It might’ve taken seven weeks, but it looks like the Bears have finally established an identity – and it’s not quite one you’d expect from a team that just drafted a quarterback second overall.
Indeed, rather than relying on their rookie QB to convert high-stress 3rd-and-long situations and engineer late-game heroics (with an understaffed group of receivers, no less) the Bears are playing it safe with hand-offs to a Pro Bowl running back.
And in order to turn a relatively conservative offensive gameplan into weekly points and wins, you need a defense to step up and take command of a game. Fortunately, that’s just what the Bears group has done. Or, at least, that’s what defensive end Akiem Hicks had to say after Chicago’s win over Carolina on Sunday:
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 22, 2017
And if Sunday’s efforts were any indication, the identity of the new Bears looked quite similar to the team we once knew.
Hicks and the defense were successful in shifting the pressure from their quarterback to Panthers’ guy, and it required contributions from every level of the team. It started with the front seven as Hicks (sack, two tackles for loss) and Eddie Goldman (half sack), as well as the edge with Leonard Floyd (sack, two QB hits) and Pernell McPhee (sack, three QB hits) brought the heat.
Beyond them, inside linebackers Christian Jones and Danny Trevathan were able to clean up as Jones came up with a team-leading 11 tackles (9 solo), while Trevathan came up with an important late-game interception. Chicago’s secondary reaped the benefits of the up-front pressure on Newton by coming up with six passes defended and a pick-six from Eddie Jackson.
By game’s end, Newton was hit eleven times, sacked five times, and completed just 61.8 percent of his pass attempts – many of which came as he attempted to elude a swarming defense.
Things aren’t pretty on the offensive side of the ball – they really haven’t been at any time during the John Fox era – and that definitely needs to change. But if this defense-first outfit is what the Bears are now, it’s a step in the right direction.