As I went back around on the Bears vs. Lions game tape for my third and fourth looks, I knew I was seeing something different, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Then it struck me: more than a couple of these Bears are starting to look special.
Rather than grade the whole team unit-by-unit as I usually do, allow me this week to offer a few general thoughts and then focus on a few great individual performances.
The Bears' passing game, run defense and pass pressure all earned "A" grades — the first three I’ve given out this year.
Mitch Trubisky and Co. came out passing the ball on five of the first seven plays and 13 of the first 20.
After those first 20 calls, it was 19-0 with 11:30 left in the first half and Trubisky had thrown for 211 yards.
The O-line’s pass protection was excellent.
What was most impressive was the confidence they played with and the rhythm Trubisky and his receivers were in, and Trubisky made four or five of the best throws of his career.
He isn’t special yet, but Trubisky took a big step forward.
The Bears' run 'D’ now ranks second in the league and first in average gain per rush because the front wall of Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols refuses to be moved off the line of scrimmage, and there were a couple of Jonathan Bullard sightings, too.
Add to that Danny Trevathan is having his best year as a pro and Roquan Smith now has his run-and-hit game down.
It took Khalil Mack about 30 minutes to get back in his groove, but that front along with Mack, Leonard Floyd and Aaron Lynch brought pressure from the jump. Roquan Smith and Bryce Callahan each had a rare but perfectly executed Vic Fangio blitz, and by the second half, as Mack took off the entire front seven was in a feeding frenzy again.
You already know the run game is getting a "D-" and Special Teams an "F."
The one thing you can’t miss on the tape is when the Bears tried to run north and south, the offensive line could not move anyone off the line of scrimmage. No one.
Right now, though, I’d prefer to talk special.
One thing that was lost as everyone wrung their hands over Mack the past few weeks is how much the Bears missed Allen Robinson.
He is the best player on the Bears' offense, and after we all wondered in free agency if the Bears got the 2015 All Pro, 1,400-yard, 14-TD season Robinson, or 2016’s “nice” wideout, he is playing like an All Pro.
Robinson didn’t just beat Lions defensive backs Sunday, he destroyed them right off the line.
Eddie Goldman is dominating and destroying offensive linemen. We’ve gotten so used to seeing Akiem Hicks toss around 300-pounders like Nerf balls, that we haven’t talked enough about Goldman doing the exact same thing.
He mauled Frank Ragnow and Graham Glasgow all day long.
Aaron Lynch is the biggest surprise on the roster. I didn’t understand how he made the team after not practicing a day in Bourbonnais, but Matt Nagy said, "trust us," and man was he right.
The Lions game wasn’t Lynch’s best, but he was as disruptive against the run as anyone on the field.
Lastly, if both Kyle Fuller and Bruce Callahan aren’t Pro Bowlers this year, stop picking the teams.
The confidence, physicality and aggression Fuller is playing with is remarkable. His 14 combined pass breakups (10 passes defensed and 4 interceptions) is second in the league only to the Jets' Morris Claiborne (13 and 2), and Fuller spent Sunday daring Matt Stafford to try him, and he beat him every time he did.
The one illegal contact call on Fuller was as ticky tack as they get.
Callahan is the smallest of the Bears' five starting DBs, and yet he's the best run defender, adding five solo stops and his second sack Sunday, leaving him fourth on the team with 37 stops for the year.
When was the last time you watched a Bears game and came away saying there’s not only some special talent in navy and orange, but a lot of it?