Zzzzzz. What? Huh? Oh. I’m awake.
With all due respect to Green Day — and I don’t mean to besmirch a song written in honor of Billie Joe Armstrong’s late father — the motto of my August was “Wake Me Up When September is Here.”
And it’s finally here!
Bears football is finally back in session after a painfully long and drawn out preseason slate that saw little action from the starters. Up first on the agenda is the renewal of the storied rivalry with the Green Bay Packers, who invade Soldier Field on Thursday Night in the league’s ceremonial kickoff of the 100th NFL season.
To say that expectations are high for this year’s Bears squad would be like saying an opening week loss to the Packers for the second-straight season would be demoralizing.
After the Bears blew a 20-point lead at Lambeau Field last year, during which they sidelined Aaron Rodgers — albeit briefly — the thought was that it would be a long season for the Bears with many growing pains. Fortunately, the Bears exhibited short memories and quickly left the Packers in their wake en route to a 12-4 NFC North championship season.
I’d like to say that painful Week 1 memory is long gone, but NBC’s production team will surely keep it fresh in our minds throughout the game on Thursday.
Let’s hope the Bears bury that storyline quickly.
This year, when the Bears put Rodgers on the ground, they need to give him a pillow and a blankie and tell him to get comfortable down there. They need to bombard him with pressure and leave him seeing ghosts of Khalil Mack everywhere. And when the offense hits the field, I don’t want to see a new, young couple on the dance floor stepping on each other’s toes. I want to see synchronized “Dancing with the Stars”-type stuff — or so I imagine…
Every team has opening-week miscues, so I’m not worried about those errors. You’re going to see misthrows on timing routes, so don’t panic and act like Mitch Trubisky hasn’t made any progress from Year 1 to 2 in Matt Nagy’s offense. Rookie running back David Montgomery is going to flash his tackle-breaking ability but he might also show some rookie rust. That’s to be expected.
But one thing we shouldn’t expect and can’t accept is guys not knowing what they’re doing.
I understand the desire to preserve health by protecting players from preseason action. And I agree with that philosophy. But if it comes at the expense of players lining up in the wrong place, running the incorrect routes, or otherwise not knowing what to do, that’s a problem.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears defense should come out firing on all cylinders. Yes, they have a new coordinator in Chuck Pagano. How different his play calling will be from Vic Fangio remains to be seen.
But these are solid defenders, the core of whom have been working together now for a few years. They ought to know where to be and what their assignments are on any given play. And they need to make plays on Thursday night and get off the field quickly.
The theme of this season can be summed up in one word: finish. The bookends of the 2018 Bears campaign told that story best. In Week 1, the Bears failed to finish off the wounded warrior that was Rodgers, and they lost. In the wild card round of the playoffs, Cody Parkey’s “double doink” prohibited the Bears from finishing off the Eagles.
Now it’s time for the Bears to finish what they started last year. And it begins with finishing off a familiar foe on Thursday.