Bears

Bears 27, Colts 17: Immediate reactions from the Bears win over Indianapolis

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USA Today

Bears 27, Colts 17: Immediate reactions from the Bears win over Indianapolis

Despite the bombshell Andrew Luck news, the Bears and Colts did in fact finish their game on Saturday night.  Preseason scores obviously aren’t all that important, something Matt Nagy made abundantly clear when he decided to not play any of the starters in what’s traditionally the season’s dress rehearsal. For the time being, Bears fans will have to get their fix through Eddy Pineiro field goal attempts and inside linebacker rotations. You can always find questions if you look hard enough, and that’s exactly what preseason content is for. Who was good? And who wasn’t? A review: 

THE BAD 

Chase Daniel

It was rough. 3-9 with 21 yards type rough. His offensive line didn’t do him any favors, but Daniel also missed on some clean throws. Barring any injury, he’s going to be QB2 when they take the field against the Packers on Sep. 5 - but it’s been a rocky preseason for the 10-year vet. He’s close with Matt Nagy and proved his worth in two games last season, but as the NFL’s highest-paid backup, not having a touchdown pass through three games isn’t great optics. 

The Offensive Line 

Tackle depth has quietly become a pretty big concern for the Bears, who came into Saturday without Rashaad Coward as he deals with an elbow injury. T.J. Clemmings left the game in the 1st quarter on a cart after hurting his leg. Cornelius Lucas didn’t look particularly good. As a unit, the 2’s and 3’s have allowed 10 sacks through three games. A silver lining? Alex Bars – who threw a key block in Ryan Nall’s 69-yard run – got some snaps at left tackle, and has looked strong in both games and practice so far. 

Penalties 

Blame it on the preseason if you want, but the Bears had 9 penalties for 85 yards, including one that wiped out a Ryan Nall touchdown run. They've had  at least eight penalties in all of their preseason games so far.

THE GOOD

Eddy Pineiro

In his first game as the roster’s lone kicker, Pineiro had his best moment in a Bears uniform. The kicker crushed a 58 yard field goal, with room to spare: 

He went 2-2 on the night, and was 3/3 on extra point attempst. Pineiro will presumably get the final two games to definitively win the job, and splitting the uprights from the midfield logo certainly doesn’t hurt. 


The Linebackers 

Matt Nagy mentioned that he was keeping an eye on the ILB’s on Saturday night, and it’d be hard not to like what he saw. Nick Kwiatkoski made some nice plays in the first half, and Joel Iyiegbuniwe had a (relatively easy) scoop-and-score. Josh Woods also put together another strong game. Even James Vaughters – who’s listed on the team’s roster as an OLB – had another strong night after forcing his second fumble in two weeks. Three of the Bears’ five sacks came from linebackers (Kwiatkoski, Vaughters, and Iyiegbuniwe) too. 

More Turnovers! 

Three more tonight makes it eight so far. History says that high turnover rates are almost impossible to replicate, and much of that concern fuels a lot of the regression talk that’s surrounded the defense this offseason. Deon Bush’s 2nd quarter forced fumble scoop-and-score was as impressive a play as anyone had all night. Preseason caveats aside, the Bears’ knack for the ball still looks like a big strength, and it feels like there’s more optimism in that regard than there was three weeks ago. 
 

The Bears still face long playoff odds, but they're clicking at just the right time

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USA Today

The Bears still face long playoff odds, but they're clicking at just the right time

If you wanted to throw water on the Bears’ playoff chances, the hardest part would be deciding what well to draw it from. The data overwhelmingly agrees: the Bears, even after a reassuring 31-24 win over Dallas, are longshots to make the playoffs. FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor gives them a 5% chance. The Cowboys, with their 6-7 record and three-game losing streak, have a 59% chance. 

“If we don't win, none of those percentages matter,” Matt Nagy said after the game. “The percentages part, [I don’t know]. I know we’ve got to win.” 

And not only that, but the Bears will have to win while playing the hardest remaining schedule of any team in football. Next Sunday they go to Green Bay, where they haven’t won since 2015. Then all that stands between them and a potential play-in Week 17 game in Minnesota is Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. It’s brutal, but it doesn’t seem as impossible as it did this time yesterday. 

“I think we said that a few weeks back,” Allen Robinson said. “We’ve been saying one game at a time, and I think for us, we’re definitely on the verge of going up right now. So we just want to keep it that way. We’ve been saying it now for the past few weeks. We just want to keep stringing good practices together, good weeks together, and some good runs together.” 

Games like Thursday night’s show you what the Matt Nagy Bears are capable of when things click. It starts with Nagy, who’s finally come around on running the offense that works, even if it is the diluted version. Against Dallas the Bears ran the ball 34 times and threw 31 passes; they’re now 7-2 when running 20 times or more. 

