Six observations regarding the Chicago Bears heading into Week 13
The Chicago Bears are not the same defense without Akiem Hicks
The Packers’ domination of the Bears revealed a hard truth and a fascinating truth about this team when this game is compared to every other 2020 Chicago Bears game. The fascinating truth is that Akiem Hicks’ leadership is as important to the Bears’ defense as is his extraordinary skill set.
Up until the Packers game, it appeared Nagy was still the main one motivating the Bears to play hard in spite of setbacks that led to tough losses. The Packers game provided some hefty evidence that the guy who was really keeping the positive vibe going on the defense is Akiem Hicks. Without Akiem Hicks’ talent, grit and leadership, the Chicago Bears’ run defense literally surrendered to the Packers’ offense.
The Bears play like an elite defense when they make the opposing offenses one-dimensional by stuffing their run game. This typically requires a healthy Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. The Bears’ defense was able to stop any team’s running game for the entire 2018 season. They stuffed the run in most games of the 2019 season and have done it a few games this season.
The last game this happened was against the Vikings. When these two teams faced off, the Vikings had the hottest running back in the NFL in Dalvin Cook. Then next game disaster struck in the debacle that was the first Bears-Packers game of 2020.
The Packers’ offense from the git-go was fired up like this was the most important game of the season to them. This was in stark contrast to the Bears’ run defense which played like they were making business decisions on each running play. This reminded me of two games against other quality teams when the defense started out these games with tentative efforts. These were the Colts and Bucs games. In both games, the Chicago Bears defense finished strong.
I attribute the slow starts and ultimate collapse against the Packers to the continued erosion of players’ trust in Nagy’s leadership. I now attribute the Bears defense getting on track in the Bucs-Colts game in good part to Akiem Hicks’ leadership which included his all-out hustle.
Hicks is the vocal leader who also leads by great example. Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace built this boat that can arguably be identified as having had the best team chemistry in all of professional sports today. However, Nagy has recently put some holes into his boat. When he was on the field, Akiem Hicks plugged up a lot of those holes Matt Nagy had created.