Bears keep making mistakes, but this time they overcome them in wild and crazy win

Bears keep making mistakes, but this time they overcome them in wild and crazy win

Nearly everything about the Bears’ first win of the season was just plain crazy.

Marcus Cooper Leon Lett’d his way onto every highlight show for the rest of time, stopping short of the goal line on his return of a blocked field goal. The Bears turned the ball over not once but twice in their own red zone in the second half, erasing their double-digit halftime lead. Tarik Cohen rattled off an insane 73-yard rush that you could only recreate on a Playstation, only that was called back, apparently he stepped out of bounds. Jordan Howard came to the rescue with a walk-off touchdown rush that had Soldier Field hopping.

And that’s all without even mentioning the overarching topic of the day in the NFL: The President of the United States calling peaceful-protesting players “sons of bitches” who deserve to be fired.

All that madness — on the field and off of it — combined into a crazy concoction that ended with the Bears winning one of the more ridiculous games you’ll ever see.

And did I mention that the Bears won? That’s right, the same team that dropped to a sky-is-falling 0-2 a week ago with a turnover festival in that blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came back to Chicago and played well enough to beat the perennially contending Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It was great, especially in the fashion that it happened,” Bears defensive back Prince Amukamara said after the game. “Just what we did before the game and during the game. Coop’s touchdown not being a touchdown. Tarik’s touchdown not being a touchdown. And then Jordan’s touchdown actually being a touchdown. All that was just great. It just kept building the momentum, like a story or a movie — how’s it going to end? And we’re glad that it ended the way that it did. I don’t want to think about going 0-3, but it would’ve been ugly here in Chicago, I know that.

“I’d put it top two right after the Super Bowl win my rookie year.”

Oh really? Amukamara is referring, there, to Super Bowl XLVI, in which the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots with a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute. That’s pretty lofty company.

The Bears didn’t play championship-quality football Sunday, and it’s not apparent that they’ll come close to doing so at any point this season. But give them credit for overcoming plenty, much of it their own doing, and winning a game few outside Halas Hall expected them to win.

Cooper’s bone-headed play stands out if only because it was absolutely incomprehensible. Special-teams ace Sherrick McManis blocked a Steelers field goal in the waning seconds of the first half. Cooper picked the ball up and sprinted the length of the field toward the end zone, only to inexplicably stop inside the 10-yard line, allowing the ball to get swatted out of his hands. No touchdown. A Steelers penalty prolonged the half one more play — the Steelers had to come back out of the locker room — but Charles Leno committed a false-start penalty. No touchdown. The Bears settled for a field goal on an unbelievable sequence that looked almost sure to come back to bite them.

When Howard’s third-quarter fumble turned into a Steelers touchdown and a Mike Glennon interception turned into a Steelers field goal, the Bears’ 10-point halftime lead was gone. Surely this would drench their parade, right? But the defense kept doing its thing. A Steelers offense that is high-powered at times thanks to its Big Three of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown was well subdued by the Bears defense. Bell rushed for just 61 yards.

The Bears tried driving for a game-winning score in the fourth quarter, stringing together a nightmare sequence in which Cohen fumbled (recovered by the Bears), Glennon nearly threw a pick (dropped by the defensive back Mike Mitchell) and a snap went sailing by Glennon’s legs (he picked it up and threw it away). But disaster was again averted as the defense stepped up one more time, with Willie Young sacking Roethlisberger on the final play of regulation to melt the game into overtime.

The Bears made a lot of mistakes. But they won.

“It’s tremendous for us to be able to overcome those things because we were definitely shooting ourselves in the foot,” Cohen said. “As you saw last week, we shot ourselves in the foot, and it didn’t end too well for us. To battle and overcome those mistakes, it’s a great thing.”

“It was seriously a great win,” Glennon said. “Just finding a way to win against a really good football team is the goal every week. We found a way, it was kind of unique. We had turnovers, the blocked kick, overtime with Tarik’s run being called back, it was a whirlwind of emotions but I thought we handled it really well. At the end of the day, all that matters is that we won.”

While Glennon didn’t win over many more fans Sunday — he threw for just 101 yards and completed one pass to a wide receiver the entire game — he sure is right about that.

While Week 2’s trip to Tampa was a disaster in all phases with some high-profile mistakes from the highest-profile position on the field, you could certainly argue that the mistakes Sunday were as bad and as frequent.

But the difference between last week and this week was the Bears playing well enough elsewhere to make up for those mistakes — this time in the face of some competition annually regarded as some of the best the NFL has to offer.

Glennon wasn’t great. Cooper screwed up bad. Howard fumbled. The refs called back Cohen’s touchdown run. And the president put every player in the NFL in a position they didn’t want to be in. But the Bears kept going. And this time they made the plays that got them a win.

“They’ve given us everything they had in all three games they’ve played,” John Fox said. “We just made some errors in the other ones that we weren’t able to overcome. We’ve had opportunities, but it was nice to get the win today.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?

