The Chicago Bears won their season opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday — however, it wasn’t pretty. The rainy weather, an extremely poor first half, turnovers, no completions to receivers in the first half, blown coverages, and many more. With all these factors considered, one question remains: How on earth did the Bears win this game? 2 factors seem to loom large.
The difference in Matt Nagy and Matt Eberflus is so apparent and it’s only been one game. The discipline of this Bears team was so visible, as they only received 3 flags — the worst of those being a violation of a towel rule nobody knew existed until the moment it happened.
The H.I.T.S. principal introduced by the new regime was in full force early. After a few chunk plays set up the 49ers in scoring position, corner Jaylon Johnson punched a ball free from Deebo Samuel, saving at the very minimum a field goal, but perhaps a touchdown. Eddie Jackson made possibly the play of the game, jumping a Trey Lance route late in the fourth to relatively seal the game for the Bears. Instituting a mindset of on-ball defense for a group of playmakers is a recipe for success.
Positional rotations also made a huge impact on the game. Lucas Patrick and Teven Jenkins split snaps at right guard consistently, mostly to get Patrick accustomed to the feeling of the game before his full-forced return. Both players performed extremely strong, with Jenkins specifically sporting the 7th highest offensive grade of all guards in the league. The rushing attack was also rotational, as rookie Dominique Robinson, Robert Quinn, Al-Quadin Muhammad, and Trevis Gipson all shared time as edge rushers. Keeping these guys fresh while maintaining a high amount of reps made the group incredibly productive. Robinson was the highest rated defensive rookie in all of football, after a performance of 1.5 sacks, 7 tackles, and 2 QB hits. Newly signed defensive tackle Armon Watts rotated with tackles Justin Jones and Angelo Blackson, with all 3 getting pressures on the quarterback. The new staffs philosophy of rotation proved very effective against a top roster like the 49ers.
Another point to be made is the halftime adjustments made by the staff. Some of these include:
- Rushing with Khalil Herbert. The running attack could not get going under David Montgomery, so the staff chose to ride the hot hand; and Herbert repaid this decision by scoring the put away touchdown.
- Getting Justin Fields out of the pocket. Fields excels out of the pocket, and keeping him there in the first half amounted to a whopping 19 yards and an interception. With some designed bootlegs and other plays allowing Fields to use his legs, he showcased his ability to extend plays. Fields had a drastically more productive second half and it was due to the adjustments made by Luke Getsy at half.
As corny as it sounds, the mindset of this Bears team was critical in their performance on Sunday. Throughout the offseason, the Bears have been pegged as the worst team in football; some even saying they have the possibility to go 0-17. The Bears were obviously the heavy favorite to lose the 49ers game. Many Bears were frustrated with these sentiments.
-Darnell Mooney, 9/5/22: “I’m ready to open this thing up and get everybody off our back.”
-Justin Jones, 9/4/22: “Save the f*****g receipts…”
Confidence is such a big deal for a team projected by all to do so poorly. The media lit a fire under them by talking negatively about them all off-season, and the results reflected that.
In the words of Jaylon Johnson on Trey Lance:
“He ain’t do s**t. We made him play quarterback.”
This team is rolling. Morale is high. Confidence is brimming. The Bears move on to Green Bay for Sunday Night Football in Lambeau. The importance of this game cannot be stated enough. Will the Bears shock the nation once again?