I apologize for the delay in posting my takeaways this week. I went a little overboard celebrating that stunning 27-20 Bears victory on Monday night and was having trouble putting sentences together on Tuesday. I also needed a little time to come to grips with the fact that Bears season isn’t over! After that Washington debacle, the Cutler & Briggs injuries, and the fact that the Bears defense was truly bad for the first time in my life, I was pretty depressed. I spent most of the bye week researching draft sites and the 2014 free agent class looking for the right players for the Bears to rebuild around. I feel foolish for panicking, but I also feel awesome because I was wrong. The Bears are still alive!
NFC North: Rodgers injury changes everything. No matter how good the Bears looked earlier in the year (or the last few years), it always felt like we were playing for second place. Or at least that the Bears would have to go through Lambeau to get to the Super Bowl. But with no Rodgers? No problem. The Lions are scary, but are still inconsistent and undisciplined and will be as long as Jim Schwartz is running the show. The Vikings wish they had a QB as good as Josh McCown. The NFC North is wide open and the Bears are currently tied for first with what looks like the easiest schedule the rest of the way.
Josh McCown: In his first start since 2011 Josh McCown played the best game of his 11 year journeyman career. The Packers stacked the box early, forcing McCown to throw the ball and he did exactly that. He showed surprising poise in the pocket, going through his progressions and ignoring consistent pressure before finding either Marshall or Jeffrey with chain-moving 10-15 yards darts. McCown went deep a few times without success, but showed he had enough arm to do it which loosened up the defense a little. He scrambled out of trouble multiple times to keep drives alive. His 20-yard scramble on 3rd and 9 deep in Packers territory was a thing of beauty as he froze the Packers DE with a pump fake and took the ball down to the 6 yard line to set the Bears up for a chip-shot field goal at the end of the first half. McCown somehow managed to play mistake free football on the biggest stage possible, in one of the most hostile environments in the NFL. His 5.6 grade from ProFootballFocus ties Cutler’s performance in week 1 as the best game off the season for a Bears QB. Take a bow Josh, it’s deserved. Heck of a game.
Julius Peppers: Maybe Julius Peppers still has some life left in him after all. With Peppers only earning a positive grade in one game this year (week 4, 5.6) it sure seemed like the 33 year old was on his last legs. Monday night Peppers proved he still has some of the skill that earned him a 6 year, $91.5 million deal from the Bears back in 2010. Peppers had 2 sacks, 3 QB hurries, and 2 pass deflections one of which he caught for an INT. Peppers earned his game check and then some this week.
Marc Trestman: I would have loved to see Lovie Smith’s reaction when Marc Trestman decided to go for it on 4 & inches from the Bears 32 yard line with 8 min+ left in the 4th quarter. That’s the type of gutsy move that Bears fans didn’t see under Lovie Smith’s conservative regime. It was nerve-racking, my heart stopped for a second when Forte got touched in the backfield, but Forte stiff-armed his way for a first down and kept alive a nine minute drive (8:58) that ultimately sealed the game for the Bears. The risk if the Bears didn’t convert there was immense; The Packers would have got the ball already in field goal range and Trestman would have opened himself up to massive second guessing from both the local and national media. I also give Trestman credit for making sure McCown was prepared to play in his first start of the season and for the aggressive play-calling that resulted in 442 total yards for the Bears, but it was the call on 4 & inches that I’ll remember if the Bears end up making the playoffs this year.
Matt Forte: 179 total yards and a TD, the ushe. Compared to the rest of the NFL’s running backs: Forte has the 2nd best YPC , he’s 3rd in catches, tied for 1st in rushing TDs, and 3rd in total yards from scrimmage (McCoy, Charles). Forte might be the most underrated player in the league.