Bears Win One of the Strangest Games Ever Played & a Championship Defense Emerged

| October 23rd, 2017

Here’s how Roger Ebert opened his review of Joe Versus the Volcano, the brilliantly odd 1990 film from John Shanley:

Gradually during the opening scenes of “Joe Versus the Volcano,” my heart began to quicken, until finally I realized a wondrous thing: I had not seen this movie before. Most movies, I have seen before. Most movies, you have seen before. Most movies are constructed out of bits and pieces of other movies, like little engines built from cinematic Erector sets. But not “Joe Versus the Volcano.”

I have never seen a football game like Sunday’s Bears/Panthers tilt. Never. Think about what took place.

  • The Bears attempted 7 passes, completing 4 and only 1 to a wide receiver. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears averaged 3.1 yards per carry, with a long of 11 yards. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears ran 19 plays in the second half (sans kneel downs) for a grand total of 28 yards. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears were outgained in total yardage 293 to 153. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears had the football for 17 minutes less than the Panthers. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears got 15 less first downs than the Panthers. 15! And won by 2 touchdowns.

You could live to be a thousand years old and never see a game like this again. The iconic “They Are Who We Thought They Were” game from 2006 was not this lopsided statistically. Oddly enough, Trubisky’s four completions were matched that night by Rex Grossman’s four interceptions.

Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers was defined by one moment, one play. After Trubisky’s lunge for the end zone was deemed short, John Fox faced fourth-and-a-foot with about a minute remaining in the first half. If the Bears went and scored, they’d lead 21-3 and receive the ball to start the second half. If they went and failed, chances are the Panthers would have run the ball three times, forcing Chicago to burn their timeouts, but still giving the ball back to the Bears with enough time to score.

There was almost no reason NOT to go. John Fox did NOT hesitate. Field goal. 17-3.

While it’s easy to criticize the call as overly conservative – and Twitter unanimously did so – one has to understand the logic at play here. Fox did not believe the Panthers could score two touchdowns on his defense Sunday. And guess what? He was right.

Danny Trevathan has assumed the leadership void in the middle. (Can’t help but think his suspension for the Vikings game cost the Bears a win.) Akiem Hicks continued to put himself in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. Leonard Floyd made Cam Newton uncomfortable all afternoon. Christian Jones played his best game as a Chicago Bear. Pernell McPhee played like it was 2015.

But the front seven was expected to be good. It is the secondary that’s been downright shocking. Suddenly, Kyle Fuller is playing at an All-Pro level. Not Pro Bowl. All-Pro. He’s been one of the three best corners in the league. Since Quintin Demps left the starting lineup, Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos have turned into the modern era’s Mike Brown and Tony Parrish, with Jackson making two plays Sunday the Bears simply have not made under John Fox until these last few weeks. Amukamara, Cooper and Callahan have all contributed.

When Ryan Pace and John Fox took over the Chicago Bears in 2015, they inherited the worst collection of defensive talent in the history of the franchise. In 2017, they have the league’s best young defense. Not a single cornerstone talent on this unit is 30 years old.

Yesterday the Bears won one of the strangest games in the history of the NFL. And a championship defense emerged.

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