With each passing week, we seemingly get a better look inside the mind of Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman. With that, we have gotten a better sense of what he wants this team to look like.
Through two games of the regular season, the Bears have gotten off to a 2-0 start. Neither game went exactly how the “experts” predicted, although making predictions with as much of an unknown as the Bears were wasn’t the easiest of tasks. In the season opener, many thought that the Bears would struggle with a Cincinnati Bengals team who rode their way to the playoffs last year before their offense completely fell apart once they got there. Having all season to think about where it went wrong, most expected the Bengals to have had a fire lit underneath them and to have the type of offensive game you would expected with the capabilities of a wide receiver of AJ Green’s talent. The Bears would have none of it, and the win during the season opener would put Trestman’s team on the right track.
Game two of the regular season gave the Bears a more favorable matchup, this one a divisional game against the Minnesota Vikings. The matchup would prove to be more difficult than expected, as a series of turnovers and botched special teams plays would be enough to keep the Vikings in the game, despite the fact that quarterback Christian Ponder has done very little since taking the starting job. In the end, it would be quarterback Jay Cutler who would strike last, moving the ball down field and giving the Bears a one point victory, and a 2-0 record.
Coming up this Sunday, the Bears have what would seem like a rather easy matchup, at least by NFL standards, against an 0-2 Pittsburgh Steelers team. The Steelers have had all sorts of issues so far this season, from not having any type of running game, quarterback Ben Rothlisberger and coach Todd Haley getting into it, and a slumping defense that has lost some pieces from the feared defense that they have had in years past.
With a chance to go 3-0 to start the season, let’s take a look at how the Bears have fared so far:
Offense: Coach Trestman was brought in to help turn around a team who’s offense has been nearly nonexistent over the past decade. Through two games, the offense seems to be gaining steam. After a slow start against Cincinnati, Cutler and the Bears seem to have gotten things going.
The final drive against the Vikings which led to a game winning touchdown was one of the best drives Cutler has put together since becoming a Bear.
All the talk on offense has been about the revamped offensive line. The Bears offensive line over the past decade has consistently ranked near the bottom of the league each and every year. After not making any adjustments to the offensive line last offseason, general manager Phil Emery went to work this past offseason, bringing in four new faces to start. Coupled with the fact that they are now running a version of the west coast offense, which involves short drop backs and a quick release of the football, Cutler has been kept relatively clean through two weeks. Certainly, there is room for improvement, especially in the running game, but given the history of this team’s offensive line, this year’s group has been a pleasant surprise.
Defense: The Bears defense faced many questions coming into the season. With the loss of Brian Urlacher, who had been a staple on the Bears defense, there were questions of if Lance Briggs could make a smooth transition into calling plays. Along with that, was the question of who would replace Urlacher.
It has been far from pretty for the defense, but one thing they have maintained from the past coaching regime is stressing turnovers and creating points. Cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings picked up right where they left off last season, and their interceptions are a large reason why the Bears are 2-0.
The main concern has been the defensive line, which has had almost no ability to get to the quarterback. Fans are already calling out Julius Peppers, who has been as quiet as any of the defensive players on the field. Peppers has started off slow for the Bears before, but the fact that he hasn’t really been able to create opportunities for the guys next to him is a bit concerning.
If the Bears could get pressure on the quarterback, this defense will again rank near the top of the league. What is amazing about the play of the cornerbacks is that they have done this without any pressure on the QB. If the Bears can create that pressure, Tillman and Jennings could be adding another Pro Bowl to their résumé.
Special Teams: The talk a out Robbie Gould needing to feed his family has quieted down, but he shouldn’t have any issues with that with they way his season has started. Think about the kicker’s roulette that has gone on around the league over the past few seasons, and you really realize how fortunate the Bears are to have absolute consistency from their kicker. A 58 yard field goal before the half against Cincinnati was as big as any play, and gave the Bears an extra three points heading into the locker room.
The Vikings game may have been the re-coming out party for Devin Hester, who can just focus on returning now. His performance earned him NFC special teams player of the week, something that was quite common for him a few years ago. His return of over 70 yards in the first quarter after the Vikings returned the opening kick for a touchdown also was big in stopping whatever early momentum the Vikings may have been able to gain.
While we are just two games into the season, we have less questions now than we did heading into the season. So far, the Trestman hire has proved to be the offensive boost that was expected when the hire was made. Consistency on offense and better defensive line play on defense are the two biggest keys for the Bears moving forward. Through two games, 2-0 is as ideal as it gets. The question now is, can the Bears build on a hot start and avoid a collapse that has bitten the the past couple seasons? In the words of my colleague Mackinley Salk, “Time will tell.”
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