Watching the Bears’ offense is not easy.
From the offensive line’s lack of execution in blocking to Matt Nagy’s unit failing to consistently score points to inaccurate throws by Bears quarterbacks, the first six weeks of this 2020 NFL season have felt like an eternity.
Let’s also not forget about Nagy’s questionable personal decisions and play calls, with his most recent one coming in the Bears’ 23-16 victory over the Panthers. On third-and-2 with 1:42 left in the game, Nagy decided to have Cordarrelle Patterson in the backfield instead of David Montgomery, which was the first mistake. Then Nagy called a pass and Nick Foles’ throw fell incomplete to Allen Robinson, forcing the Bears to punt.
With one timeout left and 1:32 still left on the clock, Teddy Bridgewater was prepared to march 80 yards down the field to potentially tie the game at 23. But the Bears’ defense — like it’s done all season — bailed out Nagy after DeAndre Houston-Carson intercepted Bridgewater to secure the win.
There is so much to gripe about with this Bears offense, and much of the criticism and skepticism surrounding the unit is deserved, but even with that phase still searching for answers, the Bears are still a dangerous football team, and it’s all thanks to their elite defense.
Here is what Chuck Pagano’s unit has accomplished so far this season.
Are the Monsters of the Midway back?
Bears defensive stats:
19.3 PPG allowed 6th
5.2 yds allowed/play 6th
9 TD allowed 1st
31.8% Opp 3rd down 2nd
36.4% Opp redzone TD 1st pic.twitter.com/5rb1Q1G4Dt
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) October 19, 2020
Because of the defense’s dominance, Chicago is 5-1 and atop the NFC North, and the Bears won’t apologize for how they got there.
“I would first say, would you rather lose pretty or win ugly?” Foles said in his postgame interview. “I think we’d rather win ugly.”
Against the Panthers, the Bears’ rushing attack was ugly. Montgomery had a season-high 19 rushes but averaged 3.1 yards per carry against a defense that was ranked No. 29 in the league in stopping the run, according to Football Outsiders.
Still, Foles and the offense put up enough points on a Panthers defense that had only given up an average of 17.6 points in their last three games.
Sunday’s victory at Bank of America Stadium was the first time all season the Bears scored points in every quarter. It was, like Foles said, “ugly,” but if Chicago is capable of beating teams when they haven’t put together a complete game on offense, then opponents need to watch out for the Bears moving forward.
Especially since this Bears pass rush is starting to hit its stride. Through the first four games, it was predominantly Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks applying pressure. But the defense has seven sacks in its past two games, and five different players have contributed to the sack total.
- Khalil Mack (3)
- James Vaughters (1.5)
- Bilal Nichols (1)
- Mario Edwards (1)
- Barkevious Mingo (.5)
What’s even more impressive is that prior to the matchup with the Bears, the Buccaneers and Panthers did not give up a sack the week before. In both games, Chicago’s front seven terrorized Tom Brady and Bridgewater.
The Bears’ secondary has also been great this season and the most consistent unit on the team.
Bridgewater came into the Week 6 matchup with the sixth-most passing yards, and Robby Anderson was fourth in the league in receiving yards and had four games with at least 99 receiving yards or more. The Bears’ secondary limited Bridgewater to season lows in passing yards (216) and completion percentage (55.2). Anderson was held to 77 yards on four receptions.
Here is how each member of the Bears’ secondary fared against the Panthers.
#Bears Secondary vs Panthers
Fuller – 1 Target, 1 Catch Allowed, 5yds
Johnson – 6 Targets, 3 Catches Allowed, 76yds
Skrine – 7 Targets, 4 Catches Allowed, 58yds
DHC – 1 Target, 0 Catches Allowed, 1 INT
Gipson – 2 Targets, 1 Catch Allowed, 39yds, 1 INT
Jackson – 0 Targets
— The Chicago Audible (@ChicagoAudible) October 19, 2020
What should also be included on those stats is a tipped pass for Kyle Fuller and a pick-6 for Eddie Jackson. After Foles’ interception, the Bears’ defense took the field on the Carolina 9-yard line. Fuller jumped Anderson’s route and Jackson caught the deflected pass and ran to the end zone.
Fuller was flagged on the play for pass interference, which was a questionable call, but still, it looked as if Nichols tipped Bridgewater’s pass, and that would have canceled the penalty.
Even though the refs have taken away turnovers from the Bears’ defense — don’t forget about Jackson’s “pass interference” against the Giants — Pagano’s unit has consistently shown it can still stop opposing offenses and more importantly can close out games.
For people to start taking the Bears seriously, the offense must play better.
But it’s worth mentioning that Foles has only played three games as the starting quarterback. And he didn’t have a preseason or a traditional training camp to get acclimated to his teammates. He will improve.
As for the offensive line, last Sunday’s matchup was the first one without James Daniels in over two years. Plus, offensive line coach Juan Castillo had to miss the Panthers game due to COVID-19 precautions. The O-line will likely have more poor performances, but the unit was at a disadvantage against Carolina.
It’s Oct. 20 and the Bears haven’t played remotely close to their best game, yet they’re 5-1. That should be encouraging for Bears fans. Give it a month or two once teams start to fill out the playoff seeding, and let’s see where the Bears are at.
With this Bears defense, the offense just needs to become slightly better for Chicago to become a serious contender in the NFC, and that makes them a dangerous team.