The Chicago Bears are back in the playoff picture. The once 5-1 team had lost six in a row and fell to 5-7. However, they've now rattled off three straight wins.
After their 41-17 shellacking of the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16, the Bears currently slot in as the seventh seed in the NFC Playoffs.
While the win leaves Bears fans optimistic, there still a lot of work to do. For the time being, everyone can savor the moment and enjoy every minute of this recent rejuvenation.
"How 'bout dem Bears?!"
In a tradition like any other, here are the main takeaways from the Bears' statement win over the Jaguars.
Matthew Nagy/Bill Lazor
Once again the offensive gameplan was brilliant. It didn't start off as well as they'd hope, but they made impactful adjustments after halftime. The Bears offense put up 391 total yards with 263 coming through the air and 128 on the ground. In fact, the offense doubled Jaguars' total in first-down conversions (28 to 14).
Chicago refused to commit to the running game in the first half, but they did so in the second half. The Bears were a tale of two halves but in a good way. They only managed 13 points in the first and second quarters but put together an onslaught of points in the final two frames by finding the end zone four times after halftime. The Bears are finding their groove and it's noticeable in the play-calling. There is a sense of rhythm and flow and a clear identity on offense.
While varying opinions of Mitchell Trubisky have polarized Bears fans, one thing is certain: Trubisky has been playing exceptionally well since returning to the starter role. Once again, he did a hell of a job executing plays. In what can be considered nitpicking in a 41-17 win, Trubisky did experience a few blunders as well. He threw an awful interception a few drives before halftime after buying time with his legs and scrambling while looking for an opening that was non-existent. He ultimately forced the throw -- which was a duck -- into traffic in the end zone.
Trubisky even missed a throw to a wide-open Cole Kmet, who was running a wheel route, in the second half. But for the most part, Trubisky was pretty good against the Jaguars. His final stat line read as follows: 24/35, 265 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 97.9 QB Rating.
Oh yeah, he added a rushing touchdown too.
David Montgomery: Today
It can not be stated enough just how important David Montgomery's success has been for the offense's overall success. The more they feed Montgomery, the better the offense has looked. The offense now goes through the running game which has been anchored by the Iowa State alum. Montgomery has proven to be a threat in the passing game as well. As a result, the second-year running back logged 111 all-purpose yards. He ran for 95 yards on 23 carries and caught two passes for 26 yards and also added a touchdown.
The Bears' offense looked sluggish in the first half and it had everything to do with Montgomery's usage, or lack thereof, as he only saw the ball eight times before the break. That output doubled in the second half and helped lead to an explosion of points.
David Montgomery: 2020
Given that the offense was sickly and Nagy refused to feature David Montgomery early, it's impressive what the running back has achieved. Since the Bears began funneling the offense through him over the last four or five weeks, Montgomery has accumulated enough yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. This happens to be the first time in his career and the team's first since rusher to reach the mark since Jordan Howard.
The highly-criticized signing from the offseason has paid off. In fact, the Jimmy Graham signing has been worth every cent.
Graham has been a crucial addition to the offense as he's helped massively in the red zone. The 34-year-old tight end has hauled in eight touchdowns this season after his two-score performance today. In total, Graham recorded four receptions for 69 yards (nice) and two scores.
On the season, Jimmy Graham has 48 receptions, 451 yards, and eight touchdowns on 74 targets.
Talk about a revenge game for Allen Robinson. When these teams last met four years ago, Robinson was on the opposite sideline. This was his first crack at a former team and boy did he go off. Robinson shredded Jacksonville's secondary all afternoon.
No matter how Ryan Pace's tenure with the Bears is remembered, it's safe to say he struck gold with Darnell Mooney. While Mooney only hauled in four catches for 39 yards today, each catch seemed like it came on a crucial third-down situation. Mooney has emerged as a clear-cut number two on the depth chart. He has certainly surpassed Anthony Miller and made him an afterthought.
Once again, it's worth mentioning how damn good Roquan Smith is. He's the heart and soul of the Bears' defense. Smith played like a man possessed today, as he logged eight tackles (all solo), added two interceptions, and recovered a fumble. It's evident that he was a major Pro Bowl snub.
In fact, Smith did something today that hadn't been done in many moons.
The rookie enjoyed a nice day by logging two rushes for 26 yards and a touchdown.
This guy has been money all year long. Santos drilled both of his field-goal attempts and all five extra points. In 2020, the Brazilian kicker is 27/29 (93.1%) on field goals and 35/36 (97.2%) on extra points. Not only that, but today he tied a record previously set by Robbie Gould.
Despite facing a statue of a quarterback in Mike Glennon, the Bears' defense only managed one sack on the afternoon. That lone occurrence came on a linebacker blitz. The lack of a pass rush is rather concerning, especially as with Bears slated to face better quarterbacks if they indeed make the playoffs.
Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack have been non-existent and only show up in flashes. Meanwhile, Chuck Pagano struggled again early on as the Jaguars were able to move the ball with ease. Jacksonville threatened early but the Bears' "bend but don't break" defense held on to force a field goal. However, Glennon did torch them twice with beautifully thrown touchdown passes. Overall, the unit managed to force two turnovers and six punts with limited damage. While the group was better today, the defense continues to be the weakest link currently. That's something nobody thought they'd be saying in Week 16 during a playoff push.
Third Quarter Scoring!
The Bears' post-halftime scoring drought is not only over, but it's been flooded with scoring. The Chicago offense sported not one, not two, but THREE touchdowns in the dreaded third quarter. 21 points in the third quarter would have been unfathomable just six weeks ago. Yet, here we are.
The Chicago Bears are in business. They currently hold the seventh and final spot in the NFC Playoff Picture and control their own destiny with one game left to play. The offense is rolling, kicking woes are a thing of the past, and the coaching staff has cleaned up their act considerably. That's all great, but the defense is a bit concerning as it is no longer the intimidating force that it had been in the past.
Nevertheless, the Bears are back on track after sputtering for six games and find themselves in a position to secure a postseason berth. Don't look now, but this team is a legitimate contender if they can maintain this level of play. While the skeptics will say they haven't played a good defense yet, the importance of momentum and confidence should not be understated going into the playoffs.
Playoff vibe check....
What's On Tap Next?
The Chicago Bears have a Week 17 date at home with their arch-nemesis, the Green Bay Packers. The game takes place on Sunday, January 3rd, and will be televised on FOX. It has yet to be determined whether or not the NFL will flex the game into a later afternoon time slot from the originally scheduled 12 PM CT kickoff.
There will be plenty at stake when these two division rivals meet. The Bears will look to punch their playoff ticket with a win (or Cardinals loss to Rams). Meanwhile, the Packers could be looking to secure the #1 NFC seed and a first-round bye, or they could have nothing to play for at all and rest their starters. Either way, it'll still be another classic Bears-Packers game.
Be sure to tune in to the Bears On Tap podcast for postgame reactions, updates, and analysis throughout the week in addition to discussions on a variety of other Bears-related topics.
The Bears On Tap crew wishes everyone a Happy New Year! We'll see you in 2021!