Bears-Chiefs: And the winner is...


Bears-Chiefs: And the winner is...

The Bears did turn something around last weekend with a home win over the Oakland Raiders. But whether it was a turning point or simply a blip in an otherwise dire season will be a few more weeks becoming apparent.

For instance, the Jay Cutler lovers pointed to the Bears driving for Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal in the final two seconds. The Cutler haters saw his fourth-quarter passer rating in the 40’s and third pivotal 2015 interception being rescued by a defensive stop and Gould.

Because the Bears’ season ultimately turns in very large part on whether Cutler can manage an offense with greater consistent control than he has through too much of his nine-year career. Reducing Cutler’s turnovers was the far-and-away No. 1 focus of incoming offensive coordinator Adam Gase, and that remains perhaps the biggest concern of John Fox, a defense-based coach who lives for takeaways and knows how turnovers are the biggest outcome-determinants in the NFL.

[MORE: Bears no longer in learning-curve 1st quarter under John Fox staff]

The operating supposition here is that Cutler will not repeat the devastating mistakes of the Green Bay, Arizona and (nearly) Oakland games.

One other operating assumption: The Kansas City Chiefs have allowed Alex Smith to be among the NFL’s most-sacked quarterbacks (18 times). Smith has managed to shake those off and post a superb interception rate of 2.1 percent (vs. Cutler’s very concerning 3.4 percent).

But the Bears defensively are not the same unit emotionally or statistically that they were in the Green Bay and Arizona losses. The Bears allowed Seattle just one offensive touchdown and Oakland two, and no one has scored a rushing touchdown on the Bears in either the Seattle or Oakland games.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

All of which means: Cutler will not throw another devastating interception for the first time this season as Gase’s mantra finally gets through against a decidedly shaky Kansas City defense (pass rushers, yes, other strengths, not so much). And the Bears defense, with special teams taking their own next step, will harass Smith and a struggling Chiefs offense into directions it doesn’t want to go, taking running back Jamaal Charles out of the game with solid fundamentals.

The Chiefs are favored. I don’t see it.

Moon's Prediction: Bears 23, Chiefs 21

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller has quickly become a fan favorite on social media. He has the confidence and swagger found in most top wide receivers and it comes through on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Miller was one of 40 players in attendance at the 2018 NFLPA Rookie Premiere where he not only learned about the business and marketing side of football, but also suited up in his Bears gameday uniform for the first time. Of course, he shared the moment on Twitter:

Panini America, a sports collectible company, snapped a picture of Miller with fellow rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (Falcons) and quarterback Mason Rudolph (Steelers):

Miller has become something of a standout for the Bears despite not playing a single snap. He's expected to have a big role in an offense that has several new pieces and roles that are up for grabs.

Miller will compete with former first-round pick Kevin White and free-agent addition Taylor Gabriel for reps opposite Allen Robinson. Miller has the necessary skill set to play as both an outside receiver and in the slot which should give him an even greater opportunity to be on the field quite a bit.

The Bears first three draft picks are all vying for starting jobs in 2018. Roquan Smith (first round) is a lock to start next to Danny Trevathan and James Daniels (second round) will start at guard. Miller should make it three-for-three in a draft class that could end up the best of Ryan Pace's tenure.