Every NFL season features at least two good-surprise teams and two bad-surprise ones. The Bears and Kansas City Chiefs were ‘goods’ last year, the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars ‘bads’.
This year – after all of one game – the Bears were in the bad-surprise column. They weren’t alone.
The Cleveland Browns belied all their preseason hype and self-immolated at home against the Tennessee Titans. The Miami Dolphins, who jettisoned coach Adam Gase after a 25-point loss to end the 2018 season, started 2019 with a 49-point debacle of a loss at home, giving up 59 points under new coach Brian Flores, who spent the last eight seasons with the New England Patriots coaching assorted areas of the defense. (Insert something here about former Bill Belichick staffers becoming head coaches.)
On the ‘good’ side, albeit not a complete surprise by any means, and certainly not a ‘good’ as far as the Bears are concerned, the Minnesota Vikings played like a football team still mad about letting the playoffs – and the Bears – get away from them last season.
After the Bears lost at home last Thursday, the Vikings buried the Atlanta Falcons in a 21-0 first half and finished up with a 28-12 demolition of a team that was on its way to the Super Bowl three seasons ago.
What was noteworthy, beyond the Minnesota defense that shut out the Falcons for three quarters after finishing right behind the Bears in yards allowed last season and ninth in points allowed, was the Vikings running the football all over the Falcons. Minnesota invested major money last year to button up their quarterback situation with Kirk Cousins, then proceeded to fire offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in-season while running the football on just 35.6 percent of plays, good for 29th in the NFL. Against the Falcons, Minnesota called 10 pass plays and 38 runs, including Cousins kneel-downs.
Somewhere Dowell Loggains, now Gase’s O-coordinator with the New York Jets, is smiling (well, probably not too much, not after the Jets failed to hold a 16-0 lead and lost to Buffalo).
Two particular takeaways from a thought-provoking column in the New York Times by longtime NFL columnist Gregg Easterbrook, which posits a generally positive future for football despite the escalating concern over concussions:
Easterbrook puts out the idea of banning three- and four-point stances for linemen, offensive linemen particularly, who literally go head-to-head from those starting positions. And he endorses the idea of doing away completely with kickoffs, the most dangerous down in football as it is, even with the increase of touchbacks. At the most, kickoffs only to start the game and second halves.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.