The Seattle Seahawks take on the Chicago Bears on Monday, a team that Pete Carroll has had quite a bit of success against since joining this franchise. The Seahawks beat the Bears 23-20 in 2010, Carroll’s third win with the team, and it wasn’t really that close until a Devin Hester punt return touchdown in the final minutes. Chicago then took the divisional round playoff game against the Hawks that year. Then Seattle won 38-14 in 2011. Then there was the pivotal 23-17 win in OT in 2012 that sort of turned around the Seahawks franchise. Then a 26-0 beating in 2015.
But this Bears team is nothing like that Bears team.
The quarterback in 2015 was Jimmy Clausen, and while Mitchell Trubisky has some growing to do, he’s already matched Clausen in career touchdowns (7). That team had Eddie Royal, Josh Bellamy, and Marquess Wilson at receiver. This team has Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, and Kevin White. They’ve also got Trey Burton, Jordan Howard, and Tarik Cohen as weapons.
New head coach Matt Nagy should be able to use these numbers to solve the equation of his offense eventually, but it’s on defense where Chicago could really put pressure on Russell Wilson and make it a long Monday night.
Khalil Mack. Leonard Floyd, Roquan Smith. Akiem Hicks. Eddie Goldman.
The Bears lost their Week 1 primetime game after blowing a 20-0 lead in Green Bay against the Packers, but they did manage to jump out to a 20-0 lead. Even against DeShone Kizer, that’s impressive given the location of the game and the team that Chicago has been in recent years. Nagy has them on the right track, I think, but will the Seahawks manage to beat them before they really find their stride?
To find out more about this Bears team, I exchanged five Qs with Windy City Gridiron’s Jeff Berckes, and in turn he send me five As.
Q: Outside of Aaron Rodgers just being Aaron Rodgers, what went wrong for the Bears in the second half? I didn’t see the whole second half, did Khalil Mack get completely shutdown after that phenomenal start?
A: The pass rush got tired, the Packers made all the plays they needed to, Kyle Fuller dropped a gimme interception, the Bears played tight with some highly questionable play calling, and Aaron Rodgers is a fire-breathing dragon who needs only one leg. I’m answering these questions less than 12 hours after the disaster, so things are a bit raw, but my hope is that this is a learning experience for Nagy and a young Bears team. First, you can’t take your foot off the gas against a team like the Packers or, more accurately, a team with a QB like Rodgers. That’s going to be the same thing for Russell Wilson, who I’d put in Rodgers’ zip code if not his neighborhood. Second is that sometimes you have to realize who your opponent is given the game context and late in the game the Bears were playing the clock. Up 3 with under 3 minutes to go with a 3rd and 1 - you need to play for that yard. Instead, the Bears took a shot, stopped the clock, and kicked the field goal to go up 6, leaving way too much time for Rodgers to work his magic. The next time they’re in that situation, I’d hope they’d turn and give the ball to Jordan Howard and win up front. And if that didn’t work, go for it on 4th down and get that yard to close out the game on your terms. If you can’t get 1 yard in two plays, you don’t deserve to win anyway.
Q: Assuming Nagy had the script to open the game, it seems like it’s a huge mark in favor of the pre-planned stuff (86-yard touchdown drive) and a major negative in everything else (no other touchdown drives). Are you at all worried about the improvised parts of the game, after the scripts have run out? Was playcalling an issue?
A: I do think the play-calling was an issue but to be fair, this is a first year coach with a young QB and completely new weapons. It will take time to figure out how this all works together. If we’re seeing these same issues in November, yeah, I’m going to worry. That being said, you’ve got to be willing to recognize when something is working (Jordan Howard!) and ride or die with that. Nagy opened himself up to plenty of criticism with how he called the game and I’ll be curious to see how that impacts his judgment moving forward.
Q: One might expect to see a QB of Mitchell Trubisky’s draft pedigree to struggle as a rookie and then get a whole offseason to grow, learn, compete, work with receivers, coaches, etc., and come out looking much different in year two. Do you think Trubisky looked much different than he did as a rookie?
A: I’d say he looks different, yes. I’d also say that playing his rookie year under John Fox did not help his development and for all intents and purposes, he’s basically a rookie this year. The offseason saw a completely new offensive coaching staff, three new wide receivers, a new tight end, and a scheme that is based on modern principles. There are still going to be growing pains. From the first watch of the Green Bay game, I noticed that he dropped his eye level and looked to run a few times, misfired a crucial red zone pass to an open Allen Robinson II, and seemed to tense up when the pressure grew late in the game. There weren’t a lot of bad balls, necessarily, but he needs to stay aggressive and hang in the pocket a bit longer.
Q: I have no idea how the Seahawks are going to prevent 8 sacks on Russell Wilson. I really don’t. They’ll need Chicago to struggle on run defense and have weaknesses at corner that hopefully allows Wilson to get the ball out quickly. Do the Bears struggle at run defense and have weaknesses at corner?
A: No and yes. I think the run defense is going to be a strength with Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks, and Roy Robertson-Harris up front, and fast, talented linebackers cleaning up behind them. The secondary play isn’t going to be as good as the front 7, but they’ll obviously benefit from a strong rush. Kyle Fuller is good, not great, and obviously not much of a threat to hold onto the ball if Wilson tries to gift one. Prince Amukamura is a serviceable second corner and Bryce Callahan is a good slot corner. That secondary will benefit greatly if Angry Doug Baldwin is out and they can focus their efforts on containing Tyler Lockett. As far as the 8 sacks - that sounds amazing but I’ve seen Russell Wilson do Russell Wilson things for a long time and I’m already dreading the pirouettes and bombs to Lockett.
Q: Have you heard of Michael Dickson?
A: He played tight end for the Ravens, right? Honestly, no, I had to look it up, but I didn’t watch any highlight shows or catch the Seahawks game in real time. Obviously, that’s a great weapon to keep the dynamic Tarik Cohen in check and flip the field if this turns into a defensive battle. I hope we see him a lot on Monday...
So do we, Jeff. So do we.