I knew I should’ve picked the Bears. The Steelers had not been playing well in spite of their 2-0 record, and the Bears were due to bounce back, especially at home. Did everyone notice that the Packers and Dallas also bounced back after being pounded the week before? It’s funny how a little embarrassment and maybe some not so kind words from your coaches will inspire grown men to play harder or with more energy. Just look at the Jacksonville Jaguars who hung 44 points on Baltimore in London, a week after they gave up 37 at home to Tennessee and got booed of the field.
Football is an emotional game and sometimes that inner fire that a team or player has is too big of an intangible to overcome. Case in point, the Bears players spoke about having Kyle Long, their All-Pro guard, back for his first game of the year. All he did, minutes into the game, was shove a Steelers defender who was taunting Bears running back Jordan Howard after a play for no gain. Long’s teammates looked at that and fed off that energy all day, leading the Bears to over 220 rushing yards for the game. It was the Bears 7th highest rushing total since Walter Payton retired.
Now, there were a lot of factors why the Bears won. Great plays by special teams ace Sherrick McManis, come immediately to mind. He recovered the botched reception of an early punt and blocked a field goal. Those plays led to 10 points in the first half. It should’ve been four more points, but Marcus Cooper was too busy acting like a clown than scoring. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now. I’m not giving him a pass, but he has been playing at a high level in the secondary along with the other corners Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara and Bryce Callahan in the slot or nickel back position. Their play really shut down the Steelers speed and big play capability.
By focusing on the running game after being embarrassed by Tampa Bay a week earlier, (16 rushes for 20 yards, the Bears ended up exploiting a match-up advantage we didn’t realize they had. After center Hroniss Grasu was removed with a hand injury, Cody Whitehair switched back to center where he played so well last year. Kyle Long started at right guard, his best position, and in came backup swing tackle Tom Compton to play left guard. Rather that use this lineup with tackles Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie for pass blocking like they did against Atlanta, they used this lineup to overpower the Steelers, quicker but smaller, front 7, by pulling Compton, the Bears largest offensive lineman, with regularity. The effect was long gains that got around the corner or sealed off the defense at the point of attack, which allowed for cutback runs by Howard and Tarik Cohen.
Of course, the postgame analysis has centered on the 100 yards on the day, light duty work of quarterback Mike Glennon, furthering the calls for his replacement by Mitch Trubisky… which I concede is inevitable. I just hope it doesn’t happen at halftime of the Bears game against the Packers with them trailing by three scores.
Being the eternal Bears optimist though, I believe this game ranks as the biggest of head coach John Fox’s tenure with the Bears. I predict that Vic Fangio turns the dogs loose to go after the Packers severely banged up offensive line and sack Aaron Rodgers at least 3 times. The resulting pressure will net the Bears, vastly improved secondary, to their first pick of the year.
The Bears will go deeper down the field with their tight ends and maybe Marcus Wheaton, who looked terrible last week dropping 2 passes. The Bears will resort to more trickery than normal to spread the Packer defense out. The Wildcat formation will make an appearance, and the Bears get off the bus running to another 180-200 yards.
The opportunity to move to 2-2 is too great for the veterans on this team, they, especially the defense are staring to believe.