Coming out of halftime, Bears’ Head Coach Matt Eberflus promised the nation that he ‘had tricks up his sleeve’ in the 2nd half of Chicago’s game against the Carolina Panthers. He may not have had much more in mind than a battering D’Onta Foreman touchdown run and a suffocating defensive gameplan, but he reached into his sleeve and pulled out a gritty, ugly win on Thursday Night Football all the same.
Sometimes we don’t ask how the win happened, we simply ask how many wins the team can provide. Chicago’s latest win keeps their own playoff hopes alive (even if only technically) while pushing Carolina down a path that the Panthers may not recover from this season — with Chicago holding onto Carolina’s 2024 1st round draft selection, that’s great news for the Bears indeed.
ESPN Analytics list the Bears as having a 42% chance at the 2024 NFL draft’s #1 overall pick, with even better odds that they land a top 2 pick rather than exclusively #1. That’s great news for Chicago regardless of whether you want to see the Bears reset at Quarterback or not — as we saw in last year’s DJ Moore trade, high picks are valuable commodities that create extraordinary opportunities for the teams that possess them.
Thursday’s contest was anything but a pretty game, and chances are the results didn’t change your opinion of Matt Eberflus one way or another. If you didn’t like him before, his conservative offensive game-plan, goofy halftime quote, and bizarre decision to kick the extra point with the score at 10-15 (rather than going for 2 and playing for a 7-point lead) likely didn’t sway you now. But if the offensive line’s recent chutzpah and the defense’s clear improvement have gotten you thinking about what Flus’ vision could look like given another offseason, I wouldn’t blame you for that either.
Next week’s Detroit game looms large for Matt Eberflus — if he wants to make a statement, he’ll need to make it in his trip to Motown. But between then and now, enjoy 11 days of that winning feeling.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
- Montez Sweat’s defensive impact is obvious. Sweat turned in 8 pressures on the night and could be seen creating havoc on the defensive line throughout the game. While the Carolina offensive line has made many defenders look like standouts this year, it’s nice to see Chicago’s new $25-million-dollar-man shine under bright lights.
- Kyler Gordon played like a menace. It’s always nice to watch 2nd year players develop into leaders, and #6 is doing exactly that when he’s able to stay on the field. His athleticism is obvious, he’s fearless when defending the run, and he made multiple plays in coverage as the night wore on. I’m excited to watch him continue growing.
- I can’t say enough about the draft position thing. Normally, I’d write an article after a game like this one with a nagging worry in the back of my head that the euphoria of a Bears win in November would cost me hope and optimism in April. But because Ryan Poles acquired the 1st round pick of the potential worst team in football in his trade-down last year, we can instead rest easy knowing the Bears’ future is relatively secure — regardless of how Chicago’s record ultimately shakes out, they’ll have options come draft season. For that, I’m thankful.
- The Legendary Al Michaels keeps sucking the air out of big moments. What could be more thrilling than a punt return for a touchdown? Apparently anything, as Al Michaels called Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s electric moment with all the enthusiasm of a 3rd quarter punt sailing out of bounds.
- Michaels and Herbstreit have made for an… interesting pair in the booth. I wonder what Amazon will do with the two of them going forward.
— NFL (@NFL) November 10, 2023
- Bryce Young is really, really struggling. Technically this isn’t ugly for the Bears (in fact, you could argue it’s a very good thing), but it’s wild to see the player that Carolina traded a #1 Wide Receiver and three future draft picks for produce a stat line on virtually indistinguishable from Chicago’s UDFA Rookie QB Tyson Bagent. If anything, you can recognize Young’s statline from Bagent’s because Bagent didn’t take any sacks against Carolina while Young took 3 against a Bears’ defensive line that’s produced the least sacks in football.
- For any Chicago fans wary of drafting a quarterback, Young is a grim reminder of how quickly hope turns into hopelessness when the signal caller you’ve bet your future on doesn’t produce — we’ve seen fun rookie seasons from CJ Stroud, Anthony Richardson (when healthy), and now Will Levis, but unless Young turns things around soon there’s not much hope for his Carolina Panthers until 2025 or later. If Chicago ultimately resets at quarterback this offseason, we can only hope they make the right choice.
Nick and I recorded a podcast where we talked through the ups, the downs, the ins, and the outs of Chicago’s latest win here:
Your Turn: How are you feeling on this fine Victory Friday?