The Uncertain Certainty of the Chicago Bears

The 2020 NFL season has been much like anything else in 2020… organized chaos. We have had Covid-19 cases and even outbreaks, season ending injuries to marquee names in the NFL, fans, no fans, cardboard cutouts, more fans? The usual amount of poor officiating, coaches fined $100K for not wearing masks and even players opting out of the season entirely.

Through the chaos, we have seen teams crumble who have come into the season with high aspirations. On the flip side of that, we have seen teams that thought they were going to “Tank for Trevor Lawrence” but are surprisingly in the hunt for a playoff spot almost midway through the season. Then, there are the teams stuck in mediocrity. Teams that give you hope… “This is OUR year” teams who show that they are nothing more than pretenders as the season progresses. One of those being the not so scary “Monsters of the Midway”.

Fans of the Chicago Bears went into this season with cautious optimism. A feeling that nearly every fanbase feels before week 1 of an NFL season. We are now onto week 8 of the NFL season and the Chicago Bears sit at 5–2 after having moved on from former #2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky and putting their eggs into the basket of former Superbowl Champion, Nick Foles. Currently, the Bears sit in second place in the NFC North behind only Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

So what is the big problem? We’re 5–2. 2nd in the Division and the Defense is top 5 in the NFL at the time of this being published.

One thing that gives fans pause is the less than favorable schedule ahead. With the Saints, Titans and Packers 3 of the next 4 weeks, the Bears and their fanbase could come back down to earth after the hot start to the year.

Another cause for pause on this team would be the way in which they win. Paraphrasing Nick Foles, these wins are ugly. Each of the 5 Bears victories have come in one possession games. Some of which came down to the last play. On a positive note, these one possession games did not swing the Bears direction last season which led to an underwhelming 8–8 record. Last seasons poor performance for a team with Super bowl aspirations led to an eventful offseason.

The NFL offseason was felt a bit different for Bears fans this year. Not only because of the global pandemic but because they had a very well documented quarterback controversy on their hands after the signing of Nick Foles. To the surprise of nobody, the Bears handed the keys over to the aforementioned Mitchell Trubisky to give him what seemed like one last shot to secure the starting QB role. Many argue that Matt Nagy absolutely had to give Mitch the starting role out of camp due to the fact that the Bears traded up in a draft to select Trubisky and passed on the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson (but we won’t get into that). Bottom line was that Mitch would get the the opportunity to save his job. You can always take him out for Foles if he shows no improvement. They didn’t see any way to go back to Mitch if they started Foles outright.

This brings us to the start of the 2020 NFL Regular Season…

Week one passes with a Chicago Bears comeback victory over the Detroit Lions. Bears fans are feeling good! Mitch is our guy. We are feeling frisky going into week 2 against the New York Football Giants.

Week two goes off without a hitch… Sort of. It came down to an offensive pass interference that went our way to seal victory #2! Bears are 2–0 with a combined point differential of +8.

With week 3 looming and still undefeated, the media and Bears fans were talking about a change at Quarterback…

But you can’t bench a guy who is 2–0… Can you?!?

Week three finally rolls in like a bad storm. The 2–0 Bears are in Atlanta to face off against a Falcons team who had just blown a significant lead to the Cowboys in week 2. The offense came out on the opening drive and moved the football down the field. They ended up settling for a 40+ yard field goal attempt which was no good (0–0)

Atlanta goes down the field and scores with ease but miss the extra point (6–0).

Bears take over again. Mitch does his little dink and dime down the field where the drive eventually stalls. Yet another field goal attempt. This time it goes through … (6–3). Not terribly bad offense from Mitch and the Bears. They moved the ball through scripted and safe plays. Simple routes, mixing in the run game, the occasional deep ball that would land nowhere near the intended receiver… Typical for what us Bear fans are accustomed to.

Atlanta takes it down the field yet again. This time the Bears defense stiffens up inside the red zone and forces a field goal (9–3).

Here is where the roller coaster ride begins…

Bears quick punt turns into a quicker Atlanta Touchdown (16–3).

Bears take over again and put together a beautiful drive late in the half (Which they typically do with an up-tempo offense). You have to give Mitch credit on that drive. He made a few nice throws to Allen Robinson as well as a 40-yard scramble to put them inside the 5.

Mitch proceeds to toss an easy pass to Jimmy Graham for a Bears touchdown (16–10). Not too shabby for a first half of Bears football. Right where you want to be against a team that notoriously loses games in a multitude of fashions.

The second half begins and uncharacteristically, the Bears defense continues to get gashed by the Atlanta pass attack. A quick touchdown drives puts the Falcons on top (23–10).

This is the drive in question… The drive that sent shockwaves through the NFL landscape… The drive where the quarterback controversy became less controversial.

