While taking the pulse of Chicago Bears fans leading up to Sunday’s season opener against the Green Bay Packers, it seemed a large contingent of fans simply were hoping to avoid embarrassment.
As in: no repeat of last year’s 55-14 drubbing in Green Bay that left all of Bears Nation burying their heads in the sand, hoping for a day of bluer skies and greener pastures.
Seeking to avoid embarrassment isn’t exactly a high bar and it speaks to the level of expectations heaped upon this year’s team. Those Bears fans grasping at low-hanging fruit were in for quite a surprise while watching Sunday’s 31-23 loss to the NFC North frontrunners.
If expectations were a teeter totter, where one side goes up while the other goes down, you can consider me the guy who sits in the middle and hardly sways one direction or the other. That’s just the way I am; my highs are never too high and my lows are never too low.
But even I was pleasantly surprised by the effort produced from our boys in navy blue this week. To go tit-for-tat with one of the NFL’s sexy picks to win the Super Bowl, and to be within one possession late in the fourth quarter is a result I was not expecting. But don’t count me among the masses who were simply hoping to avoid embarrassment. The new coaching regime simply wasn’t going to let that happen.
The Bears have perhaps the deepest and most experienced coaching staff they’ve had in quite some time. Through schemes and game plans alone, the Bears will be in a lot of games this year. John Fox teams have traditionally been ones that rely on ball control offense that eat up the time of possession and limit opposing team’s scoring opportunities.
Behind 141 rushing yards from Matt Forte, that’s exactly what the Bears did on Sunday. Forte was a huge part of the game plan from the outset and picked apart a Packers defense that has struggled against the run since last season. Forte was also an integral part of the passing game, even though he struggled to haul in a number of passes in the red zone. It’s clear that the Bears want to keep him fresh this season while still maintaining his workload, as they cycled in rookie Jeremy Langford and Jacquizz Rodgers.
The Bears got a lot of help from the Packers’ lack of discipline, as the cheeseheads were penalized 10 times for 74 yards, including an ill-timed offsides on a field goal attempt in the first half that led to a Bears touchdown.
Ultimately, what did the Bears in was their inability to contain perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL. Although he passed for just 189 yards, Aaron Rodgers systematically picked apart the Bears’ defense while throwing three touchdown passes in the win. The Bears had a chance to tie the game on a late drive in the fourth quarter, but a Jay Cutler interception killed that drive.
When you have confidence that your favorite team is going to lose, it makes it so much more palatable to watch them lose in the manner in which they did. Should we be heartbroken that the Bears lost a close game? Heck no. Despite bold predictions by their young defensive players before the game, the Bears were not going to “shock the world.” Could they have won? Sure. But ultimately the better team prevailed.
I’m just more encouraged that the Bears looked like a “big boy” team, one that can play ball and come out and fight each and every week. That’s at least a building block they can use to launch themselves toward future success.