Across The Middle: Pace Was Sunday’s Big Winner

| December 13th, 2017

No Bear had a better day Sunday than General Manager Ryan Pace.

His quarterback was in control throughout the game. His tight end made big catches. His running backs did whatever the hell they wanted because the offensive line he built paved the way.  His offense dominated and he’s going to be able to use that tape to sell the future to fans and his next head coach.

I have ruled out guys like Jim Harbaugh and Josh McDaniels for the Bears job simply because they’re going to want to be able to pick the players. The last two years the hottest coaches all got personnel say. That’s a trend that isn’t going to end and would generally make the Bears job less attractive. Pace, however, just might have shown the world that he knows what he’s doing and it might be enough for the premier coaches to trust him.

Pace still has a lot of work to do. Nobody should be fooled by what they saw on Sunday. The Bears were able to do what they did because they had more talent than the Bengals; a team coming off of a short week without five defensive starters. But when we see a dominating performance like that, there’s reason to believe he can finish the job.

Forget the coaching. Last Sunday was about the players. It’s about Trubisky not taking bad sacks. Shaheen being able to get down the field and separate from defenders. Cohen and Howard running decisively. They showed they can do it. They showed us and they showed whoever their next coach is going to be.

The Kid Is Gonna Be Alright

The most important thing this season is the development of Mitch Trubisky and we’re really seeing it.

Since the bye week, Trubisky has completed 64.1 percent of his passes and averaged 199 yards per game. But his improvement is about more than just numbers. After taking a handful of bad sacks against the Packers, he’s almost eliminated them. After his erratic accuracy against the Eagles, he’s completed 79 percent of his passes. We’re seeing a guy who recognizes where he has to improve and immediately makes the improvements. That’s so incredibly rare.

We know Trubisky can play at an NFL level, which is something many of the guys who proved to be busts couldn’t say at this point. Now, we need to see him do it consistently. If he can play like he did Sunday 12 times a year, it won’t matter who the Bears coach is because they’re going to win a lot of games.

Expanding Shaheen’s Package

It’s difficult for fans to understand exactly how far Adam Shaheen has come in a few months. It took a lot of work from the coaching staff just to get him to the point where they could survive with him on the field. Most of camp and preseason was spent working on him to become a capable blocker. The passing game had to be secondary.

He has natural receiving skills, but he isn’t a freak athlete like Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates and he doesn’t understand routes or concepts that go with the passing game. In college, he could just run out there and win because he was bigger than everyone. He can’t do that in the NFL.

Then, of course, there’s the playbook. The Bears would love to have Shaheen on the field for every play, but he doesn’t know every play. Dowell Loggains admitted as much last week when said the Bears were trying to “expand his package.”

The fact that Shaheen has been able to contribute like he did on Sunday was a very good sign for the Bears. Fans need to remember he’s a Division II tight end who has come a long way and still has a long way to go.

The Best Who Ever Did It

I remember when Devin Hester was a rookie averaging 22 yards per punt return in preseason. I didn’t want to make too much of it. Then he returned a punt for a touchdown in their opener. Then he kept doing it seemingly every time a team kicked to him.

What YouTube clips won’t show is the hidden yardage. For most of his career, teams simply stopped kicking to him. They’d gladly kick the ball high and short or out of bounds simply so Hester wouldn’t touch the ball. There hasn’t been another player who has had that impact returning kicks before or since.

Bring on the Lions

I’m excited to see Trubisky in this game. It’s the first time he will play the same opponent twice in a season and I want to see what he’s learned.

I expect that the Lions will play well. Despite the fact that he appears to not have a pulse, Jim Caldwell has really brought stability to the team. They have quite a few good offensive players, but the Bears should be able to move the ball on them.

The Bears ran the ball well against Detroit last time, so Fox will surely try to do so again. I’d rather see them spread them out and take advantage of the lack of depth in their secondary and pass rush. Put the ball in Mitch’s hands and tell him to win the game. Let’s see what the kids has.

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