On a 3rd down and 8 Mitch drops back and tosses a lame duck over the middle intended for Jimmy Graham. He completely overlooked the Atlanta defensive back looming in front of the intended target and the ball was easily intercepted and returned inside the red zone to set Atlanta up in plus territory. This is where the camera pans over to Nick Foles on the sidelines looking like a create-a-player in Madden. Tinted visor and all.

The Falcons cap off the turnover with a field goal extending the lead to 16 points (26–10).

AND HERE. WE. GO.

Nick Foles enters stage left. This marked the end of the road for Mitch Trubisky and his duties as starting quarterback. The 2nd drive of the second half of the 3rd game. Mind you, the Bears are sitting at 2–0. An undefeated football team, yet head coach Matt Nagy pulled the plug.

Was the interception that egregious? Maybe. But you cannot take away that he brought us back in week 1. He got the job done in week 2 and the first half of week 3 wasn’t all that bad. It was typical Mitch. Just enough to keep you interested.

From there, everyone knows the rest. Foles came out and looked mediocre for his first few drives. However, after he took off his tinted visor… presumably allowing him to see his receivers better, he flipped the game on its ear.

Foles led the Bears back from a 16-point deficit with under 8 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. The game clinching drive was capped off by an unbelievable heave to 3rd year man Anthony Miller for the go-ahead touchdown.

It is well documented that this touchdown throw was well thought out… sarcastically speaking. Reports came out after the game stating that Foles told Miller to “Run to the L”

What he is reffering to is the painted letter “L” in the Endzone. He told Miller just run to the “L” and the ball will be there. Sure enough that is exactly what happened. Foles was pressured by multiple Atlanta defenders and threw up a prayer which subsequently landed right in the waiting arms of Anthony Miller directly on the “L” in the painted “ATL” for a touchdown.

The now 3–0 Bears had pulled out another nail biting victory in yet another one score game. 2.5 games into the season, the quarterback change had officially been made and Bears fans everywhere were left wondering “Is Foles THE guy?”.

4 weeks removed from the change at quarterback and the Bears sit at 5–2 with Foles holding a record of 3–2 for games he has started. Still, many questions remain for this football team. One of them being the play calling conundrum.

As of right now, Head coach Matt Nagy is and will remain the play caller for this middling offense. Nagy was touted as an offensive genius coming up through the coaching ranks and Bears fans saw flashes of that greatness early in the 2018 season.

Since then, the play calling has seemingly been dumbed down and scripted to fit the skillset and abilities of then starting quarterback, Mitch Trubisky. Now, it has been documented by players and the media that Nagy has been able to go deeper into his bag of tricks with Foles at the helm.

This was evident in the week 3 comeback against Atlanta, but since then… there has been no sign of an offensive genius or an expanded playbook. In fact, on Monday Night Football where the Bears suffered their 2nd loss of the year to the Los Angeles Rams, the poor play calling of Nagy was brought into question by Troy Aikman on the national TV broadcast.

He insisted that Foles knows when a play call from the head coach will work and when they will not simply on the fact that he does not have enough time in the pocket for Nagy’s plays to develop. This certainly looked like the case the majority of the game on Monday Night as Foles was being pressured from all angles and was barely able to set his feet for long passes down the field or any pass play that needed some time to develop.

It is well known that the Bears offensive line is nothing to write home about and has been this way for as long as I can remember. When the run game isn’t working, it forces the Bears to be a one-dimensional team. This is where opposing defenses can capitalize with pass rush and create turnovers which was evident in the Monday Night Loss to LA.

Luckily for the Bears, they will not have to game plan for Aaron Donald every week. However, the offensive line must be a point of emphases before the trade deadline and through the draft process if the Bears want to achieve future success.

As the Bears look ahead to Sunday’s matchup against a good Saints team, there are still more questions than answers.

Is Nick Foles the answer at Quarterback? Could they experiment with a dual quarterback situation? Should Matt Nagy give up play calling duties? How can you sure up this offensive line to give whoever is playing quarterback enough time to run the offense?

All in all, the Bears are still 5–2 and you cannot take that away. They are in 2nd place in a competitive NFC North Division. Bears fans should be happy they are not fans of the Jets or the Cowboys, but it is easy to see where frustration sets in. The expectations of this team to start the year were all over the place due to the quarterback situation. With that seemingly in the rear-view mirror it is time to look at the rest of this season realistically. Unfortunately, realistic is not 13–3 and a Super bowl appearance. The Bears aren’t a team that is going to blow teams out every week. Their wins are going to be earned week in and week out. The Bears we know and have known in the past have a dominant defense (Check) and an offense that is spotty at best.

Again, this team is 5–2 with each win coming in a one possession game. The defense is elite, and the offense is… well… bad. If there is one thing I can utter to Bears fans around the world, It would come in the form of a quote from the one and only Romeo Crennel… “The Bears are who we thought they were”.

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