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After a great start to the game last night, the Bears almost let this one slip away but held on for a 27-19 road victory over the Jets. Geno Smith drove the Jets down to the Bears 17-yard line with less than 2 minutes left in regulation, but the defense kept them out of the end zone for the 5th time in 6 red-zone trips last night. The Bears defense is now tied for 2nd best in the league in red zone conversion percentage (33%). Overall it was a good day for the Bears defense as they started the scoring with a Ryan Mundy pick-6, forced three turnovers, and held a team under 20 points for the first time since week 16 in 2012!
The defense was far from perfect though against an offense that no one is going to confuse with the Denver Broncos. The Bears D still gave up too many rushing yards (114) at a 4.4 yards per carry clip and struggled on 3rd downs, giving up a first down on 40% of the Jets 3rd down opportunities, but there were signs of improvement. The pass rush was solid; the Bears sacked Smith 3 times and had 12 QB hurries. The secondary, despite being depleted by injuries to Charles Tillman, Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy, pitched in with two interceptions, one by rookie Kyle Fuller who now leads the NFL with 3 on the year. The run defense gave up over a hundred yards again, but 114 yards was the lowest total they have given up so far this season so at least the defense is trending in the right direction.
Spotted a 7-0 lead on the Mundy TD, the offense started strong with a TD and a FG on their 2nd and 3rd drives of the game to give the Bears a 17-3 lead, but they couldn’t put the Jets away. The offense stalled the rest of the first half which gave the Jets time to trim the lead to 17-13 at halftime. Then the Bears opened the 2nd half with a 7-play, 80 yard TD drive. The highlights of the drive were a 42 yard deep ball to Alshon Jeffery and a 13 yard TD pass to Martellus Bennett, his 2nd TD of the game, which put the Bears up 24-13 early in the 2nd half. The Bears added another field goal in the 4th quarter, but the Jets added two and cut the lead to 27-19.
The Jets had the ball, down just a TD and 2-point conversion with 3:10 left in the game and mounted a 12-play, 71-yard drive that gave Bears fans a scare, but ultimately died on the 17 yard line after a 4th down pass from Smith was caught a foot outside of the back of the end zone. The defense bent but didn’t break and ultimately saved the game for the Bears.
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Neither side of the ball was perfect last night for the Bears but they did just enough to win. The offense still can’t run the ball which has kept them from the type of long drives that allow the defense to rest and keep opposing offenses off the field. If the Bears are going to make a playoff run this season, they will need to run the ball more effectively than they have so far. On Monday night the Bears only managed 60 rushing yards on 2.9 yards per carry. The Jets came into the game with the #1 ranked run defense and the Bears previous opponents (SF, BUF) had strong rush defenses as well, but it’s troubling that the Bears haven’t had a 100 yards rushing in a game yet despite having an All-Pro RB in Matt Forte. Jay Cutler and the passing game picked up the slack Monday and accounted for two TDs and two FGs, but the Bears will need a more balanced offensive attack to beat good teams.
The much maligned special teams unit actually made a positive contribution with a fumble recovery on a muffed punt by rookie Ahmad Dixon. The fumble recovery set the Bears up on the Jets 40-yard line and led to their first offensive touchdown. Another newcomer, 2nd year player Rashad “the Rocket” Ross, failed to provide a boost to the kick return game averaging 21 yards per return, which is exactly what the previous return man, Senorise Perry, was averaging after two weeks on the job. I think the Bears will give Ross another game to show what he can do, but if he doesn’t improve next week they may go back to Perry or try Chris Williams. Rookie Pat O’Donnell was decent with a 42.5 yard average but had one 34 yard dud that combined with a dumb penalty on new special teams “ace” Terrell Manning gave the ball to the Jets at the Bears 28 yard line and resulted in a FG. In my opinion special teams in still the Bears biggest problem.
The Bears now have two upset road wins in a row and a share of first place in the NFC North. All three Bear units (O, D, ST) have glaring flaws right now, but the fact that the Bears are 2-1 despite not playing close to their best is a good sign. They will have to be better in all three phases next week when the reeling 1-2 Packers come to Chicago for a division battle. Go Bears!