a blazing Jordan Howard in the backfield. Ditching Trey Burton in a characteristically tight end heavy offense ripped the legs out from under the red zone offense. Somewhat foreseen poor clock management a la Andy Reid came out in the game-winning drive.
While not awful, sophomore Mitchell Trubisky still made some ill-sighted reads, most notably a complete miss of a wide open Burton in the red zone, a score that would’ve put the Packers on ice. The greenness still bled through and he still struggles in straight pocket passing. He seemed way too comfortable rolling out and eliminating a half of the field in the process, something that really limited his options in the home stretch. Still picking up on field vision and proper decision making, his inexperience continuously holds the Bears offense back.
Defensively, the Kyle Fuller interception drop evidently opened the door for the Packers, something they did handily. But honestly other than that, the defense played spectacularly until the pass rush began to collapse in on itself. Allowing Rodgers time in the pocket will be a death sentence in any situation and the secondary forgivably couldn’t keep up. Though, the banishment of both Smith and Mack to the bench due to predetermined snap counts will more than likely erase this problem. Against most quarterbacks, the pass rush will crush opposing offenses, if they play at a comparable level.
But overall, it felt like the Bears simply don’t have the necessary killer instinct to close teams out. Losing to a solid Packers team may be somewhat forgivable but blowing a twenty point lead in the process indicates either complacency or bewilderment but either way, this game serves as a wake-up call to the program. Winning has to be a mindset, an attitude, and after so many years in the basement, the Bears still have to pick up on that. And all that comes with a combination of humbling losses and gratifying wins. Developing the killer instinct will be a process and looking back, hopefully, this learning experience will be attributed to the finest season in years from the Bears.
Three years ago, fan favorite Matt Forte hit the end of the line and the now jobless Lamarr Houston anchored the pass rush. Jay Cutler threw for eleven interceptions while the Bears placed twenty-third in the league in offense and twentieth in points against, going 1-5 in divisional play. The dark rebuild hadn’t even hit it’s peak yet and no mans’ land stretched on for until the Cutler era could mercifully end. But only two stellar drafts later and one brilliant offseason, the Bears flashed hope. Though this season may not bear the limitless fruit this team may have, watching the Bears smash the Packers faces in for a half will be fine for now, at least. With some retooling and reflecting, we may be in for an incredible ride this season.
In the Bears we trust.