It was just one game. There are 15 more games this season. Sure, the Chicago Bears lost to the hated Green Bay Packers on Thursday night 10-3. In case you forgot, Chicago lost the opener in 2018 to Green Bay as well. Then what happened? The Bears won 12 of their last 15 to win the NFC North at 12-4. The Packers won only five more games to finish 6-9-1. So what does one game really mean? If historical data means anything, the first game means very little. In 2018, half of the NFL’s playoff teams lost their first game. So there’s no need to panic.
No Need for Chicago Bears Fans to Panic Just Yet
There is no doubt the Bears offense played horribly in the opener but they are bound to get better, as we detailed in our Season Preview last week. Ironically, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the guy who coined the term “R-E-L-A-X” on his radio show in September of 2014 after Green Bay started 1-2 for the third consecutive season. In all three seasons (2012, ’13, and ’14), the Packers ended up qualifying for the playoffs, as they did for eight consecutive years from 2009-2016.
In that same vein, Bears fans need to relax. Chicago is 0-1, just like last year. Despite the offense scuffling in their first live-action since January, the Bears will once again make the NFC Playoffs in 2019. The defense is too dominant and the roster is too stacked with talent for this team to miss the playoffs. Outside of major injuries, look for Chicago to rebound nicely from this tough loss.
Despite the horrific offense, only one side of the ball was inadequate in Week One. Both the defense and special teams had fantastic nights. In most games, holding a team to 10 points will get the job done. In addition, there were zero special teams errors. No missed kicks or blunders that led to points for Green Bay. These facts should be celebrated. Our Week One game balls go to inside linebacker Roquan Smith, defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris, punter Pat O’Donnell, and new Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
Our first game ball goes to Roquan Smith, who fired up the Soldier Field crowd and his teammates with huge stops on the first two plays of the game. As the game moved on, one could see the growth from the second-year linebacker as he played with more confidence than last year. His coverage was solid and he directed his teammates with more communication. The difference was last year he looked like he was just trying to take care of himself, whereas now he looks like a leader that is telling his teammates where to line up, who to cover, and what will likely be happening on the play. In other words, Smith looked like a young Mike Singletary or Brian Urlacher. Last year the defense was led by his fellow inside linebacker Danny Trevathan. This year, it’s possible Smith takes over as the leader of this young and outstanding Chicago Bears defense. Smith finished with four tackles including one tackle for loss.
Our next game ball is awarded to Roy Robertson-Harris. The third-year defensive end might not be a starter, but he’s in the rotation as one of the Bears top three defensive ends along with starters Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols. According to Football Outsiders, Robertson-Harris logged 353 snaps last year while Nichols had 328 snaps and the since-released Jonathan Bullard had 298 snaps. Look for both Robertson-Harris and Nichols to play much more now that Bullard is gone. In fact, they may split those 298 snaps giving them both many more play-making opportunities this year. That’s a good thing, based on the way Robertson-Harris dominated the Packers offensive line on Thursday. He finished with three tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and two quarterback hits.
Another player who was unsung in the opener was punter Pat O’Donnell. Punters are usually overlooked but O’Donnell deserves a mention. He punted eight times for a 42.6 yard average with a long of 53 yards. He pinned Green Bay inside their 20-yard line three times. O’Donnell’s performance helped the Bears defense by giving Rodgers and the Packers long fields. It worked as Green Bay’s supposedly illustrious offense (seventh last year according to Football Outsiders) only put up 10 measly points, which was 13.5 points under their average of 23.5 points per game last year.
Our final game balls go to newbies Eddy Pineiro and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. All the off-season talk was about the Bears kicking situation. Pineiro came in and nailed his lone kick in the opener, a 38-yard field goal, for the Bears only score in Week One. Talk about pressure… Pineiro must have been shaking in his boots (kicking boots?) in the pregame. Good for Eddy to nail that kick and get people off his back, at least for one week, because it’s harder to kick with people on your back, literally.
One of the other big Bears question marks going into 2019 was how would new coordinator Chuck Pagano handle the dominant defense? So far, so good. Pagano’s defense showed some blitzes, as expected. Chicago totaled nine tackles for loss including five sacks against Green Bay. They hit Rodgers seven times and broke up five passes. Most weeks a team will be victorious if they allow only 10 points. Overall, a solid Week One for Pagano and his defense.
Week One Player of the Game
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd played a very good/almost great game on Thursday. He showed why everyone is so high on him as his pass-rushing moves looked unstoppable. Floyd has shown flashes over his first three seasons. The question with the fourth-year pro has been can he finish at the quarterback? Floyd has worked hard at his technique and has probably learned from fellow pass rush icon Khalil Mack. In this game, Floyd indeed finished as he sacked Rodgers twice. He finished with a total of four tackles and the two sacks, but it wasn’t the stats that made us giddy. It was not only the way he played but the way he looked. Floyd was ferocious. He used his hands and body well to position himself for success. Floyd’s body is a specimen. He has the size and speed combination to cover receivers as well as put his hand in the dirt and rush the quarterback. If Floyd keeps this up, Bears opponents better watch out.
Fans and critics are upset that the Bears season started off so poorly. However, it’s just one game. Last season proved that one game doesn’t make a season. In fact, not only did Chicago rebound from 2018’s opening loss to make the playoffs at 12-4, but five other teams did as well including the New Orleans Saints (lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but finished 13-3), the L.A. Chargers (lost to the Kansas City Chiefs but finished 12-4), the Houston Texans (lost to the New England Patriots but finished 11-5), the Dallas Cowboys (lost to the Carolina Panthers but finished 10-6), and the Seattle Seahawks (lost to the Denver Broncos but finished 10-6).
As you can see, all six teams finished with 10 or more wins and all qualified for the playoffs. So don’t be too quick to judge teams based on their Week One opening games. If you do, you might be quitting on half the league’s playoff teams. So let’s learn something from Aaron Rodgers. The Bears players and their fans don’t need to panic. They need to R-E-L-A-X.