It's been a while since I wrote here because of a lot of factors, but the kickoff of the NFL season has compelled me to write about the Chicago Bears.
Sunday night's opener was an ugly loss. But after some time to consider the performances of the players and coaches, and a moment to exhale the way the game ended, here are my takeaways.
I've been critical of Kyle Fuller since he got to Chicago, and his dropped would-be interception late in the fourth quarter was a kick in the balls. Especially when the Packers went deeps seconds later and took the lead (for good). Lots of people are piling on Fuller after the game because that pick would have put the game away.
But the loss doesn't fall on Fuller alone. That one play didn't lose the game.
I've been especially high on Mitchell Trubisky since he was drafted. He played very well in the first half, but was quiet in the second. Lots of people - especially Chris Collinsworth - were critical of him late in the game. He missed a few throws he needed and the Packers' rush got to him at the end of the game.
But the loss doesn't fall on Trubisky. His performance wasn't why the Bears lost the game.
Lots of people have been rightfully critical of the coaching staff after the offense stalled in the second half. Jordan Howard was getting pretty much whatever he wanted outside and Tarik Cohen was a weapon the Packers struggled to have an answer for the entire night. The decision to throw on 3rd and 1 - to a tight end not known for his receiving skills - was questioned. And rightfully so.
But the coaches didn't put on a helmet and play a single snap. The loss isn't squarely on the coaches.
The Bears kicked the Packers' ass in the first half as a team, and lost the game in the end as a team.
Khalil Mack was dominant in limited snaps after being a member of the organization for less than two weeks. He's a game-changer and will be a devastating force for the Bears this year.
Roquan Smith had a sack on his first career NFL snap and the Bears got a pick six on his second snap. The Packers identified Nick Kwiatkowski as a weak link in pass coverage and exploited his area in the zone early in the second half. Kwiatkowski is a nice linebacker, but he's not Smith. When the Bears have Smith on the field more heavily, the defense will be a sight to behold.
There's a lot to be excited about from the Bears defensively.
Offensively, the Bears actually have a lot of weapons and will need to strategically find a way to consistently get more players involved more consistently. Trey Burton, Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson will give Trubisky plenty of options in the passing game. And I love how the team (FINALLY) deployed both Cohen and Howard on the field together. The Bears will be able to move the ball this year.
There's a lot to be excited about from the Bears offensively.
But Week One was a learning experience. The Bears went up against their long-time nemesis and looked championship mettle in the eye - and lost. By one point. At Lambeau.
I'm still very high on the Bears and think they could be a playoff team this year based on what I saw on Sunday night. But in a division with the Packers and Vikings, they'll need to get Smith up to speed and adjust their play calling to stay on the attack to bury teams when presented the opportunity.