“It’s being able to create chemistry with my O-line,” David Montgomery said. “Those guys have been doing good. I credit them with the little bit of success I’ve had towards the end of the season.”

The passing game has been opened up, ironically enough, with the emergence of three different undrafted tight ends. Ben Braunecker, Jesper Horsted, and JP Holtz have become legitimate cogs in the offense, which is again a testament to how critical the position is to Nagy and the Bears’ success.

“That's nice to have that,” Nagy said, grinning. “It definitely helps out.” 

“I mean, there were a few things we had in this game plan that were going to give more opportunities. He happened to be that guy on some of the plays. Those guys have stepped up. They've helped us out in that role. You can see when you have that tight end, that presence there, it helps out.”

Holtz joked after the game about being caught off guard by how much open field was in front of him on his 30-yard screen play. It was a well drawn-up and executed play – a good example of a more rigorous attention to detail that Bears coaches and players were finally happy with. 

“Guys are stepping up,” Anthony Miller said. “We’ve got some guys hurt, but we don’t miss a beat. Everybody knows what’s at stake. Everybody knows that we have to win. It’s like every game we’re playing with our backs against the wall. So, every game is a must-win, and we’ve got to get (the Green Bay Packers) in Lambeau next week.”

The injuries are a real concern. Getting Akiem Hicks is taking a step forward but losing Roquan Smith is taking two back. Playoff talk is probably still premature, but like Nagy said, all the Bears can do is win the games in front of them. They’ll play a second straight week of meaningful December football, which is two more than anybody would have guessed before Thanksgiving. 

“We are clicking on all cylinders, with all three phases,” Charles Leno added.  “Even four phases, thanks to the fans out there in Chicago that are always bringing it. 

“It was a really good performance by everybody.”

Mitch Trubisky and Allen Robinson at the heart of complete offensive performance

Mitch Trubisky and Allen Robinson at the heart of complete offensive performance

Allen Robinson posted his fourth-lowest receiving yards total and third-lowest reception total of the year in the Bears' potentially season-defining victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday.

His impact wasn't omnipresent — in a game where Mitch Trubisky, the runner, was completely unleashed and the Bears' defense, without four starters, locked down a talented Cowboys offense, there was much to cheer at Soldier Field.

But the plays Robinson made seemed to matter the most.

Early in the second quarter, it was a game-tying touchdown snare on a five-yard slant, delivered on-time and on-target by Trubisky. Then, two third-down catches on a drive that put the Bears ahead 17-7 at the half. The second of those catches was also his second touchdown of the game — with a first-and-goal from the eight yard line, the Bears had just run two futile jump-ball plays for Javon Wims.

Stagnation in goal-to-go situations has been a common lament for fans and pundits frustrated with an offense that, until the last three games, had appeared to drastically regress this season. Tonight, it was Robinson to the rescue. It's been that way all season, even without overly-gaudy receiving figures every single week. He is perhaps the most talented and accomplished skill player on the offense, and a bon a fide safety blanket for his third-year quarterback.

So it's no surprise that in Trubisky's best game of the year (when factoring in the skill of the opponent and leverage of the situation) Robinson was at the heart of so many meaningful plays.

"I think for us [he and Trubisky] by having almost two seasons together, we're just trying to continue to work on whatever we can," Robinson said. Referring to the second touchdown, a play that Robinson saved from disaster by wrenching the ball from Cowboys LB, Jaylon Smith: "I knew it would be a bang-bang play. You know, that's something that we worked on all week and we knew that it would be bang-bang."

For Trubisky, it was a play that demanded and displayed the level of trust that he and Robinson have built. He, after all, had thrown an interception the quarter before into traffic on the Cowboys' side of the field.

"Just playing free. Just trusing my instincts, really trusting Allen," Trubisky said. Then again: "Really just trusting 12 [Robinson]. When I put it up in his area, he's going to come down with it."

"Those two got a connection right now... Let 'em keep doing it," Charles Leno said with a chuckle, of Trubisky and Robinson. "They look like they're just playing backyard football right now."

That must continue for the Bears, heading into a crucial stretch of the season that they've conjured from the jaws of collapse. The prevailing mantra for many in the locker room after the game was simple: One week at a time. 

Well, next week the Bears travel to Lambeau Field. In the team's debaculous defeat at the hands of the Packers on opening night, Robinson was a lone silver lining (see what I did there?), hauling in seven catches for 102 yards.

"We're definitely on the verge of going up right now," Robinson said. "We're finding our groove."

It certainly appears so, and it comes just in the nick of time.