The Bears didn’t win in week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic after this game. The coaching staff, offense, defense, and special teams all showed flashes in Sunday’s game. Let’s dive into each of those areas and look at what specifically should give Bears fans optimism.
Head Coach Matt Eberflus is already starting to change and adjust on some of his coaching habits. Earlier in the season, Eberflus was coaching scared. He didn’t properly use his timeouts and didn’t manage the clock all that well. Something that has however stayed consistent through the first 5 games is that he makes great halftime adjustments. Week 5 was the first time that the Bears allowed a second half touchdown all year. In week 1 against San Francisco, they made QB Trey Lance beat them with his arm, and he wasn’t able to do that. Week 2 was a loss, but the Bears made an adjustment to their run game at halftime, and the run game single handedly got them back into the game with Green Bay. Week 3 was a win, and the Bears realized Justin Fields was struggling, so they adjusted to a run-heavy offense and rushed for 281 yards and 2 touchdowns, both from RB Khalil Herbert. Week 4 was probably the biggest example of this. Although it was a loss to the Giants, the only way New York scored their points was on Daniel Jones bootlegs in the first half. After halftime, QB bootlegs were taken out of the game completely by the Bears defense. Then finally, in week 5, Justin Jefferson was almost a non-factor in the second half, after having 10 catches in the first half. That limited the Vikings explosive play ability in the second half, and allowed the Bears to almost win that game.
The offense is getting better every week, especially the passing game. Justin Fields is getting more comfortable. He’s starting to trust his weapons more, but more importantly, he’s trusting himself more and more every game. He also said on Tuesday that he’s slowing down his breathing, which he says is helping him out considerably. Nobody is expecting Fields to play at an MVP level this year. Him playing at a top 10 level with this offense would be incredible in its own right. He just needs to keep showing progress on a weekly basis. From week 2 to week 5, Fields has had his passing yardage increase each week. From 70 in week 2, to 208 in week 5. 208 yards passing still is not very good, but it’s progress. The young pass catchers in wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet have come on a bit stronger each of the past couple of weeks. Mooney isn’t going to be the number one wide receiver on this team within the next couple of years, but him being one of the best number 2 wide receiver’s in the NFL is certainly on the table. The offensive line is still getting beat like a drum, but Braxton Jones and Teven Jenkins have been relatively good, but Lucas Patrick, Larry Borom, and especially Sam Mustipher have been somewhere in the below average to really bad range. Those guys all have to improve, or they won’t be here as starters very long.
The defense has one word to describe it: inconsistent. The run defense has been the worst in the NFL through the whole season thus far. However, the pass defense has been solid, even while missing their number 1 cornerback in Jaylon Johnson the last three games. Kyler Gordon has been getting better in coverage, and has been excellent in terms of open field tackling, including making two key plays in the second half against Minnesota. Kindle Vildor has probably been comeback player of the year on defense, maybe even the whole team. He’s truly been good in coverage, and even notched an interception against the Vikings. Eddie Jackson is also playing really well in terms of tackling, but he’s also near the top of the league in interceptions with 3. Jaquan Brisker has also been amazing so far in coverage and in the open field with his tackling ability. The linebacking core has still been disappointing. Roquan Smith had a great game against Houston, but has been average or below average in every other game. The decision to not make Roquan a 100 million dollar linebacker is so far working out great for Ryan Poles and has arguably been his biggest win so far. Robert Quinn has also been underwhelming, leaving many wondering if he’s in his final few games with the Bears, with the trade deadline approaching at the beginning of November.
I’ll keep it brief with special teams, but there’s been a true sense of urgency with this unit. Domonique Robinson, Jaylon Jones, and Josh Blackwell were all studs this week on special teams, and Blackwell has been amazing each and every week on special teams. The kicking game has been good as well as the punting game. Special Teams Coordinator Richard Hightower is getting the best out of this unit, with a fast paced, intense coaching style, and that has his guys pumped for him.
So why should we be positive and have hope? There’s been a ton of potential flashed by a lot of young guys at almost every position group. Justin Fields, Khalil Herbert, Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins, Trevis Gipson, Dominique Robinson, Kyler Gordon, Kindle Vildor, and Jaquan Brisker are all in their first 3 seasons in the NFL, and have all flashed, leaving them to hopefully be here for a long time to come, and the coaches are getting all of this stuff out of him.