Last week, the Bears managed to defeat the Carolina Panthers 17-3. When you pair that with their triumph over the Baltimore Ravens in week six, the Bears get their first back-to-back wins since 2015. This week, the Bears travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in the Mercedez-Benz Superdome and if they expect to win three in a row for the first time since starting 3-0 with Marc Trestman in his first season, here’s what they will have to do.
Keep It up on Defense
Remember Lovie Smith? Ah, the good old days when Bears teams focused on creating turnovers and returning them for touchdowns. Don’t look now but the Vic Fangio Bears in 2017 are starting to turn the corner and are actually taking the ball away from other teams!
Against the Ravens, the Bears caused three turnovers and Adrian Amos returned one of those turnovers 90-yards for a touchdown. Against the Panthers, the Bears again forced three turnovers including two recording setting touchdown returns for rookie Eddie Jackson that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week Honors for week seven.
Not to be overshadowed by their ability to take the ball away recently, the Bears defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown to an opposing offense in their last nine quarters of football, dating back to the third quarter of their week five loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
All three levels of the Bears defense have been playing well. The defensive line is constantly creating a good push with Eddie Goldman while Akiem Hicks continues to impact the game at a pro bowl level. Danny Trevathan has been everything the Bears had hoped for when they signed him last offseason and Christian Jones is playing the best football of his carrier while filling in for the injured Nick Kwiatkoski and Jerrell Freeman. Leonard Floyd has been getting in quarterbacks faces often and has made plays against the run. The secondary, lead by Kyle Fuller, is playing better than anyone could have imagined going into the season.
The Bears defense has been playing at a championship level and will need to continue against Drew Brees and the Saints offense if they expect to win.
Bonus Defensive Player Watch: Akiem Hicks. His time with the Saints did not go well as he was forced out of position and asked to play against his skill set. Look for the Bears star defensive end to play with a little extra motivation in his first game against his former team.
Stop Handcuffing Mitchell Trubisky!
John Fox is not a coach who trusts young quarterbacks and if Glennon was able to play at least decent football Trubisky probably would still be holding a clipboard but thankfully the team turned to their second overall pick from April’s draft. The problem is, Trubisky exchanged his clipboard for a pair of handcuffs.
The Bears have been calling an extremely conservative game since Trubisky has taken over under center and he hasn’t responded well. Running on first and second down and throwing on third and long isn’t going to help the development of Trubisky. The team is so worried about making sure the rookie doesn’t make a mistake that Trubisky is clearly worried about it as well.
He’s so worried about hurting the team that he isn’t even attempting to make plays, instead he’ll conseed to the sack. That’s no way to develop a young QB. Trubisky needs to be allowed to make mistakes, otherwise he won’t be able to learn from them.
The Saints secondary is the perfect opportunity to allow Mitchell to throw the ball and try to make plays. The Saints secondary has shown improvement but they’re still nothing to be afraid of. Let the young quarterback make plays and learn, a game where Trubisky throws only seven times is a wasted 60 minutes of development.
Wide Receivers Have to Show Up
FINALLY, the Bears at least have a NFL caliber wide receiver in Dontrelle Inman who they received from the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for a conditional seventh round pick. After the Chargers lost Keenan Allen to injury last year, Inman had a career year catching 58 passes for 810 yards. Inman is a 6-foot-3 target that has the size to play outside the numbers, something the Bears group was lacking before.
This could help Kendall Wright as he can go back to the slot where he’s most effective and Inman can play outside. Wright has been the most effective receiver for the Bears but his 5-foot-10 frame was not built to battle on the outside and with Inman in Chicago he shouldn’t have to anymore.
If Inman can develop a quick rapport with Trubisky he can help both the receiving group and the quarterback group, this was a low-risk, high-reward trade by Ryan Pace.
Special Teams Needs to Help, Not Hurt
When you’re a young team like the Bears, there isn’t a large tolerance for error. Football is played on offense, defense and special teams. Lately, the defense has been helping, the offense hasn’t been hurting and the special teams has hurt the Bears.
Punt and kick coverage almost cost the Bears the game in Baltimore. Two special teams touchdown returns given up would have absolutely cost this team the game if it weren’t for a strong outing from the defense. If the special teams didn’t concede those two touchdowns the Bears would have won in regulation and not risked injury to their players over extra time.
Connor Barth is not a good kicker, that much we know by now and with how hard it is for this Bears team to gain yards he can’t miss field goals and expect the Bears to win. Not only does that take points off the board but missed field usually result in giving the other team great field position.
Moving forward, if the Bears special teams plays flawless football they will be in good shape to win but it doesn’t guarantee a victory. If the special teams unit has one or more errors it will be hard to overcome. That’s how small the margin for error is.