The bye-week has come early this year, and we find the Chicago Bears holding a favorable record at 4-1. The Bears also have a share of first place in the NFC North alongside the Minnesota Vikings. The bye-week is usually one of the more boring weekends during the course of the football season. But it gives Bears fans an opportunity to watch games and teams they normally would not watch.
The bye-week for me is a chance to relax all Sunday and calmly watch football without the nervous pacing and maniac shouting that typically takes place during each Bears game. So as you relax this weekend, free of the anxious concern for your team, here's a review of the Bears’ first five games, and a look ahead toward the rest of the season.
The Bears are 4-1 mostly due to the play of the defense. The defense has been outstanding, and it's not just one singular part, it's the entire unit as whole. The Bears, up until last week, led the league in sacks and had a number of players with sacks on their stat sheet. It was dominant effort week after week from the front-4 and it relieved pressure from the secondary. Gradually, that changed as the secondary stepped up and become the motivating factor behind most of the Bears’ wins.
The Bears put a thrashing on the Indianapolis Colts with a 41-21 win at Soldier Field. It was the first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, in his first game, and the Bears made him look like a developing rookie. The Bears’ defense forced four Luck turnovers, and it was the start of the exceptional play of cornerback Tim Jennings, who had two interceptions. The defense did not have to do much else considering the 428 total yards on offense the Bears generated.
Brandon Marshall himself had 119 of those yards and a touchdown. This game showed that the Bears had officially developed into a dynamic passing attack, as rookie Alshon Jeffrey, in his first game, caught a 42-yard bomb for a touchdown. Cutler himself had an early pick-6, but regained his confidence and finished with 333 yards passing and a 98.2 passer rating.
The dreaded Week-2 match up with the Packers . . . I'll keep this short, as not to poke Bears fans’ still-tender wound. The offense was a disgrace to the game of football; seven sacks given up, 3.5 by J'Marcus Webb alone. Brandon Marshall only had two catches and a dropped touchdown. Jay Cutler had four interceptions.
The only positive was the play of our defense, which only gave up one offensive touchdown and held the Aaron Rodgers’ offense at bay for the majority of the night. Luckily for us, that game, in retrospect, was sort of an anomaly considering the play of the offense and defense going into the bye-week (Bears 4-1, Packers 2-3).
The Rams are a team on the upward swing with their talent and new head coach Jeff Fisher. The Bears put them back down to earth. 160 yards total for the Rams’ offense, and the start of the pick-6 blitzkrieg with the Major Wright touchdown. The Rams never made it to the redzone, and despite the average play from offense, the Bears seemed to dominant this game. Six sacks, 2.5 by Israel Idonje, and constant pressure up front. It was a boring game, but a game the Bears needed to win.
I think it's safe to say that this was everyone's favorite game so far on the season. Five Tony Romo picks, two pick-6 touchdowns, and a display of explosiveness from the Bears’ offense. Cowboys Stadium was emptied out and filled with navy blue and orange jerseys. Brandon Marshall had 138 yards receiving, Cutler had a 140.1 passer rating, and the Bears’ defense nearly outscored the Cowboys entirely.
It was good to see the Bears bounce back on national television and finally expose the opposing team’s quarterback.
41-3, 38 points scored in the second half alone. It was an expected slaughter, and the Bears generally dominated every facet of this game. It showed the pure superiority the Bears have over the lower-tier teams. The Bears managed to rack up 501 total yards of offense, and, as they did in Dallas, two pick-6s (Briggs and Tillman touchdowns). The Bears needed to stack some wins, and they managed to do so in Jacksonville.
Looking ahead . . .
In terms of scheduling, the Bears still have a chance to reach 7-1 before running into any playoff contenders. The next three games are against teams with losing records, and two are at home. The one slip up in the schedule could come against Carolina or Detroit but it's unlikely with the way those two teams have been playing recently. The Titans appear to be a capable team (win over Pittsburgh on Thursday night), but the Bears should find a way to reach 7-1 by Week-10.
From there on out, it becomes a struggle to Week-17. The rest of the schedule will be faced with teams with winning records, and teams considered to be Super Bowl contenders. The toughest stretch of games start Week-10 with the Houston Texans at Soldier Field, followed by the San Francisco 49ers on the road. The next six games are against the NFC North and West and all of those teams, except the Lions, currently have winning records. The Bears also get the Vikings twice, which at this point doesn’t seem like the easy match-up we were expecting.
The Bears will have to win some important games in the back stretch of their schedule and stack wins in these next couple of weeks. Teams change from week-to-week, so expect match ups to change by the time these games roll around. The Bears have a chance to win the division and get a home playoff game if they continue to play the way they've been playing.
Lastly, I wanted to leave you all with my games-to-watch for the weekend. Let me premise this by saying, it’s a great week for a bye-week. The amount of important and exciting NFL match-ups this week should make up for the lack of Bears football:
5. Cowboys at Ravens
4. Patriots at Seahawks
3. Broncos at Chargers
2. Giants at 49ers
1. Packers at Texans