Two reasons why the Bears could finally start stacking wins

Two reasons why the Bears could finally start stacking wins

The Bears winning a road game against a perennial playoff contender, one with a winning record coming in – that’s great.

Winning in Baltimore with a rookie quarterback in only his second NFL appearance – that’s terrific.

Generating more takeaways than giveaways and netting points from them – that’s just outstanding.

And now what?

Because too often under John Fox the Bears have posted a victory and failed to have it mean much of anything because of what followed a week later – a largely self-inflicted loss. The Bears have not posted consecutive wins since midway through the 2015 season, and even then proceeded to unravel on by squandering opportunities sitting squarely within their grasp.

Why should this time be any different? Because if it’s not, and the Bears again fail to stack even one win on top of another, then a dominating performance against the Baltimore Ravens (leaving out special teams, which surrendered in two plays more points than the defense did in 14 entire Baltimore possessions) becomes another meaningless afternoon in the overall for a team determined to reinvent itself.

Coaches typically divide seasons mentally into quarters, and clearly in Fox’s mind, Sunday was part of a different quarter from the 1-3 first quarter. “Really it takes almost four games, it’s almost like the preseason anymore, where you kind of get it figured out,” Fox said. “So just developing that confidence, usually good things have to happen to gain that confidence. And we did some good things.”

But the Bears have done “some good things” in games past and it becomes much ado about nothing, sound and fury signifying less than nothing. So again: Why should this time be any different?

Two reasons, actually. Neither absolute, but neither very complicated, either.

Reason No. 1: Trubisky

Without making too much out of one individual player, the chief reason arguably lies in the person of Mitchell Trubisky, a quarterback who already has palpably changed the psyche of a previously languishing team.

“The team didn’t make nearly as many mental errors this week because of his patience,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright, who supported Trubisky with a leaping catch of 18 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.

Unlike Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Brian Hoyer and 2016 Jay Cutler, each of whom won one game and one game only over the past 22, Trubisky delivered the ball security of Hoyer with added impact that none of his predecessors did manage, or arguably even could have managed.

Put simply, the Bears do in fact have a quarterback who even at this point appears able not only to make plays as drawn up, but also to create something out of nothing or at least avert catastrophe.

“Mitch made some great plays,” Fox said. “I mean, if you look at the snap over his head in the end zone, there’s probably only five or six or seven quarterbacks in this league that could get out of that. I go back to the touchdown pass to Dion [Sims, tight end]. He flushed [from the pocket], we adjusted and he dropped a dime in the end zone for a touchdown. And the play obviously at the end where more than likely if we don’t get that, we’re probably punting, the play he made to Kendall. I think Mitch played outstanding… .

“Those are really good decisions. It beats six interceptions, for sure. There’s a 3rd-and-3 play in the red area, low red, sprint out to our left. It wasn’t all perfect but he did the next best thing and that’s throw it away. So those are really, really good decisions that I think sometimes the casual or un-casual fan does not see.”

The noteworthy element in Trubisky’s game was the impact achieved by a Bears quarterback who completed all of eight passes. The reality is that Trubisky doesn’t need to attempt more than 20 passes a game (including the four sacks his protection allowed, which absolutely needs to be fixed).

For perspective purposes: Ben Roethlisberger in his first two seasons averaged 17.4 and 15.9 passes per game. The Pittsburgh Steelers reached the AFC Championship game and won the Super Bowl in those two seasons, running an offense that was just short of 60 percent runs.

Reason No. 2: Mistake reduction

A mistaken notion as to how improvement happens is the belief that it comes from just getting better and better, skill sets rising to the loftiest heights.

Not necessarily. Anyone who has had the good fortune of working their golf handicap down knows that the stroke reductions come less from suddenly adding 30 yards to drives or developing a draw on a 200-yard three-iron, than from eliminating the fluffed pitch shots, the approach shots pushed into traps, the drives into the woods. Cut down the mistakes and good things happen.

So it is with the Bears, who effectively lost the Minnesota game by allowing a 58-yard TD run by Jerick McKinnon, and sealed it with a poor Trubisky pass on a possession with a chance to tie or win. They lost the Atlanta game simply by dropping passes. They aren’t as good as the Green Bay Packers – at least not until Trubisky reaches full extension and proves to be a challenge to Aaron Rodgers.

But only in the Atlanta near-miss did they self-destruct with fewer penalties (four) than they did at Baltimore (five). Sunday was the first time since Atlanta that they threw zero interceptions. And the defense limited the Ravens to three third-down conversions out of 18, one indicator of fewer breakdowns on the most important down.

“As long as we eliminate those mistakes that we’ve been making,” Fox said, “we’re gonna be right there going into the end of the game.”

The Bears have had positive spikes in the past and then collapsed; even after winning three of four in late 2015, the inept home losses to San Francisco and Washington were arguably a tipping point in the Fox era.

The point next Sunday against Carolina is to determine if the Bears are through with their one-and-done ways.