The dust has mostly settled after a Thanksgiving weekend slate of games. The turkey-induced food coma has worn off and we have awoken to a much clearer vision of the developing playoff picture. We are getting a better idea of who the Bears are and where they could be headed.
Each week the Bears have been presented a challenge greater than the game at large.
Could the Bears regroup after a second-half collapse to the Packers in Week 1? Were they capable of winning games on the road? Can the Bears close out games with their offense? Are the Bears capable of playing from behind? Could they win without Khalil Mack?
On Thanksgiving Day, the Bears were presented with, and succeeded at, a pair of new challenges.
The first test the Bears conquered was trying to beat a divisional opponent, on the road, for the second time in 12 days — on three days rest. Consider it four challenges in one, but it fell under the umbrella of whom the Bears faced on the field.
The second challenge was conquering the first without Mitch Trubisky.
Chase Daniel is efficient, but Mitch Trubisky far more potent
Backup quarterback Chase Daniel completed 27 of 37 passes (72.9%) for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Bears’ 23-16 victory over the Lions. He finished with a 106.8 passer rating and completed passes to eight different receivers. He engineered an 8-play, 82-yard drive capped off by a touchdown pass to Tarik Cohen. The fourth-quarter drive enabled the Bears to reclaim the lead, 16-13.
In short, he was efficient and played within Matt Nagy’s system.
Daniel cannot be confused with a starting quarterback, to be sure. Whereas he might offer more accuracy on certain throws, he lacks Trubisky’s mobility and big-play arm. The Bears brought Daniel to Chicago for a very specific reason. He knew Nagy’s offense and was capable of “weathering the storm” should he be called on for spot duty. That Daniel played so well on a short week without any practice time was impressive.
Bears need Trubisky for December stretch run
The hope is that Trubisky does not miss too much time. There already exists some internal debate about whether to rest Trubisky next Sunday against the New York Giants. Doing so would increase the odds that he’s available in two weeks for the showdown with the 10-1 Los Angeles Rams. I wouldn’t have a problem if they took this approach because I believe Nagy’s system — with Daniel operating it — can be effective enough to defeat the Giants.
The Bears presently are sitting at 8-3, increasingly acknowledged as the NFC’s third-best team in both record and merit behind the Rams and the New Orleans Saints. They have five regular season games remaining, only two of which will be played in the friendly confines of Soldier Field. Following the Minnesota Vikings’ defeat of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football — in which I relished with exuberant glee — the Vikings remain hot on the Bears’ trail. The Monsters of the Midway cannot afford to be without Trubisky for too long.
If the Bears do not pull away from the pack and instead allow the Vikings to hang around during the final month of the season, it could set up a meaningful Week 17 matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota. The outcome of which could determine who wins the NFC North crown, who sneaks into the playoffs via the wild card, or even, perhaps, who stays home and watches the playoffs from their couches.