I am a firm believer in signature wins. I believe that one performance can often determine the direction a team takes in a season. That is also true for losses. A heart-breaking loss is tough to get over and can often lead to multiple weeks of poor play. The NFL is a 16-game season, but some games simply matter more.
The Rams already earned their signature win of the season, beating the Kansas City Chiefs in a Big-12 type shootout. In Week 14, the Bears sought to get their signature win against one of the NFC's best — and that is precisely what they did.
It wasn't always pretty. In fact, most of that game was downright ugly. There were turnovers and sloppy play all around from both sides. But once again, the Bears showed that they have multiple paths to victory and should now be considered one of the best teams in the NFL.
Sunday night, it was the Bears' defense that rose to the challenge, securing a win almost single-handedly. The Bears took on one of the best offenses in the NFL and made them look mortal. Chicago held the Los Angeles Rams to 214 yards, 19 of which came on the final play of the game. The more you dig, the more impressive the performance becomes. Let's dive into some of the numbers to show just how dominant the Bears' defense was on "Sunday Night Football."
Entering Week 14, the Rams hadn't played a game in which they tallied fewer than 20 first downs. Chicago held them to only 14, one of which came on that final run by backup RB Justin Davis. Across the board, this was a dominating performance by the Bears' defense. Chicago forced four turnovers, and the Rams failed to convert on fourth down twice. It was arguably the best defensive performance of the season by any team in the NFL.
Just how unique and dominant was this Bears performance? On Sunday, the Rams passed for only 100 yards. Teams have been held to 100 passing yards or fewer just ten other times this season, with the Bills (3) and Cardinals (5) accounting for more than half of those games. To hold even a competent quarterback to 100 net passing yards in today's NFL is a genuinely extraordinary feat. The Bears also held the Rams to less than 4.5 yards per play. That has only happened ten other times this season as well. Heading into this game, the Rams were averaging 6.7 yards per play, third in the NFL. That is quite a significant drop-off.
Before Sunday's game, the Rams were one of the league's best third-down offenses. From games 1-12, the Rams converted on more than 44 percent of their third downs (eighth in the NFL). But against the Bears, they were held to only 3-of-12 on third down (they did convert 1-of-3 fourth-down attempts). Still, that is by far their worst conversion rate of the season.
Finally, let's discuss the turnovers. The difference between a good defense and a great defense is a team's ability to take the ball away. Last season, the Bears had the No.8 ranked scoring defense, allowing just 20 points per game. This year, they are allowing slightly less at 19 points per game. But it's the turnovers that have been the story.
Last season, Chicago forced 22 turnovers. In 13 games in 2018, the Bears have already forced 34, the most in the NFL. When you have a defense that is among the league leaders in points and yards allowed, while also leading the league in takeaways, that is when we can start discussing where this defense ranks historically.
On Sunday, the Bears forced four turnovers and allowed just six points. That has happened only seven other times since 2015 per Pro Football Reference. In all of those other seven games, the opponent's offense was typically ranked in the bottom five of the NFL. Never has it happened to one of the best offenses in the NFL. We are now to the point with the Bears' defense where we can compare them to some of the all-time great defenses in the NFL. According to DVOA, the Bears currently have one of the top-12 best defenses since 1986 through 13 games.
Pair that defense with a top-10 scoring offense (27.6 PPG) and it's not hard to see why the Bears are quickly becoming a real Super Bowl contender. They have a brilliant head coach, one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL and talented players at nearly every position. From an outsider's perspective, this team has everything you want in a Super Bowl contender.
Sunday's win for the Bears was potentially a franchise-changing win. Across the NFL, the Bears are starting to gain the reputation as a legit Super Bowl contender. No longer is there a considerable gap between the top two teams in the NFC and the Bears. This is the most balanced team in the NFL, and they certainly wouldn't be afraid of going into New Orleans or to Los Angeles to win a playoff game. The rest of the NFC should be thanking their lucky stars that the Bears likely won't be hosting a divisional or conference championship game in Chicago because with the defense playing as well as it is, nobody in the league would likely be able to go there and defeat them.
Chicago's win against the Rams on Sunday may be the type of the game this team needed to fully believe in their potential this season. No matter the opponent or where the game is played, Chicago is going to be a tough out for any team in the playoffs.