Bears

Bears-Packers: Best case, worst case and prediction

Bears-Packers: Best case, worst case and prediction

Best case

While the Bears overcame sloppy play against Pittsburgh — five fumbles, one interception, 10 penalties — they weren’t able to do the same on the road against Tampa Bay in Week 2. It’s hard to go on the road and win without playing clean football, so that’s where this best-case starts: Mike Glennon cannot afford another a turnover deep in Bears territory and needs to make a few plays to ease the pressure on Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.

The Packers probably will load the box with eight or more defenders more than the Steelers did, which will force Glennon to take more shots downfield than he has all year. Green Bay’s defense has been shaky, though, so this could be a good opportunity for Markus Wheaton get behind the secondary and make his first big play in a Bears uniform. 

On special teams, the Bears will need Connor Barth — who missed a 47-yard field goal last week — to connect on every opportunity he gets. And if Sherrick McManis makes more plays that could change the course of the game, the Bears can’t afford another Marcus Cooper-level mental error (though here’s guessing that won’t happen again). 

Defensively, the best-case scenario looks like what Aaron Rodgers’ line was in that Thanksgiving game in 2015: 22/43, 202 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks, 62.4 QB rating. Green Bay will likely be without starting tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, so look for Vic Fangio to dial up an “even rush” to try to contain Rodgers while hitting home on opportunities to sack him (the hope here is that Akiem Hicks, a late addition to the injury report who's listed as questionable with a foot issue, plays). Even without safety Quintin Demps and having to dig deep into their depth at inside linebacker, the Bears’ defense has been solid against some fairly stiff competition early in the year. That trend very well could continue tonight in Green Bay. 

Worst case

Green Bay loads up the box and stuffs Howard — who’s still dealing with that banged-up shoulder — and Cohen, forcing Glennon to throw with poor results. The Bears effectively lost in Tampa by halftime with those four ugly turnovers, and a similar showing Thursday night against their longtime rivals would ratchet up the calls for Mitchell Trubisky and turn up the temperature on John Fox’s hot seat. The Bears at least have to be competitive — as they were against Atlanta and Pittsburgh — but the Tampa game showed they’ll struggle to hang on the road if they’re sloppy. 

Mistakes on offense and special teams are tough to overcome even for the best defense. The Bears may get pressure on the quarterback and shut down Ty Montgomery and the Packers’ running game, but if Green Bay gets short fields, expect Rodgers to get into the end zone. This is a recipe for a long, ugly night in Wisconsin. 

Prediction: Packers 21, Bears 17. The Bears’ defense holds its own, but the offense makes too many mistakes and not enough plays to overcome in a narrow defeat. 

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

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USA TODAY

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera saw a lot of Mitchell Trubisky last year, with the North Carolina quarterback on TV quite a bit in the Charlotte area. The Panthers, set with Cam Newton, weren’t in the market for a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft, but Trubisky nonetheless stood out to the seventh-year Carolina coach and former Super Bowl-winning Bears linebacker. 

For Rivera, more than Trubisky’s arm strength and athleticism jumped off the screen. 

“Leadership,” Rivera pointed to. “When you watch him when he was playing — I love watching guys that either get on their teammates when they’re not doing it or they take accountability when they make a mistake. And you saw that with him.

“… We think the young man has got what it takes. We like who’s he’s gonna become. We do. We think the future can be bright for him. We are big fans here.”

Trubisky took accountability for both of his turnovers against the Minnesota Vikings: The interception Harrison Smith baited him into was certainly his fault, but his sack-strip fumble was more the result of Everson Griffen jumping the snap and blowing past left tackle Charles Leno. Against the Baltimore Ravens, Trubisky also lost a fumble on a sack-strip when cornerback Lardarius Webb hit him and dislodged the ball.

Trubisky’s explanation of that fumble was that he moved off his first read too quickly, causing him to miss Webb making a beeline for him in the backfield. But according to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, that fumble wasn’t the quarterback’s fault. 

“That’s because he’s a stud,” Loggains said of Trubisky taking responsibility for it. “We screwed the protection up. We should have been sliding to the guy. The guy should not have been coming free. That’s Mitch taking a bullet that he doesn’t need to take. The reality is he saw the guy coming and tried to get over to the check down quickly but we got to do a better job up front protecting him.”

But that Trubisky was willing to say he was at fault for that fumble plays into why he quickly gained the respect of the Bears’ the locker room. That’s what a quarterback should be doing when speaking to the media after the game — accepting responsibility and deflecting off his teammates, even if he’s not at fault. That kind of stuff doesn’t go unnoticed. 

Stopping Superman

Pernell McPhee offered this goal up for his fellow defensive teammates this week: Make sure Newton stays as Clark Kent on Sunday. 

“He’s a very talented guy, but the only thing I told the defense is let's make him be Cam Newton, not Superman,” McPhee said, referring to Newton’s signature touchdown move. “We don't want him opening up the cape.”

So how does a defense stop Newton from being Superman?

“He’s a very versatile quarterback,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Obviously his running the ball, whether it be through his improvising with scrambling on called pass plays, or the called running plays they do have for him, that’s a strength for him. We can’t just focus on stopping that. We’ve gotta stop Cam Newton the passer and the runner. They’ve got good running backs they’re handing it off to and receivers and running backs he’s throwing it to, so you’ve got a total offense to stop.”

One point to note here: Newton threw three interceptions last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and had been picked off eight times this year. A Bears secondary that intercepted Joe Flacco twice last week could have some more shots at takeaways on Sunday. 

High praise

Sunday will mark Thomas Davis’ 156th game in the NFL, with the linebacker playing every one of those with the Carolina Panthers. He played for John Fox from 2005-2010. But where we’re going here is what he had to say about how the Bears run their offense with a rookie quarterback:

“I think this is probably the best running game that we’ve seen from an offense with a rookie quarterback,” Davis said. “You look at some of the other rookies that come in. Teams want to run the ball. But when you look at the physicality and the style of play that this team plays with, I think that really makes the job a lot easier for a young quarterback. So I definitely feel like that physicality in their running game is definitely going to help him out.”

The Bears ran the ball 50 times against a Baltimore Ravens defense that played a lot more Cover-2 than expected. With star linebacker Luke Kuechly out for Sunday, the Bears may try to use a similar strategy, even if Carolina loads the box more than Baltimore did (a little more than once one every three runs by Jordan Howard). 

But if the Bears’ offense is going to have success, it’s going to be behind Howard, Tarik Cohen and an improving offensive line. Maybe Davis’ comments are hyperbole, but he’s also played a lot more football than you and me.