In an effort to be optimistic, I want to force myself to look for more good than bad in every single Bears game. 3 steps forward and 2 steps back is still a step in the right direction. Every week, I’m going to look at how the Bears performed in their previous game and look for 3 areas that were good and 2 that need improving. And then, just to finish the countdown, I want to look at something else that happened in the NFL this weekend. Either some important news that I can add my voice to, or something that may have flown under the radar. Let’s begin.
For much of the game, Johnson was the only starting defensive back on the field. Rookies Brisker and Gordon were declared out on Friday and Eddie Jackson left the game partway through with an injury. He was the sole leader among the group and he performed, racking up 7 tackles and a defended pass that was almost an interception. The 3rd year cornerback has had an uninspiring season so far, registering only 20 tackles before the Jets game. But seeing him take a leadership role for the defense today, even in the terrible outing that they had, will hopefully assist his development, especially as contract extensions start being discussed.
With the other 2 leading rushers out today, David Montgomery was given the lion’s share of carries. He rushed 14 times for 79 yards with an average of 5.9 yards per carry. Today’s offense was certainly more traditional with Siemean at the helm, and Montgomery got to show off his ability to stay up and force a few extra yards every time he made first contact. Time and time again, number 32 proves that he is a strong power back that is great on short 3rd and 4th downs. If his skills are going to be a part of the future of the Chicago Bears, however, has yet to be determined.
Although they only registered one sack today, which is still one more than they got last week, the pass rush against the Jets seemed more effective than it has in previous weeks. All 4 starting rushers were reaching Mike White faster than the NFL average, with Armon Watts being the best of the group. He got the lone sack for the Bears defense, and also reached the quarterback more quickly than anyone else on the team. Maybe the Jets offensive line is just really bad, but it was nice to see one part of the defense perform when the unit as a whole barely showed up.
It’s never easy being a backup. Sure, they probably aren’t as good as the starter, but backups are expected to know just as much as the leading man, and are dropped into situations where they need to perform immediately. Against the Jets, the Bears were playing with a lot of backups. They were missing starters and significant role players at quarterback, running back, safety, and cornerback. And while they should be commended for filling in and playing tough with a true “next man up” mentality, these players are backups for a reason. Trevor Siemean started hot, leading the Bears to 10 early points, but quickly cooled off for an uninspiring stat line. Darrynton Evans had one impressive catch and run, but all his rushes were lackluster compared to the usual running game. The backup DBs let Mike White throw all over the field. Injuries are a natural part of the NFL. They are random and can be devastating. Bears fans certainly hope that all starters can return to the field soon.
Fields has received a lot of valid criticism on his limitations as a passer. He waits too long for receivers to open up, and he takes too long to throw. Trevor Siemean did the opposite of these things, taking his checkdowns and having a time to throw of just 2.6 seconds. And yet, he was still pressured 11 times and sacked twice more. This was on just 28 dropbacks. It’s time to stop pretending that any struggles Fields has aren’t primarily because of his offensive line. Sure, he still has work to do as a passer in the NFL, but having an incompetent line is definitely limiting his development. The last 5 games are going to be critical for Fields, and one only hopes this line can hold it together long enough for him to make key improvements.
America and the World Cup:
On Friday, the US Men’s Soccer Team faced off against the England National Football Team for their second game of World Cup group play. Much to the surprise of fans of both teams, the game ended in a 0-0 tie, which many Americans saw as a win. The US Men’s team has been a bit of an international disappointment in regard to the World Cup. In the 22 instances of the tournament being held, the Americans have only made it 11 times, and have never finished better than third. But there’s a good reason for this historical underperformance: soccer is America’s 5th most popular sport. If (American) football, basketball, baseball, and hockey were less popular, and more athletes focused on getting into pro soccer, then America would certainly do better on the international stage. The US Women’s Soccer Team is a great example of this: they play arguably the most popular women’s sport and have won 4 of the 8 women’s world cup tournaments. That is an incredible record, spanning the course of just under 30 years. There aren’t a slew of other sports for women athletes to gear towards, other than the WNBA, and so there are a lot more women who spend their lives training to be professional soccer players. The United States is the best sports country in the world, and if it was as popular as other sports, men’s soccer would be just one more category that we dominate in.