“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
Walt Whitman was waxing poetic about the human condition here, but he might as well have been describing my reaction to Sunday’s loss to Miami. It was a gut punch, a heart-breaker, a golden opportunity that slipped away.
It was also exciting, competitive and full of promise.
So this week’s column embraces the contradictory nature of a game like this, both as stand-alone event, and as part of a much larger puzzle we’re still in the process of piecing together.
The Bears are a great defense AND they played terribly vs the Dolphins.
The Bears defense we’ve seen for the past four games was not the defense that showed up on Sunday.
Kyle Fuller had a solid game with two big interceptions, and the defense played well enough in the first half, holding the Dolphins to 154 yards and just 7 points. However, they collapsed in the second half and OT, allowing 387 yards and 24 points. They let Brock Osweiler and Albert Wilson beat them on bubble screens, and when all was said and done the Dolphins produced 274 yards after the catch.
That’s terrible. That’s embarrassing. That’s inexcusable. But…
- Khalil Mack was hampered with an ankle injury.
- They played in brutally hot and humid conditions, and weren’t used to it.
- The refs did them no favors.
- Even great defenses have off games.
Excuses mean nothing in the NFL. All that matters are wins and losses, but it’s ridiculous to not concede those first three issues factored into Sunday’s loss, and that as a rule, good teams can have bad games without it spilling over into the rest of the season.
Right now, I’m not worried about this defense. Not one bit. But…ask me again in a few weeks.
Trubisky looked great AND made the single costliest mistake against Miami.
Trubisky threw for 316 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, for a passer rating of 122.5 against the Dolphins. As a fan you take those kind of stats every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
I was curious, and admittedly a little nervous, that Mitch might regress coming off his career best performance against Tampa, and for a good chunk of the first half, it looked like that anxiety was justified.
Then the Bears came out of halftime and marched down the field to tie the game in three plays. They scored another two touchdowns in rapid succession and Trubisky was playing some of the best football I’ve seen from him. Even better in some ways than against Tampa because it wasn’t a rout. He was struggling, had to adjust and did. It was great to watch.
After he threw a would-be fourth touchdown to Tarik Cohen to go up 28-13, I was ready to officially mark this game as a win. But…we all know what happened next.
Trey Burton was called for a questionable penalty, the touchdown was nullified, and the very next play, Trubisky threw a ball to Ben Braunecker in the end zone that got intercepted by T.J. McDonald. There were plenty of mistakes made by the Bears on Sunday, and if any one of them didn’t happen, Chicago wins. I don’t blame Trubisky for this loss.
But…his interception changed the entire trajectory of the game. Even if the Bears don’t manage to get back into the end zone there, they almost certainly get a field goal and make it a two-score game. The Dolphins could’ve marched down the field in exactly the same way, scored a touchdown and two point conversion, and they’d still be losing.
There’s a fair chance they don’t even manage to score because the energy they got from that interception can’t be replicated. You could feel the shift in momentum the second it happened. I felt my heart sink, and said out loud to no one in particular, “The Bears are going to lose this game.”
Of course that was an emotional reaction, and the Bears had numerous chances after that to put the game away. Maybe if they do I’m writing about how Mitch got lucky that one of his few bad plays didn’t matter.
But…it did. It was devastating. Yet he still had a great game.
You can’t panic too much over one game AND one game can cost the Bears a spot in the post season.
“This team’s no good!”
“They aren’t who we thought they were!”
“We’re not making the playoffs!”
“It’s just one game!”
“It’s early in the season!”
“We’re still 3-2!”
I’ve seen all six of these responses from countless fans and analysts in the last few days, and while I can’t agree with anyone who states with absolute certainty that the team isn’t good, the other five reactions are reasonable.
We all have ideas about who this team is, but the reality is five games probably isn’t enough time to establish a clear identity.
Sunday was just one game, it is early in the season, and the Bears still have a winning record. Those are just facts.
As to the question of whether or not this game will affect the Bears chances of making the post season the only honest answer is: maybe?
Every game matters when you only play 16. Hell, the Cubs can tell you how much every game matters and they played 163.
Looking at the Bears’ remaining schedule you can circle a few games that, on paper, seem like easy wins. But playing an injured Miami team helmed by Brock Osweiler is an easy win on paper, too. So make of that what you will.
The Bears are still in first place, but just barely. Minnesota and Green Bay both have three wins as well, and with the Patriots coming into town next week the Bears could easily be .500 by the end of Week 7.
Let’s say the Bears go 6-4 after that. They’d finish 9-7. Respectable, and possibly good enough to still make the playoffs. But the difference between 9-7 and 10-6 is often significant, and depending on how the NFC North plays out, the losses against both Miami and Green Bay could loom large as we enter December.
This loss has the potential to be very costly. Or maybe it won’t matter one bit in the end.
But…only time will tell.
It’s frustrating. It’s exciting. It’s Bears football in 2018.