While this Bears fan may have taken an early hibernation from writing, it is not because her team has not provided plenty of good material. In fact, this Bears team under first-year head coach Marc Trestman may be the shock heard ‘round the league!
Coming in to the start of this season the reviews were mixed on what the Bears had done in the offseason. General Manager, Phil Emery allowed defensive captain Brian Urlacher to retire following negotiations that never really get off the ground. As if that was not enough of a stunner, perhaps he topped it with the hire of Trestman, who was known throughout the league for his assistant coaching roles, a short stint as a bonds trader, and head coaching experience in the CFL (Canadian Football League).
The Bears continued to make waves (both positive and negative) throughout the off-season and pre-season. On the positive side, their dismal offensive line was FINALLY addressed with a refreshing mix of veteran and rookie players in free agents Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson combined with rookie draft picks Kyle Long and Jordan Mills. My personal pre-season highlight was the dismissal of J’Marcus Webb. Even though he was promptly picked up by division rivals, Minnesota Vikings, at least I only have to see him twice a year in a purple uniform as opposed to the proud navy and orange. A tense, negative moment was the workout of embattled quarterback, JaMarcus Russell, but cooler heads prevailed and he did not make the team, phew! Lastly, Emery announced that no contract negotiations would be held until the conclusion of the 2013 – 2014 season, including Jay Cutler’s, which surely was seen as a not-so-subtle statement of prove your worth, gentlemen!
Let’s look more closely at THIS 3-0 Chicago Bears team from all three facets of the game:
Highlight: Devin Hester racked up a personal-best 249 return yards against the Vikings two weeks ago, which could be directly attributed to Trestman’s decision to only have him focus on the return game. Thus giving up what can only be called a charade that Hester was ever going to be threat at the wide receiver position.
Lowlight: While Safety Anthony Walters committed a costly roughing the punter penalty that gave the Steelers new life on a drive in the second quarter that ultimately ended with a Pittsburgh touchdown, I appreciated the effort to try to block the kick. Of course had the Bears lost the game, I would be saying something different.
I believe that new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker subscribes to the theory, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” From my “on the couch perspective,” Mel recognized that he was walking into a dream scenario – a solid, veteran defensive unit. While adjustments would surely need to be made both to new leadership in Tucker and also Lance Briggs doing the on the field play-calling, as well a first-year Bear and former Bronco, DJ Williams at the middle linebacker position, it was still a group that probably did not need to learn a new system. So what does Tucker do? He comes in and LEARNS THEIR SYSTEM to the respect and appreciation of the veterans! While he is still orchestrating that system as he sees fit, he is not messing with what was not broken! BRILLIANT! When you read that, think the old Guinness Beer commercials – did I just show my age?)
In Sunday night’s whooping on the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bears defensive caused five turnovers for 23 points. Even my man Julius Peppers got in on the action with a 42 yard return for a touchdown, which was his fourth career defensive score and first since 2009. While he is still without a sack thus far in the young season, I was proud to wear his jersey in that moment (among so many others).
For the first time in a very, very, very (too many “very’s”?), I am excited to talk about the Bears OFFENSE! Jay Cutler looks like a completely different quarterback, he even borders on human-like. Gone, so far at least, is that silly smug expression replaced by perhaps what could even be described as leadership. What could be the source of such a shift? While I would like to think he got my note, “A Memo to Jay Cutler: It’s Time to Really Play,” I believe I have a couple more logical explanations. First, at long last he has the support of a General Manager who looked far and wide (he went to Canada for goodness sake) to find an offensive minded head coach. As if that thought was not bright enough, Emery brought Cutler in on the decision making process as he was able to meet with the final three candidates! Imagine that, bringing a key part of the system in to speak with the future leader. Cutler has gone on record as saying that, “Trestman has exceeded all of his expectations.”
Jay has also bought into changing his mechanics, as well as yet another new system that he has been forced to learn (his fourth since coming to Chicago). “It feels right,” Cutler said. “It’s always different with somebody else, but it definitely feels right. I think Trest has a good feel for the team right now, the direction we’re going. I think he’s calling plays really well, with the state of where the offense is. He’s not throwing us out to the wolves.”
Another noticeable, much-needed improvement is the number of times Cutler has been sacked. In an article from John McTigue, entitled, “Bears offense catching up to D’s greatness,” it states that from 2009 to 2012, Cutler was sacked on 7.6 percent of his dropbacks, the highest rate in the NFL. This season he’s been sacked on only 2.9 percent of his dropbacks, the second lowest rate in the NFL. What an exciting stat to report!
The Bears also seem to be finding a healthy balance between throwing and rushing with Matt Forte, much to my dismay on a fantasy football level as my opponent (my Dad) had Forte AND the Bears defense – yes, my team took a shellacking. From the same article, “Matt Forte has averaged 24 touches per game through the first three weeks of the season. If the season ended today, that would rank as the highest rate of his career.”
Perhaps the best description I have heard of the Bears offense thus far was from my Dad when he said, “Wow! The Bears look like a real, professional offense!”
While I know the current season is only three games old; and of course, three games does not a season make. It is hard not to look with anticipation at the Bears schedule and see how many “winnable” games there could be in Detroit, Washington, and the Giants, given the way the Bears are playing at the moment in comparison to the various states of these opponents. For the record the Saints are mixed in there too, which could go either way. For right now, I just want to bask in the joy of being a Bears fan, and say BEAR DOWN!