Everything about Sunday night’s loss hurts for the Chicago Bears. For a half, the Bears looked like they were on the verge of becoming the new “it” team of the NFL. They made offense look like a breeze and they were about to conquer their oldest rival in a stadium that has been a house of horrors for years.
Then, Aaron Rodgers, who was carted into the locker room before intermission with a left knee injury, returned in the second half and stole the show. An all-too-familiar story for Bears’ fans. It was a gut-wrenching loss that they'll remember for years to come.
As much as Week 1 losses hurt, they rarely ever decide a season. And while Bears fans have the right to be upset about how the game ended, they shouldn’t be too discouraged about the direction of their team. There were a lot of positives on both sides of the ball that indicate that the Bears might be one of the better teams in the NFC.
One of the biggest takeaways on offense for the Bears was the play of newcomer WR Allen Robinson. Though the stat line is modest (four receptions for 61 yards), his impact was massive. It was an impressive debut for the former second-round pick from Penn State. Let’s take a look at a few of his receptions and break down the Bears’ new No.1 receiver.
Robinson’s first reception as a Bear was quite spectacular and was exactly the reason the Bears paid him so handsomely this offseason. In typical Robinson fashion, he won down the field on a 50-50 ball that only a few receivers in the league could snag. Robinson isn’t fast by any means, but his route running and ability to track the ball in the air is phenomenal.
In today’s NFL, there is only so much an offensive coordinator or head coach can scheme. Sometimes, you are just going to need athletes to be athletes. Throwing the ball down the field to one of the best bad-ball catchers in the league will never be a bad play. The Bears won’t make this a staple of their offense, but it’s nice to have this skill set and play in the arsenal if needed.
Robinson isn’t just 50-50 ball receiver. There is so much more nuance to his game. He is a player who can be relied on to win in the middle of the field in crucial situations. One of the most important things a No.1 receiver has to be able to do is win on third down. And that’s exactly what Robinson did for the Bears on Sunday.
On one particular play, Robinson ran a dig route into the teeth of the Packers’ secondary and he was able to go low to secure the pass for a third down. It was a tough catch, but exactly the kind of play he was brought in to make.
The final play I want to examine was Robinson’s last catch of the game. Like most elite receivers, Robinson isn’t tied to playing in just one spot. He has the ability to slide down into the slot and make plays there as well. This is vital to the Bears’ offense, specifically in this situation, because the team needs receivers to get open quickly to create chunk plays. They want to be multiple and dictate matchups, and they now have the personnel to do so.
Robinson might not have great quickness, but his ability to get clean releases off the line of scrimmage is impressive. On this particular play, Robinson beats the cornerback with ease and hauls in the tough pass to gain 12 yards and a first down. It’s been a long time since the Bears have had a player with this kind of ability.
The Bears also left a few plays on the field for Robinson. There was a fade attempt to Robinson on which Trubisky's throw sailed out of bounds despite Robinson winning early on the route. These throws take a lot of time and practice. As the two get more comfortable with one another, you will see Robinson being featured more and more in this offense.
It’s going to take a while for some of the other pieces to find their role, but Robinson looks to be the bona fide No.1 the team has desperately needed. The Bears are going to have a much-improved offense this season for a number of reasons, but having a legitimate star with the ability to line up inside and outside is going to make life much easier for Trubisky. It was a tough night for the Bears overall, but Robinson’s play has to be encouraging for the team going forward.