Written by: John Stocco
The Bears are coming off a pretty uneventful bye week. They suffered two losses on their team. One is a loss that will impact one of the best defenses in the league, and one loss might actually be a gain in the end. This Sunday against the New Orleans Saints is the Bears’ first must-win game of the season. Now you might sit there and scoff at that idea because last year the Bears were 3-3 and they ended up winning the NFC North by finishing 12-4 on the season. The Bears and the fans, including myself, need to stop banking on last year. This year is tougher. This year is different.
The defense is still elite, but there are some cracks in the shield. Losing Akiem Hicks to the injured reserve is a massive blow. No matter how great this defense is, Hicks is the Bears’ second-best player on not just the defense, he’s the second-best player on the team. He’s a leader in the locker room, and he’s a spark plug on the field. Listening to Hicks when he’s mic’d up, and watching Hicks on the sidelines just puts a smile on your face because he’s such a dominant football player and he’s having fun stuffing offenses on every down. Morale has never been lower after that horrible loss to the Oakland Raiders, and I’ll promise you one thing, you will never see the defense play that way ever again this season. Khalil Mack was getting triple-teamed, and everybody on the defense looked slow and tired. That was a horrendous performance and sometimes that’s gonna happen. The Bears got embarrassed, and honestly, it could be a great thing. The Bears' defense is going to come out on fire. They know that this is big, the defense knows that this is the biggest game of the year, and they know that they have their backs up against the wall. Akiem Hicks is out, but the Bears have the ammo to not miss a beat. Roy Robertson-Harris has looked like starter, Nick Williams has exceeded expectations, and Bilal Nichols is on his way back. When I look at the Bears' defense, I have complete confidence in Khalil Mack, Danny Trevathan, and the secondary for the most part. When I think about who are the players that need to step up, I’m looking at Roquan Smith and Leonard Floyd. Leonard Floyd needs to start playing with a sense of urgency. He’s playing for a contract, and while Khalil Mack is getting triple-teamed there’s no reason why Floyd can’t come up with a sack or a tackle for loss. Going to Roquan Smith, it doesn’t even feel like he’s on the field. He needs to show his speed, he needs to show his strength, and he needs to be the guy setting the tone for the defense by stopping the run and controlling the field sideline to sideline. With Akiem Hicks out for several weeks, Floyd and Smith have to be the guys that make the Bears and the fans forget about Akiem Hicks.
The other player for the Bears that was sent to the IR was offensive guard Kyle Long, and this move might spell the end for Kyle Long’s career with the Bears. A once great guard has dealt with injuries his entire career, and it’s getting harder every week to watch him block. He’s a step slower, he looks heavier, and he’s not getting any push off the line of scrimmage. Rashaad Coward will get the start ahead of Long, and at this point, the one-time defensive linemen is a better option than Kyle Long. He gets up the field, blocks to the second level, and anything that gets a push for the offensive line is an improvement. We get the offensive line going, then the Bears will be able to get the running game going, and once the Bears get the running game going, the Bears offense will start putting up the numbers that we’ve been expected to see. Now it gets to the question, who’s the quarterback? Matt Nagy has come out and said that he’s “cautiously optimistic” about Mitch Trubisky playing this week. The Chase Daniel days need to be over, and whether you like it or not, the Bears live or die with Mitch Trubisky. He’s the man for the offense, and when he’s healthy, he’s the man for the job and it’s not even a debate. Trubisky has gotten his time to heal up, and he’s gotten his time to prepare against one of the tougher defenses in football. This Sunday, Mitch Trubisky needs to chill out. Seriously. Watching him on the field it looks like he has the entire world on his shoulders. He looks too tight. He looks too nervous. He looks like someone who’s trying to be somebody he’s not. Mitch Trubisky has to go back to the basics, play loose, play free, and play calm. Football isn’t a simple game, but sometimes you have to do simple better and cut it back down to the basics.
The Packers are running away with the division, the Lions are better than everyone expected, and the only teams that could beat the Vikings apparently are the Bears and the Packers. Oh, and by the way, the NFC is really good. Let’s take a look at the division leaders. Cowboys and Eagles are tied in first, Packers are leading the NFC North, the Saints are leading the NFC South, and the 49ers are undefeated. Who’s left out? The Seahawks, Rams, Bears, Lions, Vikings, and the Panthers. This division is the toughest in football, and the NFC is the best conference in football. It doesn’t help that the Bears' remaining schedule is the toughest in football. The Bears lost a game they should have won in London, and now the pressure is on, the Bears have to defend home turf, and come out after a bye week and bring home a win against the Saints.