By Bryan Dietzler
After a 0-3 start, many felt that the Chicago Bears were heading into a downward spiral from which, perhaps, they would never recover. This team had done a lot of work in the offseason to make themselves better but that work just wasn’t panning out. They had seemingly been going in reverse through the first three games of the season despite the improvement from the offseason. Was it coaching? Was it the general manager’s selection of talent? Was it the players? You really couldn’t put your finger on it.
But in a span of three seemingly long hours, the Bears fought and scraped their way to a 17-14 victory against their division rival, the Detroit Lions. The Lions came into the game with a high powered offense but had a suspect defense and on Sunday, both their offense and defense failed them. The Bears took advantage and played well but still just barely got past the Lions in this one.
So is there a quarterback controversy brewing in Chicago. Over the course of the last two games, backup Brian Hoyer has played well in relief of the injured Jay Cutler and did just enough to win the game on Sunday. The Bears can at least know that they can take their time bringing Cutler back but do they want to bring him back and supplant Hoyer right now with the backup playing so well? That might not be a good idea at this time. It’s unclear what the coaching staff will decide to do when Cutler is ready (which could be by the time they play their next game against the Indianapolis Colts) so keep an eye on this. It could make for some interesting press coverage over the next couple of weeks.
In addition to a quarterback controversy, it appears there may be a little bit of a running back controversy. Jordan Howard had an excellent game on Sunday, rushing for over 100 yards (the Bears first 100 yard rushing effort of the season). He is spelling starter Jeremy Langford who is out with a sprained ankle and if he keeps up this pace, he may supplant Langford as the starter for the long term. Depth at this position isn’t that great however, as the Bears have Joique Bell backing Howard up and Ka’Deem Carey sitting on the bench with a hamstring problem. This group has to get healthier while hopefully continuing to improve.
The wide receiver position was pretty productive for the Bears in this game as almost every receiver got into the act. Alshon Jeffery was solid, as usual. Kevin White was productive and appears to be getting better with each passing game but an injury will keep him out for a while. Eddie Royal had a monster game and needs to stay healthy in order to contribute and keep the Bears offense going. Cameron Meredith also had a hand in helping the team win on Sunday. Tight end Zach Miller was his usual best and had a touchdown. This group has gotten to be good and will only continue to get better.
The offensive line appears to have finally come together better except that (and this writer has talked about this player many times) Bobby Massie still struggles. This unit did very well against the Lions on Sunday although they did allow some pass pressure on Hoyer. Still, they opened up holes for the running game and kept Hoyer pretty evenly protected. This looks like the game that everything clicked so the question now is, can they maintain this level of play for the next 12 games?
After three dismal efforts in a row, the Bears defense had a much better game this past Sunday. The defense held the Lions rushing attack to minimal yards and didn’t allow quarterback Matthew Stafford to get into a rhythm and pick the Bears apart. The defensive line was on target, the linebackers were very good and the secondary was solid. All around it was a good strong effort by the entire defense.
The front line of the Bears defense, much like the offensive line, is getting better and coming together. Akeem Hicks is looking better and Mitch Unrein is stepping up and playing well. This group is taking care of the trash up front and letting the linebackers make a lot of plays which is exactly what a good defensive line is supposed to do. Chicago’s defensive line finally got to playing better in this game and it showed.
Despite the fact they are missing two of their starters, the Bears linebacking corps did a very good job against the Lions. Everyone was making plays, reacting to the ball quickly and not allowing the ball carriers to gain a lot of yards. This group has improved a lot and is really the backbone of the defense. When they play well the entire defense plays well.
The secondary got into the act this past Sunday and they made some pretty strong plays to help keep the Lions out of the end zone (remember the Lion’s only touchdown came on a special teams score) and they held a normally reliable and accurate quarterback in Stafford to a limited number of yards. Each member of the secondary, including backup players, played a pretty solid game and helped contribute greatly to the Bears victory.
The normally reliable special teams unit was not too reliable on Sunday as they allowed a touchdown return on a punt that put the game closer than it really should have been. The coverage unit broke down severely on that play and that can’t happen again. The kicking game was also off as kicker Connor Barth missed a kick that could have put the Bears even farther ahead and given them a little more cushion. Too bad Robbie Gould cost so much money. The kicking has to get better.
It finally appears as if offensive coordinator Dowell Loggins has been able to put things together and call a good game. Hopefully this will continue for the remaining games of the season but he has a bit of a dilemma. What will he and the rest of the coaching staff do when Cutler is back and ready to play? Do they stay with the hot hand or do they give it to the mainstay who has, for the most part, not been able to do much for the Bears since coming to Chicago. A big decision is coming.
Chicago will face the reeling Indianapolis Colts this coming Sunday. A full preview of that game will be in by the weekend. Stay tuned!