Chicago Bears Week 1: Takeaways
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
As I was leaving my local bar on Sunday, I overheard a group of Chicago Bears fans blaming this loss on Jay Cutler. It’s frustrating that fans are pinning the Bears 31-23 loss to the Packers on one bad play. Yes, Cutler did throw an interception in the 4th quarter on a drive that could have tied the game, but they wouldn’t have been in position to tie the game if not for Cutler’s solid play up to that point. I’ll cover Cutler’s performance in more depth below, but blaming the loss on him is ridiculous and a way too common occurrence.
The Bears gave the Packers a better game than most people expected and could have had a victory if not for a handful of mistakes on both sides of the ball. Matt Forte had a great game, but also dropped an easy TD pass and another long pass that he normally catches. Alshon Jeffrey also dropped a potential TD and was interfered with in the end zone but it went uncalled. The Bears had three plays to score from the 2-yard line and couldn’t gain a yard. The defense had good coverage on multiple 3rd down passes that the Packers still completed because Aaron Rodgers is awesome. There is no specific player to blame, the Bears played better than expected and gave the Packers a scare but were just beat by a better team and a great QB.
1.) Jay Cutler played well – Fans will complain about the interception and it was a risky throw, but it was also a great play by Pro Bowl LB Clay Matthews. Before that play Cutler was solid, converting multiple tough 3rd down plays, using his legs to get out of trouble, and putting the ball where only Bears players could get it for most of the game. There were a few mistakes here and there, but he’s not Aaron Rodgers. On the day Cutler finished 18/36 for 225, a TD, and an INT, but his numbers should have been better if not for a few drops. For the most part Cutler managed the game well, rushed for 31 yards, and went 11-17 on 3rd downs. It was a solid performance for Cutler and he shouldn’t be crucified for one INT.
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2.) Three yards and a cloud of dust – The lack of a running game was so frustrating to watch last season, but Sunday the Bears rushed the ball 33 times and it paid off with 189 rushing yards and an impressive 5.7 yards per carry. Matt Forte did most of the damage with 141 rushing yards and 5.9 YPC. I forgot how good Forte was. The Bears also won the time of possession battle with just under 4 minutes more time. The Bears have some holes on defense, but being able to run the ball effectively will keep them off the field and keep the Bears in games. The Packers brought up a safety near the line of scrimmage in obvious running situations, but the Bears were still able to move the ball on the ground despite often facing 8-man fronts. I never thought I would miss the “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense but after last year’s pass heavy scheme, it was nice to see it again. If the Bears can establish the run consistently, it should open things up in the passing game.
3.) Bears defense is better than last year – Most fans I talked to expected a repeat of the 55 points the Packers put up on the Bears late last season, but the Bears D was better on Sunday. The 31 points they gave up isn’t impressive, but the Bears made the Packers work for everything they got on Sunday. Last year the Bears barely forced the Pack into any 2nd downs, but Sunday Rodgers faced 10 third downs. Unfortunately the Packers converted 60% of them, but most of them were result of great plays by Aaron Rodgers. Against a lesser QB, the Bears D may have put up a dominant performance. The Bears didn’t get a ton of pressure on Rodgers, but the coverage was solid on a lot of his completions, Rodgers just put the ball where only his receiver could get it.