Chicago Bears Week 3: Takeaways

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Monday night’s upset road win wasn’t pretty, but the Bears did just enough to win and improve their record to 2-1 on the season. They are tied for first place in the NFC North with the Lions and have a big division game vs the Packers at home this Sunday. The Bears are exactly where I thought they would be record-wise after week 3, but there is significant room for improvement in all three aspects of the game. They will need to play better this Sunday against the 1-2 Packers who have been dominating the rivalry during the Jay Cutler era (9-2). The Bears haven’t come close to playing their best football yet and I’ll touch on a few areas that need improvement below. I already recapped the game yesterday, so today I’ll focus on some individual performances both good and bad from Monday night.

1.) Kyle Fuller is looking like the Bears best rookie DB since Mark Carrier

His interception in the end zone took points off the board for the Jets and gave Fuller an NFL leading 3 picks on the season. The interceptions are nice, but Fuller has also improved the Bears run defense. He has averaged 7 tackles over the last two games, graded out positively in run defense (1.3) according to PFF since taking over for Charles Tillman, and forced two fumbles on Monday night, one of which was a textbook “Peanut punch”. Fuller also received the highest single-game grade from PFF of any Bears player this year for his work on Monday night (5.0). He did miss a tackle on WR Greg Salas’ 51-yard run on the Jets final drive, but overall Fuller has been awesome and the early leader for defensive rookie of the year.

2.) Jay Cutler is 7-1 on Monday Night Football as a Bear

I would have thought his record on Monday night would be closer to 1-7, but it turns out Cutler has been one of the best active QBs on the Monday night stage. This week wasn’t one of his best statistical games (23/38, 238, 2) but he didn’t throw any interceptions and limited his bad decisions. He caught a break when an INT was dropped but Cutler has hit on his throwing arm during the pass, so it wasn’t necessarily a bad decision or throw. Cutler did have a fumble and caught another break when the refs ruled the play dead before the Jets could return it for a TD, but overall Cutler played solid, mostly mistake free football and did just enough for the Bears to win on a night when they got nothing from the run game. Cutler’s best play of the game was in the 4th quarter on 3rd & 9, when the Jets brought everyone on a blitz… Cutler stayed calm and lofted a 13 yard strike to Alshon Jeffery to keep the drive alive. The Bears ended up with a FG on the drive that gave them the 8 point cushion that they held for the rest of the game.

3.) Free agent DEs finally showed up

The sacks aren’t there yet, but both Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen had an impact on Monday night. Houston had 5 QB pressures, 2 of which resulted in hits and also batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage. Houston moved inside to DT for 17 snaps Monday showing his versatility and improving the Bears 3rd down pass rush. Allen had 6 total pressures (3 QB hits) and one of his QB hits should have resulted in a game-sealing interception if Jon Bostic didn’t have stone hands. As long as these two keep getting pressure on the QB, the Bears defense will keep improving and eventually the sacks will come.

4.) Rush defense is getting better (slowly) 

198 rushing yards allowed in week 1, 127 in week 2, 114 in week 3… The Bears rush defense is moving in the right direction. With all the new faces on the Bears starting D (6 of Monday’s defensive starters weren’t on last years roster), it’s understandable that it might take a few weeks to get used to playing together. If the Bears can avoid any more injuries the next few weeks and give this group time to gel, I think the Bears could be at least a mediocre defense (top 20!) by midseason. The defense faces its biggest test this week against Green Bay, so we’ll see if they have really improved or have just been playing bad offenses the last three weeks. The Pack have been struggling, but they have more talent on offense than any of the Bears opponents so far. Hopefully the Bears can continue to improve their run defense and keep the Packers under 100 yards rushing on the day.

5.) The Bears can’t run the ball

The Bears played a top 5 rushing defense for the 2nd week in a row and couldn’t move the ball on the ground again. It was even worse this week with 60 yards on 21 carries (2.9 ypc). The Jets came into the game as the #1 ranked run defense and it was pretty obvious that the Bears weren’t going to be able to run the ball from the beginning. To their credit, the Bears did get a key 3rd down conversion on their final scoring drive on an 8-yard Forte run. The Bears have been able to pull off two tough road wins without running the ball, but that is not sustainable long-term. Against better teams the Bears will need a more balanced attack to win. Also the ability to prolong drives with the run game will improve the defense by keeping them fresh on the sidelines. The Packers are last in the league in rush yards allowed (469), so this seems like a pretty good week to get the running game back on track. If we can’t rush for at least 100 yards this week, I’m going to be officially worried.