The Bears' 34-22 victory over the Detroit Lions Sunday at Soldier Field to climb to 6-3 and retain sole possession of first place in the NFC North was their most impressive of the season.
They totally dominated the Lions, scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions on drives of 75, 86, 71 yards and a 12 yarder, respectively, following an interception of Matt Stafford to make the score 26-0 with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Mitch Trubisky had easily his best passing day as a pro, going 23-of-30 for 355 yards (11.8 YPA), 3 TDs, 0 INTs and a 148.6 rating. More than those numbers, though, it was the way Trubisky ran the offense, called plays at the line of scrimmage and absolutely ripped the ball on a number of throws that was so striking.
For at least one day, Trubisky was every bit a franchise quarterback against the No. 4 pass defense in the league, albeit one missing its best defender, CB Darius Slay.
A big part of Trubisky’s success was the return of Allen Robinson, who caught six passes for 133 yards (22.2 YPC), including two touchdowns.
While Robinson’s absence was discussed over the last three weeks, it took a back seat to the absence of Khalil Mack.
But as Mack is to the defense, Robinson is the Bears' best player on offense, and his presence made everyone else in that huddle better, including rookie Anthony Miller, who had his best day as a pro (5-122-1 receiving).
The defense was equally impressive at times, and like Robinson, Mack was outstanding, although it took him a bit longer to warm up with both his sacks coming in the second half.
Leonard Floyd notched his first sack, and Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan were brilliant all afternoon.
So why isn’t all of Chicago dancing in the streets?
The first step toward a turnaround in the NFL is to prove you’re a legitimate contender. The Bears arlready have proven as much.
The second, more important step is to prove you can beat a contender, and the Bears will get that chance next Sunday night vs. the Vikings. But with their running game and special teams, the Bears displayed Sunday that seems highly unlikely.
The ground game — which has been under the microscope most of the season in spite of ranking 7th in the league going into Sunday, mainly on the strength of Trubisky’s legs — hit its low point of the year with Jordan Howard (11-21, 1.9 YPC rushing) and Tarik Cohen (7-15, 2.1).
Matt Nagy had no answers after the game.
“Not good," he said. "I know right now we need to figure something out there. And it's, it has nothing to do with any running back on our team, it has nothing to do with our offensive line, it's everybody. It's our coaches, too. We need to get better there.”
Nagy is partially right — it’s not the running backs, but it does have everything to do with the line and the coaches.
There are no holes being opened for Howard and Cohen, and though it is the line’s responsibility to do that, Nagy has been unable so far to put the Bears in position to get it done.
The rookie head coach is earning very high marks overall, but when it comes to running the ball, he just seems unable to integrate it into his overall offense.
With the score 34-10 and 12 minutes remaining to play, the Bears had run the ball exactly 14 times, only four of those carries belonging to Howard.
The Bears can’t run the ball, mostly because they aren’t trying.
Then there is Cody Parkey, who missed two extra points and two field goals, improbably, almost impossibly hitting the upright on all four kicks.
As Nagy said, “Well, it's certainly not amusing. But it's, we expect him to make those, he expects himself to make them.”
Parkey will get another chance next Sunday, and he should. But one more performance like the Lions game, and the Bears will almost certainly have to make a change.
The Bears have the talent to play with the Vikings right now, but whether they will be ready to next Sunday is the next big hurdle this club has to clear.