Bears

Blowout win over Cincinnati turns on the light at the end of the tunnel for Bears’ young core

Blowout win over Cincinnati turns on the light at the end of the tunnel for Bears’ young core

CINCINNATI — If the Bears pull off a Los Angeles Rams-esque turnaround in 2018, their future offensive success might look a little like what went down in Sunday’s 33-7 thrashing of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

Mitchell Trubisky completed 25 of 32 passes for 271 yards with a touchdown and didn’t turn the ball over while operating more aggressive offensive gameplan. Jordan Howard rumbled for 147 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns, and Tarik Cohen provided a spark with 80 yards on 12 carries. Adam Shaheen caught four of five targets for 44 yards and reeled in a touchdown. The Bears’ offensive line, despite a rash of first-half penalties, largely kept Trubisky upright and paved the way for Howard and Cohen to account for more rushing yards (227) than team had total offensive yards a week ago (147).  

“What’s been frustrating for me and the coaches is that a lot of us have had our day in the sun, but to see young guys come in and work hard and not reap those benefits,” coach John Fox said. “I thought Mitch Trubisky played very well last week. When you don’t experience the end result that’s a W, it’s hard to put much into that. I’ve seen him grow every week he’s been out there since all the way back to Minnesota. It’s just kind of nice to see some of those young guys experience the benefits of all the hard work.”

Kendall Wright, who’s due to hit free agency, had a massive game (11 targets, 10 catches, 107 yards) and said he won’t focus on where he’ll wind up signing until after the season. But he did add: “If they want me, I’m here. I’m cool with it.”

The Bears’ exact blueprint on Sunday won’t necessarily be easy to follow in 2018, let alone these last three games, given the Bengals’ defense was 1) missing a number of key players, like linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, and 2) didn’t appear to give a very good effort. But more important than Howard bludgeoning the Bengals into submission over the course of a lackluster afternoon was the Bears, for the first time in 2017, scoring a touchdown on their first offensive possession.

“That was big for us,” right tackle Bobby Massie said. “It was just a confidence thing. We’re capable of doing it, we just got to do it.”

The Bears’ gameplan from that point on felt more aggressive, with Trubisky slinging passes toward nine different teammates while looking comfortable going through his progressions in the pocket. This was a far cry from what the Bears did after getting an early lead against the Carolina Panthers back in October, with Trubisky taking a bunch of sacks and barely throwing the ball in an uninspiring offensive performance.  

The Bears jumped ahead Sunday and, instead of conservatively trying to protect the lead, aggressively tried to grow it. The result was the franchise’s biggest margin of victory in half a decade.

“Everybody wanted the ball,” Trubisky said. “The linemen wanted the ball to run behind them, the receivers wanted the ball in their eyes, and the running backs wanted (to run). When everybody has that hunger, that desire to want to go out and execute the next play, it makes it fun on offense.”

Perhaps the biggest question about Sunday’s game is where this gameplan was all season. But getting in the end zone on that first drive not only boosted the confidence of the players, it could’ve boosted the confidence of Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to open things up.

“(We were) making some of those plays that we maybe didn’t make earlier in the year,” Wright said. “But when you’re making those plays and having fun, it makes it easier for Mitch to find whoever, it makes it easier for Dowell to call whatever plays he wants.”

The story of the 2017 season, though, was written before Sunday’s win ended a five-game losing streak that included duds against the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. All the Bears can do in these final weeks of the season is work to build a foundation for 2018, and that starts with validating that the work they’ve put in this year hasn’t been for nothing.

For Trubisky, it’s not necessarily about personal validation — he’s been confident in his growth even without the wins to back it up. But for the Bears’ young core that played so well on Sunday, it counts for something right now — and may count for something next fall.

“(The losing streak) felt like s***,” Massie said. “You’re getting your ass kicked all the time — it doesn’t feel good to lose. All the work we put in, we deserve this win. We came out, did what we were supposed to do and we got it.”

Under Center Podcast: Checking in on the Lions with ESPN’s Mike Rothstein

stafford-626.jpg
USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Checking in on the Lions with ESPN’s Mike Rothstein

JJ Stankevitz is joined by ESPN Lions reporter Mike Rothstein to dive into how close Detroit is to cleaning house (1:00), expectations for Matthew Stafford (5:50) and T.J. Hockenson (10:00), what new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s scheme looks like (13:45), where the Lions are strongest and weakest on defense (16:50) and if this team actually respects Matt Patricia (22:20).

Plus, Mike discusses the story he co-wrote on the rise and fall of the AAF and what it would take for a spring football league to succeed (26:10).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Under Center Podcast

Subscribe:

Bears rookie WR Riley Ridley motivated by older brother, family name

ridley.jpg
USA Today

Bears rookie WR Riley Ridley motivated by older brother, family name

Bears fourth-round pick Riley Ridley knew what to expect coming into the NFL thanks to his older brother Calvin, the Atlanta Falcons wide receiver.

Their family bond kept them close even as they played for rival colleges and now competing professional teams, and they both take a lot of motivation from the name on the back of their jerseys.

The two receivers came together on camera for the Bears’ “Meet the Rookies” series.

“We do what we do, not just for the family, but for our name, our brand,” Riley Ridley said. “We want to take that as far as it can go. That Ridley name is strong, and that’s how we view it.”

Ridley opened up about growing up with his mother raising him and his three brothers. He said he’s going to be his own biggest critic and do everything he can to help his teammates.

His brother Calvin added some color to the image of Riley that’s starting to take shape.

“Very funny, really cool, laid back,” Calvin Ridley said. “He’s a different person on the field. I would say he has a lot of anger on the field — very physical.”

Matt Nagy should find good use for that physicality in the Bears offense, plugging Ridley in a wide receiver group already deep with young talent.

Ridley doesn’t seem like the type of player who will allow himself to get buried on the depth chart.