Just like that, the Chicago Bears are all but officially out of the playoff hunt after Sunday night’s 17-7 primetime defeat to the Los Angeles Rams.
Coming into this one, it looked like a game where, with a strong all-around team effort, the Monsters of the Midway could sneakily pull away with a win as the six-point underdogs. The Rams would be missing two of their starting linemen as well as two starting wideouts. Pair this with struggling quarterback Jared Goff, and you seemingly had a perfect recipe for an upset.
However, while the defense held up admirably against Sean McVay’s once-envied offense (just 10 points allowed heading into the fourth quarter), the Bears’ offense was, again, dreadful – something that’s been their Achilles Heal all season.
We won’t get into all of that.
Instead, we’ll focus primarily on the defense’s performance, where the team allowed just 283 total yards (110 of which were rushing). Chuck Pagano’s unit was vulnerable against L.A.’s ground-game led by 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley. But they were able to limit the damage by forcing key turnovers along with some big third-down stops throughout the game.
Maybe the biggest reason the Bears’ D was able to hold their own was the flawless execution by linebacker Roquan Smith.
The former top-10 overall pick has had a penchant for playing against Goff early in his career, notching his second professional interception on Sunday night (both against Goff) in as many games against him.
Roquan Smith picks off Goff!
His 2nd career regular season INT – both against Goff #BearDown ?⬇️
— Sports ReUp (@SportsReUp) November 18, 2019
Not only was Smith a substantial factor in pass coverage – he was consistently all over the field.
The Georgia product led the Bears with 11 tackles, including a pass defended and a tackle-for-loss. This now marks the third-straight contest where the 22-year-old has notched double-digit tackles. While a lackluster supporting cast has remained an issue, with key injuries to Danny Trevathan and Akiem Hicks, Smith has been a spitting image of what the Bears drafted him to be.
It hasn’t been all smooth-sailing this season for the second-year pro, as his play admittedly fell off a bit for a multi-week span in the games following his surprising absence versus the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4. The good news, though, is that whatever issue was bothering him is seemingly a thing of the past, as he’s been back to his dominant self in recent weeks.
Following the loss of Trevathan, Chicago would need someone to step up in a big way. Nick Kwiatkoski has filled in adequately, but it’s been Smith who’s really elevated his play in Trevathan’s absence.
After the game, Smith — a player who always believes he could have done more — acknowledged that he felt on top of his game and the Rams’ predictable play-calling helped put him in a position to make several big plays, but was still hard on himself following the loss.
“I felt good throughout the game, but it’s not the standard,” Smith said in an interview with the Sun-Times. “We failed to win, so it’s back in the lab and finding ways to get better. I still don’t think I did good enough, because I didn’t do good enough for us to get the ‘W.’ That’s how I’m thinking of it. We’ve just got to get better.”
It’s been far from sunshine and rainbows for the 2019 Chicago Bears. Win or lose, however, it’s evident that the team possesses plenty of high-character individuals like Smith that should help steer this club in the right direction moving forward.
It can be easy to focus on the negatives during a worst-case-scenario type of season. Plenty of roster moves will be made this upcoming offseason to right the ship, but fans can be certain that Smith will remain a staple of this team’s future plans and will be holding down the heart of the Bears’ defense for years to come.
Smith has been balling, and that’s at least one positive aspect to build off of heading down the stretch of this season.
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