Five Headlines From Chicago's Stunning Win
Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman became one of just four coaches in team history (including George Halas) to win his debut when his team rallied to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Bears were outplayed for the most part, facing a 21-10 third quarter deficit. Quareterback Jay Cutler & Co. kept their composure and stepped up to win 24-21.
Here are five thoughts on what went down on Sunday
The offensive line appears to be much improved.
The unit featured four new starters, two of which made their NFL debut. The Bengals top-tier defensive line looked to be a difficult test and they passed with flying colors. Cutler was sacked zero times (try saying that without giggling). Cutler made plays with his arm as well as his legs. The unit also managed to record zero pre-snap penalties, an issue that has dogged the Bears in years past.
There were two plays that stood out.
1) First-and-goal at the Cincinnati 5-yard line late in the third quarter. Matt Forte ran the ball up the middle for what appeared to be a minimal gain. Rookie right guard Kyle Long pushed Forte from behind and pushed the pile forward for an extra three yards, putting the offense at the 1-yard line.
2) Fourth-and-1. The Bears decided to run Forte to the outside. Even more surprising was they ran to the right side behind Long and fellow rookie Jordan Mills. Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer put faith in the young guys and they answered the bell effectively, allowing Forte to scamper around the edge and gain a first down. The group will face another stout test this Sunday at Soldier Field against a Minnesota Vikings squad featuring former All-Pros Jared Allen and Kevin Williams.
Jay Cutler showed signs of maturity.
The offensive line kept Cutler clean. They gave him the time he needed to find his playmakers downfield. The also gave him enough time to run for crucial gains when all of his targets were covered. This is a sign Cutler is maturing and may be growing out of his “gunslinger” mentality.
Cutler being sacked so much meant there'd be more pressure to force a pass. Cutler did throw a pick early in the fourth quarter, which appeared to be a miscommunication between him and Michael Bush. Cutler shook off the interception and led the Bears down the field for the go-ahead touchdown to Brandon Marshall.
The Cutler-Marshall connection is going to be a significant part of the Bears offense, but Cutler did a nice job of finding other playmakers especially in the early portion of the game. Cutler hit tight end Martellus Bennett in the first quarter for a touchdown on Bennett’s first catch as a Bear. Bennett finished with three receptions for 49 yards. Alshon Jeffery made five grabs for 42 yards while Forte had four catches out of the backfield for 41 yards.
Trestman outcoached 10-year veteran Marvin Lewis.
Trestman was impressive in his debut. He didn’t panic when the team faced adversity and stuck to his guns. The Bears jumped out to an early lead before squandering it through the course of the first half, down 14-10 . The Bears were lucky to be down only one score seeing they were outplayed by the Bengals.
The defense surrendered a touchdown on the opening drive of the half, but the unit buckled down, allowing only one first down the rest of the contest. Tim Jennings forced a crucial fumble minutes after Cutler’s interception.
The offense looked like the old Bears, but was impressive when it mattered most. Cutler delivered an 80-yard touchdown drive on their first possession of the second half and an 81-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. The Bears didn't punt in the second half.
Trestman made a gutsy call going for it on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter. The Bears had the lead at the 6:38 mark of the fourth quarter and never gave it back. The Bengals' clock management was horrendous; they burned two timeouts simply determining if they had the correct number of men on the field on defense. Even worse, linebacker Rey Maualuga was called for unnecessary roughness on Mills during a skirmish late in the fourth quarter which put the game on ice. Lewis’ team was disorganized and undisciplined.
The defense has some work to do.
The Bears defense was bad in the first half. Miscommunications in the secondary allowed Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green to torch the Bears for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first half.
The group looked better in the second half, though they were bailed out by a holding penalty FB Orson Charles which negated a 14-yard run by running back Giovanni Bernard, forcing the Bengals to punt. The Bears defense forced enough turnovers (3) to help win the game, but they can’t count on that many turnovers each week. They must improve their run defense and, more importantly, they have to get more pressure on the quarterback.
The Bears lone sack came late in the fourth quarter from defensive end Shea McClellin. The Bengals were without injured left tackle Andrew Whitworth, but still managed to protect quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bears even shifted defensive end Corey Wootton, showing the coaching staff does not currently have faith in their defensive tackles.
If the Bears can't create ample pressure with their front four, defensive oordinator Mel Tucker must devise some creative blitz schemes. If the Bears can’t get to the quarterback, they will continue to get torched in this pass-happy NFL.
Peanut had an up-and-down day.
Charles Tillman will be relied on heavily this season for leadership and covering the game’s best receivers.
Green is one of, if not the best receiver in the NFL and he had his way with Tillman. Green was covered by Jennings on his second touchdown, but he would have had a third score if he wasn’t mauled by Tillman for a defensive pass interference penalty at the Bears' 1-yard line. Tillman did have two interceptions, but his coverage has to improve. The Bears will face Calvin Johnson twice, Greg Jennings twice and Dez Bryant once . Apparently he also needs to improve his conditioning, as he went to the sidelines during the first half.
This week’s “game-ball” goes to: Robbie Gould.
There were many quality candidates for the “game-ball” this week, but the team gave Gould the “game-ball” on Sunday. Gould set franchise and Soldier Field records when he drilled a 58-yard kick to close out the second half and keep the Bears within reach. The three points also proved to be the difference in the end, so props to Gould. Perhaps now the Bears will give him a new contract and he can “feed his family.”