Power Rankings Roundup: Eddy Piñeiro gets his victory lap

Power Rankings Roundup: Eddy Piñeiro gets his victory lap

Thanks to Eddy Piñeiro (and Allen Robinson and Kyle Fuller and definitely someone else I'm forgetting) the Bears are 1-1, and much of Chicago's panic was diverted back onto the Cubs. The Power Rankings were generous enough to the Bears, but the offensive concerns remain. Eddy P got a lot of love too: 

NBC Sports Chicago – #11
The Bears' defense continues to show no signs of regression and while Mitch Trubisky hasn't been great, Chicago's ability to rally back and defeat the Broncos on a last-second kick by Eddy Pineiro could be the springboard the team needed to reach its full potential. – #9 
How can you not feel happy for Eddy Pineiro? Bears coach Matt Nagy waged psychological warfare with his kickers all summer, showing an almost maniacal determination to find someone with the physical ability and mental resolve not to double-doink it when it matters most. – #14
Are you kidding me? Kicker Eddy Pineiro by a landslide. The Bears spent the entire offseason searching for a kicker, and it turns out, after two games, they might have their guy. 

Bleacher Report – #11
The Bears may have gotten the W against the Broncos, but this team looks little like the 12-4 squad that won the NFC North in 2018. For the second week in a row, the Bears failed to tally even 275 yards of total offense. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw for just 120 yards.

Yahoo Sports – #14
The offense is broken. The crazy last-second win saves a lot of grief for the next week, but Chicago isn’t going anywhere unless the offense gets significantly better. 

Sports Illustrated – #16
The Bears celebrated Eddy Piñeiro’s 53-yard game-winner like it was the Super Bowl. Imagine what they’ll do if Trubisky throws a touchdown pass.

CBS Sports – #17
Was that a season-saving kick against the Broncos? If they fell to 0-2, that's a tough way to start for a team most see as a Super Bowl contender. The offense doesn't do enough.

USA Today – #19
QB Mitch Trubisky's 25-yard pass to set up Sunday's game-winning FG at gun was clutch — and maybe only good play he's had the entire season.

Chicago Tribune – #15
The defense played well, but the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky continue to struggle as the team has one touchdown through two games. Allen Robinson is the only wide receiver making plays in the passing game and there has been very little vertical action downfield.

Sporting News – #19
The Bears also can breathe a sigh of relief after surviving the last-minute Mile High craziness against the Broncos. Go figure: Their offense and defense were saved by the kicker this time.

FanSided – #12
If Mitchell Trubisky doesn’t get exponentially better, the Bears are in huge trouble.

There’s something special going on at Illinois — take it from those who know head football coach Lovie Smith best

There’s something special going on at Illinois — take it from those who know head football coach Lovie Smith best

For the first time in the Lovie Smith era, Illinois is bowl-eligible. 

It’s been a long, strange trip here for Lovie and the Illini. In his first three years at the helm of the program, the team failed to top four wins in a single season, amassing a combined record of 9-27 (4-23 B1G). But something about this 2019 group, which currently sits at 6-4 (4-3 B1G), feels different.

Take it from those who know Lovie best.

“They’ve bought in,” Alex Brown, who played under Smith for six years with the Bears, recently said. “Lovie is changing the culture down there, and he’s getting everybody to believe.”

That belief was on full display in the Illini’s matchup with Michigan State in East Lansing last Saturday — a comeback victory of historic proportions that clinched the program a bowl berth for the first time since 2014. At one point trailing 28-3, the visitors rode a number of big plays, turnovers and big-play turnovers to storm back and snap a 37-34 victory from the jaws of certain defeat.

“When you play for Lovie, everybody is motivated… You’re never out of [a] game,” said Matt Forte, five years a student of Smith in Chicago. “You can be down, and he knows that one play by anybody can start the turn of events.”

Olin Kreutz was with the Bears for seven of Smith's nine years coaching the team.

“It was awesome to see Coach Smith get that win, because you know how hard he works at it,” he said. “And for his team to do it in a way that’s kind of ‘Lovie Ball’... It’s just what you expect from Coach Smith because that’s what he preaches.”

Illinois turned Michigan State over four times on Saturday, including a fourth quarter pick-six that cut the Spartans’ lead to just one point with 4:53 to play. This season, the Illini lead the FBS in total turnovers (26), defensive touchdowns (6) and are second in turnover margin (1.4). Add those gaudy figures (and a bowl appearance) to a campaign already highlighted by a last-second victory over then-No. 6 Wisconsin, and suddenly, it might be time to start thinking about a full-blown resurgence in Urbana-Champaign.

“The most dangerous thing for that whole conference is a team that has bought into the Lovie system,” said Lance Briggs, who played nine seasons as a linebacker under Smith in Chicago. “The players that are going to come and play at the University of Illinois know now that they’re walking into a team that believes in what they’re doing, and when they believe in what they’re doing, great things are going to continue to happen.”

Smith has certainly proven in the past — and to the people of Chicago, no less — that he’s capable of executing this type of turnaround.

“I’m sure you guys have heard this story about our '05 team and how we started out 1-3, and then all of a sudden. Boom. It just happened,” Brown said. “That is exactly what I see happening with U of I right now.”

All the program has accomplished in 2019 is a great step, but the hope is that even greater things are on the horizon.

“You wait ’til next year. They are going to compete, and they’re gonna beat — I’m calling that right now — they’re gonna beat either Michigan or Ohio State next year,” Brown continued. “They have the people there. More importantly, they have the belief that they can beat ’em.”

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Under Center Podcast: Trubisky's trust and would you rather be the Bears or Rams?


Under Center Podcast: Trubisky's trust and would you rather be the Bears or Rams?

JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis and John "Moon" Mullin convene at Halas Hall to discuss how to balance Mitch Trubisky's special moments against the rest of his play, including a comparison to Jay Cutler (2:35).

Then the trio breaks down Trubisky's trust - or lack thereof - in his receivers (7:50) and debates whether you'd rather be the Bears or the Rams moving forward (19:20).

They finish up by wondering how much a win on Sunday would mean to this team (25:35).

Listen to the episode here here or via the embedded player below:

Under Center Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.