On October 2nd, Mitch Trubisky was named starting quarterback for your Chicago Bears. Two days later on the 4th, the Harvest Moon glowed orange and full over Halas Hall. Five days after that we saw the defense play a pretty inspired game against the Minnesota Vikings who, to their credit, went on to beat the Bears in a hard-fought contest.
There was something noticeably awakened in that defensive effort against Minnesota, however…the pass rush was a step faster, the pass protection clearly inspired, the energy level seemed more intense than it had in weeks. Soldier Field was, for the first time in what has felt like a century, deafening. It felt like the Bears had been brought back from the dead.
Or maybe instead it was the power of the moon, transforming mere men into a pack of swarming werewolves (or werebears, or whatever). Maybe Fangio’s monster is finally coming to life.
It’s Halloween season, people. Let’s get spooky.
First let me present some numbers that show how utterly dominant the Bears defense was against the Baltimore Ravens & Carolina Panthers:
- Cam Newton & Joe Flacco combined went 45/75, 391 yards, 0 touchdowns, and threw 4 interceptions. This earned them a joint quarterback rating of approximately 51.6.
- The Panthers & Ravens went 5/29 on 3rd down (~17% conversion).
- Both quarterbacks were sacked 7 times.
- The Bears got picks from 4 different players: Amos (TD), Callahan, Jackson (TD), and Trevathan.
- Two fumbles were forced, one recovered for another Jackson score.
…and that doesn’t really do justice to how stifled these two very respectable teams were. Numerous QB pressures, clutch pass deflections, physical supremacy in the trenches, etc. Akiem Hicks is now arguably the best defensive lineman in the NFL, Danny Trevathan went from the defensive equivalent of Eddie Royal to resuming his prowess as one of the league’s most disruptive forces, and Kyle Fuller has exorcised his demons to become a physical force at cornerback.
What the hell happened?
You could argue that the tide changed when Trubisky was named starter for the Vikings game which “juiced” the defense into rounding into shape. You could argue that the Quintin Demps injury opened up an opportunity for Amos to start alongside Jackson & remember the qualities that made him an exciting rookie for the Bears in 2015. You could argue that Fuller is on a contract year and is simply trying to save his best for when the big paper is on the line. You could argue that Fox/Fangio went back to basics after the Vikings game and emphasised tipped passes & ball awareness.
I don’t think it’s necessarily any one of those things, but they all likely are much smaller parts of a larger reason, that reason being pride.
The Bears defense for years has been wilting in the manner of playmaking and loss of heart from crippling swaths of injury, and there’s seemingly been a lot more emphasis on The Individual than on The Group, but now there’s something magical happening that you just don’t see all that often, and something that hasn’t happened in Chicago in many years: The Bears have an identity again, and for fans it’s a very familiar one.
Bend but don’t break on defense.
Don’t turn the ball over on offense.
Break the other team’s spirit via the run game.
Set up scoring via forced turnovers.
Sounds like the “good ol’ days” of LovieBall, yeah? That is all well and good; who doesn’t want to remember years of highlights from that particular era?
But let that era be that era. We’ve got something different and special here, too, and that’s while the team is missing Willie Young, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Jerrell Freeman! The possibilities are scary if Jonathan Bullard comes into his own and Kwiatkoski gets healthy. And that’s just this season.
Another draft and FA class or two, and the Bears defense could be terrifying to encounter…but that’s later on down the road.
For now, there’s some Monsters in Chicago again, and they’re young, hungry, and looking to beat some ass. Let it ride. Howl at the moon.