The Bears took a trip down to the Music City this past Sunday to face the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. The venue allowed enough fans to fill up to 12.2 percent capacity, something Soldier Field and the state of Illinois has not been able to do due to COVID-19 concerns. Speaking of COVID, the big concern for the Chicago Bears today was the offensive line. It was reported Tuesday that tackle Jason Spriggs, who was already serving as a backup for the injured Cody Whitehair, tested positive for the virus. He was placed on the designated COVID list along with fellow starting lineman Germain Ifedi who was determined to be a close contact. WIth Whitehair and Bobby Massie out as well, it was possible that the only starting offensive lineman would be Charles Leno Jr., one of the NFL’s most penalized players last season. All eyes would be on how head coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Nick Foles would adapt to these changes.
Once again the defense shines. I feel like I say it every week, but every week they prove me right again. Titans’ Derrick Henry has been in the conversation for the best running back in the NFL since last season. Henry was coming off a 112-yard performance that included a touchdown in last week’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The week before that, he was held to just 75 yards by the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, considered the best in the league. Even in that “poor” performance by Henry (which would still be considered strong for almost any other running back) he still managed to find the endzone. It was the Bears defense Sunday who would snap his streak of 5 straight games with a touchdown. Not only did they keep him out of the endzone, but Khalil Mack and company limited Henry’s production to only 68 rushing yards from his 21 attempts. If you take out his long run of 26 yards, then Henry was only earning 2.1 yards per carry. For comparison, his season average is 8.1 yards per carry. Though it came in a loss, the way the Bears defense neutralized one of the NFL’s premier offenses again is what makes me believe that this defense is capable of winning a Super Bowl. The offense, however, is a completely different story.
I love football, and I’m thrilled the NFL was able to proceed with minimal complications. It’s hard not to enjoy discussing football, but in the past few weeks, two words always seem to bring me down: Bears offense. It is absolutely miserable, it’s broken with no easy fixes in sight. I can’t think of a worse offense on any Bears team during my lifetime, and they’ve had some pretty rough years. I’m worried that Allen Robinson, a terrific player who deserves to get his money and retire a Bear like he previously said he wanted to, is going to leave us for a flashy new team where he’ll get the respect and attention he deserves. I’m concerned that we may be stunting the growth and wasting the careers of young talent such as David Montgomery and Anthony Miller. I believe that with a top offensive line, Montgomery can be a top 10 back in this league. If we see no changes, you can add Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney to that list as well. Kmet was on the field for 36 snaps Sunday, a career-high amount, yet he saw zero targets against a very subpar Titans defense. The Bears did not even score until the fourth quarter during garbage time. Had Tennessee not eased up on defense, this game very well could have been a shutout. We all know about how Matt Nagy, Nick Foles and the offensive line have all been sharing the blame for the offensive struggles. What you might not know is just how bad the Bears’ offense is when compared to other NFL teams. They are 31st in yards per play and third-down percentage, 29th in yards per carry, yards per pass, and points per game, and 30th in red-zone percentage. Think of all the teams you consider to have a worse offense than the Bears, and you’ll soon realize that there are almost none.
The Bears get an extra day to prepare for their next game, as they’ll appear on Monday Night Football for the second time in three weeks, their third primetime game this season. They’ll host their division rivals the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. Though they are tied for last in the NFC North, they’ve beaten both other teams besides the Bears in the previous two weeks. A win Monday night leaves Minnesota with an undefeated record against division teams so far. Kirk Cousins has historically been one of the worst quarterbacks in prime time games, boasting an 8-15-1 record that includes being 0-8 on Monday Night Football. Luckily, the Vikings have been relying on him less than ever, Cousins only attempted 20 passes this week, and 14 the week before. The go-to guy has been star running back Dalvin Cook, arguably the best player at his position in the league. Cook recorded 226 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Packers in week 8, and followed that performance with 292 yards and two touchdowns. I’d say that the key to a Chicago victory would be stopping Cook, but to be honest the defense needs some sort of help from Nagy’s offense in order to win.
The challenge of stopping an unstoppable running back is not one the Bears are unfamiliar with, they have played an All-Star assortment so far. They have done an amazing job containing Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Jonathan Taylor, and Todd Gurley II. They also would have played Christian McCaffrey and Saquan Barkley had it not been for injuries. After this week, the Bears will have played the consensus top 5 running backs in the league, and I’d say their record as well as the stats they’ve reduced these guys to only prove how awesome this defense is.