Jerrell Freeman is one tough cookie.
It turns out the Bears’ inside linebacker played nearly the entire game with a torn pectoral muscle injury that required surgery and landed him on injured reserve, according to Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Despite what seems to be a painful injury, Freeman played 95 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, came up with 10 tackles and a tackle-for-loss. The Pro Football Doc’s analysis of the video confirms Freeman’s claim, while also explaining how he played so well while injured and why surgery is necessary. There is clearly a difference between finishing a game with an injury and going through the rigors of the next 15 games dealing with that same issue and the looming threat of it getting worse as the season progresses.
For now, the Bears will carry on without Freeman, whose return later this season isn’t out of the question – but is still doubtful.
- One specific area the Bears will miss Freeman is when the defense plays against the pass. Yes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a pair of deep threats on the outside with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, but the Bears’ biggest challenge in defending the pass might come in defending tight ends in the middle of the field. Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic writes Cameron Brate and rookie O.J. Howard must be accounted for in order to avoid a second helping of an Austin Hooper-like performance.
- On the other side of the ball, the Bears hope to create matchup problems of their own one week after using 26 different lineup combinations against the Falcons. Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times asks if the Bears’ offense is capable of pulling off a surprise, especially after a mostly conservative showing in the opener. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains seemed to put together a guarded game plan, as if to shy away from the potential soul-crushing turnovers that could result in defeat. However, that made the offense rather predictable and lifeless at times because there was no downfield threat. The hope is the Bears strike a happy medium, but how they go about doing so remains to be seen.
- You’d think, perhaps, the Bears could take a page out of the Buccaneers playbook with a young quarterback … but that’s not going to be the case any time soon. Still, Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune writes Jameis Winston could give the Bears a glimpse of what the future holds. Winston was a much more polished quarterback coming out of Florida State, but has grown at the position since entering the NFL. He’s taken his lumps and made his share of mistakes (particularly with interceptions) but the hope (from the Bucs’ perspective) is that 2017 is the year where the interception numbers come down and the production (and win totals) continues to go up.
- Eventually, Trubisky will have to encounter those problems himself. He’ll struggle with snaps, reads, decision-making, as all rookies do. But he’ll make some jaw-dropping throws and some runs that will induce fist pumps and high-fives, too. At some point, Trubisky will have to take on the challenges all rookies face. It’s just that time isn’t as immediate as it was for Winston, who started right out of the gate in 2015 and hasn’t looked back.
- An interesting nugget from Pro Football Focus: Akiem Hicks has 22 stops over the last six weeks of the regular season – which dates back to Week 13 of 2016. Those 22 snaps represent the most for any defensive lineman in the NFL in that span. Hicks was the Bears’ best defensive player in Week 1, and probably needs to repeat that performance if the Bears are going to pull off an upset win.
- Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly has a thought along those lines, writing the Bears’ defense will be the difference-makers if the team is as good as the decision-makers who put it together claim it can be. The group will have to do it without Freeman, but the front seven did a number on the Falcons rush defense and played well enough against Atlanta’s passing game (save for 128 yards of broken plays from that darned Austin Hooper!) to hang with the defending NFC champs and nearly snatch a win.
- The Bears’ offense isn’t good enough right now to try to win shootouts, so it will be up to the defense to hold its ground and probably carry a bulk of the load until the offense gets up to speed.
- Getting offenses on the path toward the end zone seemed to be a problem for last night’s Thursday Night Football participants, as a 49-yard run by Deshaun Watson was the only touchdown in the Houston Texans’ 13-9 win against the Cincinnati Bengals.
- Vincent Frank of Forbes.com writes the NFL has a Thursday Night Football problem, citing a step backward in the quality of play from teams coming off a short week. Football fans will continue watching these games, but they’re growing increasingly tougher to sit through as time passes.
- Meanwhile, J.J. Watt was a Thursday Night Football problem if you were rooting for the Bengals … or if you were Cincinnati’s center on the game’s final play: