Finishing strong remains the strongest ingredient in the successful sports formulas. But for the Bears, breaking fast from the gate and gaining an edge through the first turn is perhaps even more critical, even for a team that has sought to define itself as finishers.
The Bears go into Sunday with standing 2-1 in games where they have led or been tied after one quarter. Even more telling, within their dismal home record of 1-6, the Bears have scored the first touchdown in only one of those games – the win, over Oakland. In the other six, their opponents have scored the first touchdown and the Bears have failed to recover sufficiently.
[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]
Notably perhaps, the Bears did not score the first touchdown at Tampa Bay. But the first TD did not come on the Buccaneers’ first possession, something of a negative pattern for the Bears’ defense this season. And that first touchdown belonged at the feet of special teams after a blocked punt gave the Bucs the football at the Chicago 4.
The Bears this year are a healthy 4-1 when leading at halftime.
“You want to start fast and finish faster,” said coach John Fox. “That’s our goal. Sometimes I don’t know if that’s reality for any team in the league, but we definitely have room for improvement in every area.”
The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.
It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.
Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.
Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.
Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.
On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.
Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.
Take a look over the NFC landscape and try to find me a team that can compete with the Rams.
Packers? Held back by Rodgers' knee and Rodgers' coach. Saints? Might not even win their own division. Washington? Does Alex Smith really scare anyone in the playoffs?
The Rams have one of the easier paths to the Championship Round/Super Bowl that we've seen in some time. Will it likely stay that way? Probably not. But there's a difference between parity and mediocrity and right now the NFC is toeing the line HARD.
Outside the NFC's "elite", how did your team do this week?
You can take a look here and see where they landed.