Kyle Fuller

Bears 17, Packers 13: Whose arrows are up and down after spoiling Favre's retirement

Bears 17, Packers 13: Whose arrows are up and down after spoiling Favre's retirement

Well, that probably felt good. 

The Bears were apparently none too pleased about being scheduled as the Packers' opponents on the night that Brett Favre was getting his number retired at Lambeau Field. In front of a packed crowd, on the (so rainy) holiday nightcap, the Bears outlasted Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in what'll surely be the most rewarding win of the upcoming 6-10 season. Here's whose arrows are up and down in the 17-13 win: 

ARROW UP – The Bears, just in general 

Good for the (4-6) Bears! They were still technically In The Hunt, but this wasn't a particularly strong team and boy is it disrespectful to be scheduled on Favre's big night. Things never break the Bears' way in this rivalry, and especially not in Green Bay. On a nationally-televised, holiday game no less? The Bears never, ever win this game. It wasn't "a good example of football" or "fun to watch," but the luxury of winning is you don't have to remember the details. 

ARROW DOWN – The passing game 

Cutler threw for 200 yards, and would have had a good bit more if there weren't so many drops. The constant, unrelenting rain that came down throughout this game obviously made the football hard to catch,  but the Bears dropped more than a couple balls. Alshon Jeffery was guilty of a couple, and Jeremey Langford's drop on 3rd and 2 in the 2nd quarter stood out as especially egregious. 

ARROW UP – Pat O'Donnell 

Eight punts for my man Pat. Eight! He racked up 323 yards while averaging 40.4 yards per punt on a night when special teams can get messy. The Packers faced tough field position all night – starting eight of their 12 drives within 20 yards of their own end zone – and O'Donnell was a big reason why. 

ARROW DOWN – Run defense 

To be fair, Eddy Lacy is huge. Lacy ran for 105 yards on 17 rushes, his longest rush of the night going for 29 yards. He was also useful out of the backfield for Green Bay, catching four balls for 34 yards – 25 of them coming on a touchdown in the first quarter. According to Pro Football Focus' grading system, this was the run defense's worst performance (36.5) of an otherwise okay season (74.1). Shea McClellin (27.7) and Christian Jones (33.8) were graded particularly poorly, though McClellin finished second on the team in tackles. 

ARROW UP – The secondary

Kyle Fuller was targeted twice in 78 snaps, and didn't allow a reception. Tracy Porter got a rare interception off Aaron Rodgers, and would have had two if not for a penalty negating the play. Bryce Callahan had an up-and-down game, but the corner had his moments and played well in coverage on the final play of the game. 

Is Kyle Fuller the Bears' best 1st-round pick since 2010?

Is Kyle Fuller the Bears' best 1st-round pick since 2010?

The 2020 NFL draft is quickly approaching, and unfortunately for Bears fans, it'll mark the second year in a row that Chicago will be without a first-round pick. Then again, that's the price a team must pay to land a generational talent like Khalil Mack.

Still, the draft is more fun when the Bears have a first-rounder. 

But that fun has more often than not quickly turned into disappointment. Chicago's first-round success rate hasn't been very good, especially over the last 10 years.

Here's Chicago's first-round breakdown over the last decade:

2010: NONE
2011: Gabe Carimi (OL, Wisconsin)
2012: Shea McClellin (Edge, Boise State)
2013: Kyle Long (OL, Oregon)
2014: Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
2015: Kevin White (WR, Va Tech)
2016: Leonard Floyd (Edge, Georgia)
2017: Mitch Trubisky (QB, UNC)
2018: Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
2019: NONE

First, let's look at the obvious problem: Two of the last 10 drafts resulted in zero first-round picks. Not great. 

Of the remaining eight picks, five are no longer with the team (Carimi, McClellin, Long, White, and Floyd). While Long was a solid starter during his tenure in Chicago, Carimi, McClellin, White, and Floyd were downright busts.

Then there's Trubisky, who might be the most important first-round selection in franchise history. His career is on life support after the Bears traded for Nick Foles this offseason. He's trending in the wrong direction.

Smith, who's flashed elite playmaking upside during his first two seasons in the league, had some bizarre off-field issues in 2019 that impacted his growth as a starter last year. His arrow is still pointing up, but he has to prove he can be relied on for 16 games.

That leaves Fuller, who was recently dubbed the Bears' best first-round pick of the last decade.

Since being drafted 14th overall in 2014, Fuller has been a starter at corner from nearly day one. With the exception of a 2016 season wiped out by a knee injury, Fuller has started all but two games over five years.

The 28-year-old has 18 career interceptions, including seven in 2018 (which tied for the NFL lead). In each of the past two seasons, the former Virginia Tech standout has been named to the Pro Bowl

It's a fair assessment of Fuller's impact, especially when compared to the rest of his first-round brethren. Chicago's failure to hit on first-round picks has been a big reason why they've struggled to sustain success in recent years and will continue to be why they won't be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender.

The Bears' first selection in the 2020 NFL draft won't come until the second round, No. 43 overall, but with two picks in the top 50, Pace has a chance to add two impact players to a roster that isn't far away from competing for an NFC North title.

    Bears Season in Review: Kyle Fuller

    Bears Season in Review: Kyle Fuller

    The strength of the Bears defense is often considered in the front-seven, with players like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Roquan Smith leading the way. But the secondary shouldn't be overlooked, and cornerback Kyle Fuller is a big reason why.

    Fuller, 27, has been one of the Bears' biggest first-round hits in recent years after being selected 14th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. He's started 78 of the 80 games he's played, including all 16 last season.

    Fuller finished 2019 with a career-high 82 tackles and added three interceptions to his growing resume of picks, which now sits at 18. He began the year ranked No. 95 on the NFL Top 100 and was added to the 2019 Pro Bowl as a replacement for Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

    Fuller is rarely mentioned when the NFL's top cornerbacks are discussed, but he's proven over the last two seasons that he truly is one of the league's best. He led the NFL in interceptions in 2018 (7) and continued his consistent play in 2019 despite the Bears falling short of expectations. That failure certainly wasn't his fault. Fuller ranked near the top of Bears defenders last season in run defense and tackling grades from Pro Football Focus, two traits that are hard to find in today's cornerbacks.

    The Bears are expected to undergo changes in the secondary this offseason, with veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara a likely salary-cap casualty. As a result, more pressure will be on Fuller to continue his top-tier play as a coverage corner in 2020. He's up to the task.

    Chicago is fortunate to have a player of Fuller's caliber at one of the most important positions in football. He'll continue to be a cornerstone piece of a potentially championship-caliber defense.