The Chicago Bears defense will rise again
This first observation is influenced by the weird unpredictable energy we are all living with in the year 2020. No one could have imagined a month ago that the field would be flipped as far as which Chicago Bears unit is the biggest question mark at this point in the season.
The Bears offense is ascending quickly and hard like David Montgomery in a beast mode run. Yet somehow, the current state of the Bears defense is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. However, there are signs of hope that the defense’s current state of mediocrity can be overcome. The biggest signs were their two big goal-line stands. These were, absolutely, critical to the Bears keeping their playoff hopes alive with this victory.
However, the Bears’ defense made another important stop against the Vikings that is easily overlooked. Matt Nagy went against the grain and had the Bears start this vital game by receiving the football. This flopped as the Bears went three and out. However, the Bears defense bailed out Nagy by returning the favor to the Vikings as they also had a three-and-out set of downs.
This set up Mitch Trubisky to have the best game of his professional life in terms of confidence. His numbers were not gaudy but his self-confidence was like a powerful beam of light shining brightly throughout the Vikings’ home stadium. Mitch Trubisky and his guys went on to score on their next 6 possessions. They scored 33 points total in the game. The only punt in this game was after their first three plays.
Bill Lazor pushed the right buttons, the offensive line blocked like a synchronized machine as they often dominated the Vikings defensive line. The Bears skill position players picked up 397 yards. Amazingly it was almost perfectly split between the run and pass. They had 198 yards through the air and 199 yards on the ground. Then there was “Maestro Mitch” orchestrating it all while he ran plays that played to his strengths.
The Bears defense has to get some big-time credit for getting him the ball back right away. I suspect Trubisky’s overflowing confidence would not have been quite so overflowing if he had not gotten the ball back quickly after wasting his opportunity to get off to a quick start. Regretfully, after getting the Bears the ball back, their defense fell back into their recent soft ways. This resulted in the Vikings marching down the field for their own first-quarter touchdown after the Bears scored their first touchdown of the day.
I believe the Bears’ defense has been worn down by two big factors. One is the mental and physical fatigue of carrying the team for most of the season while their offense wasted a five-game winning streak by also wasting the efforts of the defense in their six-game losing streak.
The other factor is carrying this burden while under the threat of pandemic related issues that are undermining the effectiveness of NFL defenses overall. The defense’s recent downturn shows this has hung over them as it has hung over the entire NFL like a hangman’s ax. One of these issues related to the pandemic is how the refs are going way out of their way to protect players on offense.
It seems like the often ineffective play of the Bears defense started when Akiem Hicks pulled a hamstring chasing after Kirk Cousins in the first Bears Vikings game of 2020. The Bears defense just has not been the same since that injury. When this happened I attributed the lack of Akiem Hicks’ rare skill set and his leadership as the main reason for the Bears defense, suddenly becoming vulnerable to Dalvin Cook and the rest of the Vikings’ offense.
The defense has continued to give up way too many yards and points after the first Vikings game. That this has not stopped even when Akiem Hicks came back shows their problems run deeper than his presence on the field. The Bears defense just does not have the same mental resolve, cohesiveness and energy they had before Akiem Hicks got hurt.
If this is an accurate take, claiming a spot in the playoffs should, in my opinion, re-energize and re-focus the Bears defense. Not much energizes a tired NFL player more than playing in the playoffs. If this all plays out as I am suggesting then it is conceivable we could see the 2020 Bears peaking at the start of the playoffs.
If the Bears make the playoffs, and if they can deliver an offense that continues to score in the high 20’s low 30’s along with a top defense, that would make them a dangerous playoff team. This is especially so given that there is no great team in this year’s NFC. All the top teams in the NFC have flaws that can be, readily, attacked.