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How good are the Chicago Bears?

For a team fresh off a loss to the New York Giants, and whose eight wins this season came against opponents with a combined .387 win percentage, there were a lot of question marks entering Sunday night’s battle with the 11-1 Los Angeles Rams.

The Bears hoped to answer those questions with a resounding defeat of one of the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses in a 15-6 victory over the Rams.

Bears needed the Rams

There’s a longstanding adage that says you can only play the teams on your schedule. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to hold the quality of opponent against a team.

If you’re a dominant ball club and you’re smashing the cupcakes on your schedule, you’re just doing your job. It’s not your fault if the schedule makers didn’t give you a tougher row to hoe.

Thus, it’s not the Bears’ fault that they played only four teams with winning records through the first 13 games. And they lost two of those contests — against the Dolphins and Patriots.

The Bears needed the Rams to come to town to prove to themselves and the nation that they’re every bit as competitive as it appeared.

Bears defense is best in the NFL

There’s no doubt in my mind that after Sunday night’s performance against the vaunted Rams offense, the Bears rightfully lay claim to the NFL’s best defensive unit.

They currently sit third in both yards and points allowed, but they’re in first — by a wide margin — with 25 interceptions, and are among the most dominant in a number of other statistical categories.

The Bears took that aggressive defense and absolutely manhandled the Rams for 60 minutes.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff is averaging 302.6 passing yards per game and the Bears held him to just 180. He had thrown just 7 interceptions prior to Sunday night’s game and the Bears picked him off 4 times. The Bears sacked Goff three times — including once in the end zone for a safety — and held him to a shockingly-low 19.1 passer rating.

The Rams run game wasn’t much better.

Arguably the NFL’s best running back, Todd Gurley was held to just 28 yards on 11 carries — for a dismal 2.5 yards per attempt. When you factor in that Gurley had a long rush of 12 yards, that indicates that his other 10 carries averaged a paltry 1.6 yards per attempt.

What was most impressive about the Bears’ defensive performance was that it didn’t matter that Mitch Trubisky and the offense put them in some bad situations. The defense went out and won that game anyway.

Mitch Trubisky needs to play better to take pressure off the defense

After sitting out two games with a shoulder injury, Trubisky sure did come back a little rusty. He completed just 16 of 30 passes for 110 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. However, he somehow managed to finish with a higher passer rating (33.3) than his counterpart did.

Some Bears fans want to crucify Trubisky, label him a bust, and point to him as the potential cancer on a Super Bowl run. Others want to make excuses for him, call him young and inexperienced, and say that he’ll be just fine.

I’m somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. It’s borderline idiotic to call a player a bust in his second year in the league. And while he indeed is experiencing growing pains in this complex offense, I can’t justify every bad throw or decision he makes, either.

Bears need to fight through Trubisky’s growing pains

Bears head coach Matt Nagy wasn’t stringing anyone along when he noted that installing his offense would be a process, and it would take Trubisky some time to learn the intricacies. I have no reason to doubt Nagy or the process.

But I will say that Trubisky needs to tighten up some of those throws of his if the Bears want to be a more well-rounded ball club. It’s not even that Trubisky is making too many poor decisions. Sure, his interception at the end of the first half was decidedly bad. But most of his “bad” throws seem to be the right read, they just sail on him a bit.

I have no doubts that this offensive-minded, quarterback-friendly coaching staff can help his mechanics moving forward. The hope is that it happens before the end of this season’s apparent playoff run.

For as well as the Bears are playing defensively, it’d be naive to expect the same level of dominance week in and week out. After all, it’s awfully difficult to overcome three turnovers and still win a game. And if the Bears aren’t generating four turnovers from their defense, that could spell trouble.

Welcome back, run game

Fortunately for the Bears, the offense was able to overcome Trubisky’s struggles in the passing game. Nagy showed a commitment to the run game not seen for a while this season.

Jordan Howard rushed 19 times for 101 yards as the Bears controlled the clock and the tempo for much of the game. Tarik Cohen chipped in 69 yards on 9 carries. Had it not been for the success of their run game, they might have had more difficulty moving the chains and putting points on the board.

Between their run game and Nagy’s creativity, the Bears generated just enough offense to get the job done.

Nagy earning “mad scientist” moniker

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the innovative goal line package that Nagy instituted that is the talk of the league this Monday morning.

The only touchdown of the game came early in the second half when the Bears drove 81 yards on 9 plays following Goff’s safety. On third and goal at the Rams’ 2-yard-line, the Bears brought in four defensive players, including tackle Akiem Hicks who scored a rushing touchdown last week against the Giants.

With the Rams defense keying in on stopping the “jumbo” package, backup offensive lineman Bradley Sowell — who reported as an eligible receiver — slipped past the defense and caught a nice touch pass from Trubisky. After which, he proceeded to dance just as you’d imagine one of the jumbos would after scoring perhaps the first and only touchdown of his career.

Kudos to Nagy for not only instilling a little fun for his players on offense, but successful fun at that.

Bears barrel down on playoffs

The Bears are closing in on their first playoff appearance in the better half of a decade. They currently sit third in the NFC behind the Saints and the Rams, and one game ahead of the Cowboys.

More importantly, the Bears are growing their lead on Minnesota in the NFC North. The Vikings have a tough road game against the Seahawks Monday night. If the Vikings lose, they’ll be 6-6-1 and the Bears could clinch the North crown with a victory next week against the Packers.

There will be a lot of televisions tuned into Monday Night Football in the Chicagoland area this week.