Despite a great 36-7 win over the Houston Texans, the Chicago Bears have changed nothing in terms of their long-term prospects. Or at least they shouldn’t have, but we know how perception is reality and the perception seems to be heavy on the positives but light on the underlying warning signs. This isn’t negativity for the sake of being negative. Rather, the logical reasoning for the offensive surge we saw on Sunday.
Same Ol’ Bears Despite Great Win
Run Away Victory
The first thing that has stood out about the Bears over the last few weeks has been the resurrection of the run game. In the three weeks following their bye, the Bears have averaged over 143 yards per contest; including 169 yards against Houston. They ran for 121 yards against the Green Bay Packers and 140 against the Detroit Lions in the weeks prior, despite both games being losses.
Some have attributed that to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor taking over the play-calling duties. But the real answer is much less encouraging. For starters, Lazor actually took over before the bye week, against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears ran for just 41 yards on 17 attempts in a game they lost 19-13. Minnesota entered Week 14 ranked 19th against the run. Beyond that, none of the three teams the Bears have had success running against recently rank higher than 14th against the rush; that being the Packers.
There is also cause for concern over the commitment to a ground game that has looked dominant at points the last month. David Montgomery has hit the century-mark in two of his past three games and ran for two touchdowns in the other. The performances of Montgomery and the interior offensive line shouldn’t go unnoticed. We noted weeks ago how Sam Mustipher might be the answer at center. Just remember who they came against.
.@MontgomerDavid OUT THE GATES 🔥🔥🔥!!
32 goes 80 yards for the opening drive score.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 13, 2020
Mack Sacks Back
Khalil Mack got to Deshaun Watson for his first sack since Week 8. It was one of seven sacks recorded by the Bears on the day and part of why the Texans had more drives net negative yardage than positive after their touchdown. For some, this was Mack, who has been a regular on the injury report in recent weeks, getting back to form. It was also the first safety of his career. But there are several problems here, both for Mack and the Bears as a whole.
Beginning with Mack, breaking out of the slump is nice, but he wasn’t even the most impressive rusher on his own team. Both Mario Edwards and Roquan Smith had two sacks apiece. Neither are in the same breath as Mack as far as pass rushers go. Instead, the Bears highest played player tied with Bilal Nichols and Brent Urban with one sack on the day. Mack is tied at 14th with 7.5 sacks and his 21 pressures have him tied with several other guys. It’s not just an issue for him.
While Mack is the poster child for not currently living up to the contract, Robert Quinn has to be the spokesman. The $70 million man didn’t record a stat in Sunday’s dominant showing by the defense. He arrived with a lofty reputation as a pass-rusher but began the year as a part-time player and his only sack came all the way back in Week 1. Smith, Nichols, and Edwards all have four sacks apiece while Akiem Hicks has 3.5 of his own so maybe it’s just the wealth is being spread. But Mack hasn’t been the dominant force his reputation (and salary) suggest he should be. Especially considering the Texans came in ranked 25th in sacks allowed per game.
.@FiftyDeuce out here on neighborhood watch! SAFETY!
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 13, 2020
This was one of, if not, the best games Matt Nagy has ever called. Ditto for Mitchell Trubisky and the game he played. Neither were flawless, displaying some of the same annoying habits that led the Bears to their current state. But what’s worse about all of it is how intertwined the two things are.
You can’t commend Nagy without noting the opponent or that this performance came after several weeks of floundering. You can’t commend Trubisky without wondering if Nagy benched him too soon. Or, more likely, without similarly noting who he is doing this against. Trubisky has multiple touchdown passes in just 16 of 48 games. Nagy is still 14-15 over the last year-plus and was 4-6 against playoff teams entering this season. The Bears are 1-5 against teams currently slated to make the playoffs in 2020.
Juxtapose that against the backdrop of Watson, playing without his top two wide receivers and top running back, under the guidance of an interim head coach who is the oldest in the league. Is what you saw really that impressive? Houston is 24th against the pass and 31st versus the run. They’re also 19th in sacks. In other words, they’re in no great shakes at the moment. Punching down typically only hurts you in a loss. It does not help even in victory.
Big Win Doesn’t Change Bears Outlook
One thing making this win look a little better is Houston is the second-highest ranked team in Football Outsider‘s DVOA the Bears have beaten, edging out the ninth-place Carolina Panthers but below the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Much of that ranking came from them, at full strength, braving one of the toughest schedules in the league. We’d be talking about who they’d be drafting in the first round next April if their pick wasn’t owned by the Miami Dolphins.
The point is, despite the outburst, we already know what this group is just as we know what Trubisky and Watson are. Yet social media was abuzz with memes about the former out-dueling the latter on a day when Patrick Mahomes (the third quarterback in their draft class) threw three picks as if it mattered. If you would take Trubisky over Watson you deserve the sports limbo that is likely coming. In fact, that may be the only thing that has changed. The win, and renewed push for the postseason, will hinder the inevitable makeover this team needs. Don’t believe the hype. Nothing has changed for these Chicago Bears despite their big win.
On to Minnesota.
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