Bears

View from the Moon: Bears feeling something different even in MNF loss to Vikings

View from the Moon: Bears feeling something different even in MNF loss to Vikings

The tectonic plates of the Chicago Bears offense shifted Monday night in Soldier Field. They didn’t move far enough – the Bears fell to 1-4 with a 20-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings – but they moved. And everyone in the building felt it.

“I felt it,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright. “I think everybody felt it.”

The “it” was largely the energy/buzz/whatever that accompanied the NFL debut of Mitch Trubisky, the quarterback for whom GM Ryan Pace traded up to No. 2 in the 2017 draft to be sure he didn’t lose Trubisky to someone else.

But there was more than Trubisky happening, even as he threw an interception late in the fourth quarter that turned into Minnesota’s three winning points instead of the rookie leading his new team to a game-winning score of its own. Best guess is that storybook endings will be coming in the Trubisky Era, just not quite yet while he’s learning to read defenses and playbooks, not storybooks.

“He gives us a chance to win,” said one member of the offense, leaving unsaid the unfortunate reality that Mike Glennon had reached the point where he didn’t.

Maybe that was the big point, the main takeaway even from a defeat – a 1-4 team genuinely believing it can be a winner. That belief was nowhere to be found after the Tampa Bay and Green Bay games and was in danger of being extinguished.

The game-killing late interception Monday may have been vintage Jay Cutler. And the production was very Glennon-esque, even sub-Glennon-esque: 12-for-25 passing (48 percent), 128 yards, a TD pass, the interception and a passer rating (60.1) lower than any of Glennon’s four.

But this was different.

“I think our guys feel it,” said coach John Fox. “They feel his presence… . He’s got what it takes. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

What is different that the Bears do believe they have a quarterback with whom they can win, even win with because of. It has been quite some time since he Bears truly believed in their quarterback. Believed in much of anything, really.

Coaches clearly believed, and that in itself seemed to be something different. Special teams scored a touchdown of a fake punt when punter Pat O’Donnell threw the first pass of his football life. Not to be outdone for panache’, the offense used a double-reverse followed by a pitchout from tight end Zach Miller to Trubisky, who’d started the play handing off to running back Jordan Howard.

Desperate teams try gimmicky things. Monday night didn’t have any “desperate” to it. Even Trubisky’s interception was a correct read, to a single-covered receiver with a step on safety Harrison Smith, just not thrown quite far enough. “He was trying to make a play,” said Miller, the intended target on the play. “You gotta love everything about it.”

A critical point: Trubisky established himself as a quarterback who can run, but isn’t a running quarterback. He was drafted for his arm more than his legs, and when Trubisky broke contain evading the rush – he appeared to bail out too early on several occasions – he was looking to throw and for the big play, not to demonstrate his rushing prowess.

Coordinator Dowell Loggains called 29 pass plays and 26 running plays, trusting in his offensive line to do enough against a good Vikings front to establish the play action the Bears want as a linchpin of their offensive structure. It didn’t happen sufficiently – Bears running backs averaged a paltry 3.6 yards per carry, the third time in five games the offense has fallen short of 4 yards per carry.

The offense had six possessions in the first half and managed at least one penalty or a fumble on five of them. The fumble was Trubisky’s on a strip-sack when Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen beat left tackle Charles Leno to the outside. The Vikings netted all of 55 first-half yards; the Bears gave them 45 in penalty walkoffs.

Meaning: Much more (or less) was happening on offense than the Mitch Trubisky Experience.

But “I believe in this team,” said linebacker Leonard Floyd, who himself contributed two sacks, four tackles for loss and an additional quarterback hit. “Once we get that first win, we’ll start stacking them.”

Maybe Floyd was forgetting that the Bears already do have a first win this season. Or maybe Monday was the “start” of the season. He would not be alone in that point of view.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.