Bears in Brief – Bears stifle late comeback, defeat Giants 17-13

Bears+in+Brief+is+a+weekly+column+by+Opinion+Editor+Anthony+Marsicano+in+which+he+recaps+Bears+games+and+provides+his+own+insight

Bears in Brief is a weekly column by Opinion Editor Anthony Marsicano in which he recaps Bears games and provides his own insight

Anthony Marsicano, Opinion Editor

Week 2 of the 2020 NFL Season is in the books, and the Chicago Bears are undefeated. The Bears, fresh off a week one comeback against the Detroit Lions, took on the New York Giants at Soldier Field. Prior to Sunday, the home team had won the last five games of this matchup. Many were wondering whether the absence of fans this year due to COVID-19 would make home-field advantage a non-factor.

The Bears began the game on offense. The first good sign for fans came on that opening drive, as the Bears’ offensive unit marched the length of the field with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky at the helm. The drive lasted just over half of the entire first quarter and was eventually capped off by a nice throw from Trubisky to running back David Montgomery, who was able to avoid the defense and find the endzone after the catch. Supported by stellar defensive play when they weren’t on the field, the offense kept rolling and scoring, converting three out of four third downs in the first quarter. A first-quarter field goal from kicker Cairo Santos and a late second-quarter touchdown catch by rookie receiver Darnell Mooney gave the Bears a confident 17-0 lead at halftime. 

The New York Giants struggled for much of the first half, fumbling on their first possession and losing both receiver Sterling Shepard and star running back Saquon Barkley to injuries in the second quarter. Despite these shortcomings, things began looking up for the Giants after halftime. Defensive back Julian Love intercepted Trubisky off a tipped pass, early in the third quarter. New York seized their opportunity to score off this play, as kicker Graham Gano punched in a 39-yard field goal to put the Giants on the scoreboard. After the Bears punted on their next possession, the Giants offense put together a 95-yard drive that ended in a touchdown. Another field goal from Gano cut Chicago’s lead to just 4. The Bears’ offense had gone cold, and Trubisky threw another interception to Giants defensive back James Bradberry, the Giants now threatened to completely overcome the 17 point deficit they faced at halftime. Fans of both teams were left on the edge of their seats throughout the fourth quarter. Ultimately the Bears escaped with the victory thanks to a deflection of Jones’s last-second touchdown pass attempt as time expired. 

Likes

One thing I loved this weekend was the Bear’s defense. The Monsters of the Midway were phenomenal for the most part, showing flashes of the 2018 season where they were the consensus best defense in the NFL. Just about everyone stepped up and filled their role. Robert Quinn made his Bears debut one to remember. In just his first snap, the former Dallas Cowboy sacked Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, forcing a fumble which would be recovered by his new partner, linebacker Khalil Mack. Both Mack and tackle Akiem Hicks looked outstanding all game. At the end of the day, It’s all thanks to Quinn being just another force opposing offenses have to worry about.

Back in the secondary, both old and new faces contributed to a dominant performance. Cornerback Kyle Fuller set the tone early with two major pass breakups on the Giant’s second drive of the game. Safety Eddie Jackson recorded 8 tackles, as well as an electrifying interception that was returned for a touchdown. While this play was controversially called back due to a penalty, it reminded us what we already knew; Jackson is still a ballhawk capable of huge plays. Rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson, one of the Bears’ two second-round picks from this year’s draft, has been consistently holding his own when challenged by opposing receivers. Johnson is currently the second highest-graded rookie in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, behind second overall pick Chase Young. Not bad for a second-rounder.

Another thing I liked was the offensive line. One of my biggest complaints from last year’s disappointing 8-8 season was poor offensive line play. I was not thrilled to see that the Bears chose not to prioritize this position in both free agency and this year’s draft. But the unit actually looked great on Sunday. Trubisky had plenty of time in the pocket to throw, Montgomery had sizable holes to run through, and with that came a higher level of play from both of them. Montgomery finished the game with 82 rushing yards on 16 attempts, 45 receiving yards on 3 receptions, 127 total yards, and a touchdown. These same linemen had a huge issue with penalties last year, tackles Charles Leno Jr. and Germain Ifedi were both listed in the top 6 most penalized offensive linemen in 2019. There was only one penalty called on any Bears lineman today, a chop block call on Ifedi. This newfound discipline is most likely thanks to new offensive line coach Juan Castillo. I couldn’t discuss the line without mentioning this phantom catch by Bobby Massie on 3rd and 1. Massie made a great heads-up play on a tipped ball, allowing the Bears to run down the clock.

Dislikes

Matt Nagy won NFL Coach of the Year in 2018. He has since been marketed as an “offensive guru”, and he does seem to have a pretty good football mind. That being said, I cannot figure out why he keeps misusing Tarik Cohen. The running back and punt returner was signed to a contract extension late Saturday night. The next morning, Cohen did not play like he deserved a contract worth up to $18M. He had 5 carries for a measly 12 yards, and also one 15-yard catch. Nagy continued to rush him up the middle as if he’s a workhorse back. While they were standard run plays, not every running back is the same. At 5’6, Cohen simply cannot power his way through defenders as David Montgomery does. Moving forward, I hope to see Cohen used more in the passing game than rushing.

Recap

Similar to the previous week against Detroit, there was a lot for fans to be excited about, but there were also a fair amount of flaws that were overshadowed by the victory. The Bears are among eleven other teams to have a perfect 2-0 record at this point. Last season, seven out of the nine teams that started 2-0 made the playoffs. You could argue that Chicago has played two of the worst teams in the NFL, or that the outcomes would be much different with players like Barkley and Kenny Golladay being healthy, but rather than bothering myself with all that, I’ll enjoy a few more days of the undefeated Chicago Bears. It has a nice ring to it.

Looking Forward

While on the field this Sunday, the team should play with an extra motive to win: honoring Bears legend Gale Sayers. The legendary running back passed away Wednesday morning at age 77 after a long decline in heath that included dementia. In 68 NFL games, all with the Bears, Sayers put together a hall of fame career in only six seasons before injuries forced an early retirement. Everyone close to Sayers would describe him as an amazing person on and off the field.

This week the Bears take on the Atlanta Falcons on the road. I anticipate this being a tough matchup. The Falcons’ high-powered offense consists of ten former first-round draft picks, and the unit scores 32 points per game, the 5th best average in the NFL. The Bears, for comparison, are 21st in that metric, putting up 22 points every game. It will ultimately come down to the Bears’ defense, as the secondary is tasked with containing red-hot receivers Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Russel Gage. Kickoff will be 12 pm this Sunday the 27th.

In the words sang by QB Steve Fuller in the 1985 Super Bowl Shuffle; “Bring on Atlanta!”