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The Chicago Bears Process is More Impressive Than the Results

The Chicago Bears have won back-to-back games for the first time in weeks but it’s their process that has been most impressive.

The Chicago Bears have won back-to-back games for the first time in weeks but it’s their process that has been most impressive. Weeks 5 against Tampa and Week 6 against Carolina were the last games the Bears won in a row. You had to go back several regimes to find a streak as horrid as their six-game skid. But they find themselves in playoff contention after finding themselves. Is this real? If so, how sustainable is it?

Impressed with Chicago Bears Process More Than Results

Trubisky Lazor Focused

A union that cannot be overlooked is that of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. You might be saying, “well duh”. But Lazor just began calling plays in Week 10 after Matt Nagy finally handed over the reins. Chicago spent much of the year dwelling in the doldrums offensively. But they’re fifth in scoring and seventh in yards per game over the last three weeks.

Trubisky has played well individually, completing over 73 percent of his passes for 736 yards, five touchdowns, and just one interception.  Even more promising is he got back to using his legs effectively, rushing 15 times for 63 yards over his last three. Over his first five starts, those numbers were just over 58 percent completion, 802 yards, nine touchdowns, and five picks.

Now, Lazor and Trubisky joined forces for the loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 12. He didn’t perform well, completing 56.5 percent of his passes for 242 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The point is, this stretch has been nice, but we cannot forget how this team looked just three weeks ago against a tougher opponent than any from the last two weeks.

Still, the Bears have been getting Trubisky out of the pocket and on the move. The fourth-year pro says these are things he has requested but those on the outside have begged them to use him this way forever. The play-calling change may have salvaged the careers of Nagy, Lazor, and Trubisky. Maybe not in Chicago, but certainly somewhere.

Rumble, Young Man, Rumble

Perhaps even more key to this turnaround than the rejuvenation of the passing game has been the discovery of a running game. After averaging 138 rushing yards per game over their first three games, the Bears averaged 52.57 rush yards per game. That’s as a team! But they’ve rededicated themselves, cranking out 157 per over the last month.

David Montgomery has been a man on fire. He’s got 434 yards and five touchdowns on the ground while averaging 6.11 yards per tote over his last four games since returning from a concussion. He’s also caught 13 of 16 targets for 137 yards and a touchdown. Even when the Bears were running well earlier in the year, Montgomery wasn’t running like this.

Some will point out that the Bears have faced teams that averaged out to 24th in run defense DVOA entering Week 15, per Football Outsiders. It’s a fair point but we saw this team struggle to run the ball for weeks. Mongomery didn’t even cross the century mark in a single game until Week 12. Thing is, they won’t face much more resistance the rest of the way.

Chicago plays Jacksonville and Green Bay in the last two weeks. The Jaguars are 24th in rush defense DVOA and 30th in rushing yards allowed. We already know what they did in a losing effort against the Packers. We should expect an even heavier dose in what could be a game that means everything to the Bears and close to nothing for the Packers (which won’t likely affect who plays).

On the Line

Sam Mustipher, remember the name. This has been as much a key to the Bears rushing success as their opponent. Weeks spent watching Rashaad Coward get whooped off the snap was wholly avoidable. Nonetheless, the Bears appear to have found their center of the future while allowing Cody Whitehair to flourish once again at guard. Or at least one capable enough for them to kick the position down the list of priorities.

Mustipher and Alex Bars have brought the steadiness you would expect of Notre Dame linemen (pour one out for Harry Hiestand). It’s a shame the game of musical chairs that was played during the Bears slump didn’t result in this combination sooner. Perhaps this is the biggest casualty of not having a preseason. No unit relies more on cohesiveness than the offensive line.

Charles Leno and Germain Ifedi have been the same, un-good players they always have. But the Bears success on the ground has led them to remain committed to it. It’s also taken some pressure off of their weak bookends. But what about James Daniels? After bouncing between center and left guard, can he play right guard? And can Bars play tackle well enough to facilitate such a move?

Leno cracked the top-10 in ESPN’s Run Block Win Rate metric, proving he does indeed have value when he isn’t committing penalties. But the money locked up in him drops after this season from around $15 million in dead cap to just over $5 million, making cutting him much more palatable. Especially if the Bears play themselves out of contention for a top quarterback and opt for a tackle in the draft.

Defense Not Withstanding

Not everything about this “run” the Bears are on has been encouraging. Outside of Roquan Smith the defense, the calling-card of this team since forever, has been a letdown far more often than a true strength of late. They’re 14th in total yards allowed on the season, but are 18th over the last three weeks. Chicago is 10th in scoring defense but if you throw out their drubbing of the Houston Texans, they’ve allowed 34 points per game. That would be tied for second-most in the last three weeks.

It’s been the pass defense, which was so strong to start the year, that has faltered most. Chicago is the 13th-ranked passing defense but they’re giving up 268 yards per game over their last three. That’s good for 24th in that span. The Bears were without rookie Jaylon Johnson on Sunday but, to be honest, Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor didn’t fare much worse in his stead.

Chicago’s pass rush has also seen a resurgence of late. They’re 15th on the year in sacks per game but have leaped to fourth, averaging four per game. They haven’t gotten near the return from Robert Quinn they’re paying for. Khalil Mack has been dealing with injuries lately and hasn’t been winning his matchups as consistently.

We’ll be at a point where we are wondering about cutting ties with Akiem Hicks. Not that he isn’t valuable when right, but has he been fully healthy since returning from his hamstring injury suffered in Week 10? Dalvin Cook had more rushing yards on Sunday (132) than in Week 10 (96) and Hicks missed most of that meeting. Luckily Bilal Nichols has been on fire lately.

More Impressed with Chicago Bears Process than Results

Two more wins (and a little help) and these Bears could find themselves in the postseason for the second time in three years. That was almost unthinkable just two weeks ago. The losses to all three division opponents were as tough to watch as they were to stomach. Especially the ones to Detroit and Minnesota that broke win streaks against them going back multiple seasons.

The calls for Nagy (and Ryan Pace) to be fired have subsided, for the most part. They have not disappeared as many weigh Chicago’s recent success properly. With Week 17 looking like the only challenge, there’s a good chance this thing gets run back next year. Regardless of whether that is the right or wrong decision fans should take some solace in their favorite team’s decision-makers appearing to improve how they go about things.

We all read about their bungled process leading up to the 2017 draft and all the draft misses prior. Well, the last three draft classes have looked much better early on than the previous three were in totality. There were plenty of stories about the predictable nature of the ineffective offense that wasn’t maximizing players’ talents. They’ve begun getting their limited passer on the move and running more (and better).

You know, doing the things they said they would do in the off-season. A wild concept, indeed.

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