After a six-game losing streak that all but buried their playoff hopes, the Bears showed they still have some life in a 36-7 thrashing of the Houston Texans.
The Bears played perhaps their most complete game of the season. The offense scored four touchdowns, the defense held the Texans to one score and recorded seven sacks, and the special teams helped add points and secure good field position.
Although still mathematically alive for the playoffs, the likelihood is small that the Bears make the postseason. They need to perform this way for their final three games and get some help from other teams to actually make that happen.
Instead, we’re left scratching our heads and wondering where this performance was all season.
Offense looked crisp and proficient
Mitch Trubisky played one of the best games we’ve seen from him in a long time. He completed 24 of 33 passes (72.7%) for 267 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 126.7 passer rating. His throws were mostly on target and in a place where his receivers could make plays after the catch. Head coach Matt Nagy even noted in his postgame presser how pleased he was with their yards after catch.
Trubisky was aided by a run game that was effective from the first offensive play of the game. David Montgomery ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run when the Bears offense first took the field. He was used sparsely after that, attempting just 10 other runs for 33 yards. But with the way the passing attack was clicking, the Bears didn’t have to rely on the run game as much.
You’d still like to see them ride Montgomery more, especially when he was having some success. But at the same time, you don’t want to go away from what was working, and the passing game was doing just that.
Allen Robinson was a key cog to the offense as usual. He caught 9 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in the win. Tight end Cole Kmet caught 4 passes for 41 yards. Jimmy Graham and Darnell Mooney each added a touchdown reception.
Pash rush was on fire
The defense had a tall order in trying to contain Houston’s Deshaun Watson, who is playing one of his best seasons despite the Texans’ struggles. Watson was able to evade the pass rush and pick up some yards with his legs, which proves just how difficult he is to contain.
But outside those 7 carries for 38 yards, Watson was stifled all afternoon. The defense never allowed him to get too comfortable in the backfield, constantly flushing him from the pocket. Watson was sacked six times in the game — and the defense sacked his backup AJ McCarron, too, for the one play Watson had to miss with an injury.
Khalil Mack played like a possessed man. Although the stat line doesn’t show it, Mack’s presence definitely benefited the rest of the defense, as did that of Akiem Hicks. When those two are healthy and playing together, this looks like a completely different defense. Mack recorded a sack, a tackle for loss, a pass defense and a quarterback hit. He also forced and recovered a fumble.
Roquan Smith led the Bears defense with 12 tackles, as he often does. He also picked up two of his team’s sacks and recorded two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits.
Don’t forget the third phase! Special teams was strong
It’s nice when both the offense and defense are clicking. But don’t forget the third phase, too. They can win and lose games by themselves and they were just as instrumental in the Bears’ victory on Sunday.
Cairo Santos made all of his kicks, drilling two field goals and nailing all four extra points. Santos is 21-of-23 on the season and is ranked 11th in the NFL with a 91.3% conversion rate.
Pat O’Donnell pinned two punts down inside the 20 — something for which he’s currently tied for the league lead. And the coverage units did a good job getting down the field and keeping the Texans pinned deep. Aside from one possession in the third quarter, the Texans offense never started with field position better than their own 25-yard line.
Where the Bears go from here
Say what you want about Matt Nagy, but one thing he does well is keep his players together. Some want to argue that the past two weeks show that the defense “quit” and that Nagy lost that part of the locker room.
But Sunday showed that’s just not true.
The Bears might not have anything left to play for this year, but the defense turned in one of its better performances of the season against one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
And, needless to say, the offense looked unlike anything we’ve seen all season as well.
This might just be a futile attempt and a classic case of “too little, too late,” but if the Bears play with the same energy, motivation, and efficiency that they did Sunday for their final three games, they’re going to make the final stretch fun to watch.
The Bears have games remaining games against the Vikings, Jaguars and Packers. The former two they can surely beat. The Packers might be another story. But if the Bears do, indeed, beat the Vikings and Jaguars and ride into the final week with a 8-7 record and a three-game win streak, who knows what happens?
I won’t hold my breath, but I will hold out hope.