Monday night featured a fun game with a fairly close outcome, but the harsh reality of the Bears 24-17 victory over the Seahawks is we saw two teams headed in opposite directions in the NFC. Chicago is rising and Seattle is treading water, trying to find an identity in the post Legion of Boom Era.
The Bears shoved all in on Mitchell Trubisky's rookie contract, trading for Khalil Mack, and both guys made an impact, as did high-priced free-agent signing Allen Robinson. Chicago is able to add pieces like Mack and Robinson because Trubisky is dirt cheap, relative to veteran quarterbacks. Once upon a time, Seattle jammed open a window for a run at a would-be defensive dynasty thanks to the comically inexpensive rookie contract of one Russell Wilson, a window that shut this offseason with the LOB crumbling.
Seattle's been relegated to rebuilding on both sides of the ball, trying to reconfigure the roster around Wilson. There are plenty of players of interest for Seattle, but this is clearly a roster in flux. Will Dissly is one of their top receivers, which we all saw coming after he recorded roughly 400 yards receiving in college.
The offensive line is still a disaster. Wilson was under siege all day long, getting sacked six times and pressured a bunch more. The lack of weapons around him are clearly forcing him to press, and he's holding the ball too long. Brian Schottenheimer was trying to establish the run down 14 with less than six minutes left, and there might not be enough to really create a good offense, but if the goal is to be an old-school run team, things are going to get ugly. Defensively, the Seahawks can be better than people think. But they're still growing. And if they don't pile up any wins early on -- and it is early and the Seahawks haven't even played at home -- it won't matter how the group comes together down the stretch.
Now, having said all that about Seattle, we don't know for sure that the Bears are going to be good. They were heavily hyped this offseason, but their over/under was only 6.5 wins before the Mack trade. Chicago could easily be 2-0 or 0-2, which probably applies to a lot of different teams in the NFL. But for the Bears it's fair to ask if Trubisky is a guy who can currently elevate this roster into a position to make the playoffs.
If Trubisky is in a better position as a quarterback, the Bears beat the Packers. And if the Bears defense -- and a Prince Amukamura pick six -- doesn't bail them out, the Bears could easily have allowed Russell to march down the field, tie things up and get weird.
Fortunately for Trubisky, he has a smart play-caller, good weapons around him and a defense that should bail him out at other points in the season. I also like Trubisky. His athleticism and arm can make him a special quarterback, but his inexperience should also put a cap on expectations.
As exciting as this Bears win was for a fanbase forced to slog through multiple seasons of John Fox, it should still be concerning the Bears finished with less yards than the Seahawks and Trubisky led as many touchdown drives as drives he killed with interceptions.
I like what Chicago is building and where they're heading. They are being aggressive in a small window fueled by a salary-cap advantage. Going 7-9 this season wouldn't be terrible.
Maybe we could say the same for the Seahawks at this point though. Which could say a lot more about Seattle than it does Chicago.
Coming Out Hot
For the second week in a row, the Chicago Bears have looked fantastic in the early going of a football game. They put the Packers on their heels early last week and came out for a long, methodical touchdown on their opening drive on Monday night against the Seahawks as well.
Bears’ opening drives this year:— Sean Wagner-McGough (@seanjwagner) September 18, 2018
10 plays, 86 yards, TD
9 plays, 96 yards, TD
This has long been a staple of Andy Reid's offenses, scripting out impressive-looking drives to start, using a bunch of different formations to keep defenses on their toes and moving quickly down the field for an easy score. Matt Nagy brought it over -- after helping to orchestrate it in KC, although Reid's done just fine with it this year as well -- and it's working really well for the Bears. Trubisky looks incredibly comfortable operating these early-game scripts.
Worth noting: the Bears are now 2/2 in covering first-half and first-quarter spreads on this young NFL season. The latter needs some luck in terms of the coin toss, but there might be some value there.
The Bears have been less than stellar when it comes to their offensive performance after the initial scripting plays, however. Prior to late in the third quarter of Monday's game, Chicago did not have a single touchdown off a non-opening drive.
In six quarters, not including the opening drives, Chicago produced just 314 total yards (including a fairly paltry 206 total yards against the Packers). They fixed it after halftime -- and therefore sort of ruining my narrative -- with a touchdown pass from Trubisky to rookie Anthony Miller, that also managed to ruin a narrative out there about Trubisky not being able to throw to the left.
Straight outta KC
Nagy ain't no dummy. He spent years learning under Reid in Kansas City (it helps explain the scripts as well) and he's utilizing a lot of the tricks he got from Reid in his first year as Bears coach.
To wit: the RPO tight end shovel pass in the red zone, which the Bears executed to perfection against the Seahawks on the first drive to get Trey Burton a touchdown.
If this looked familiar, it should. Nagy and Reid ran it all the time in Kansas City, utilizing Travis Kelce's athleticism.
That play actually happened almost one year to the day the Chiefs busted it out with Kelce and Alex Smith. It's a smart, high-percentage play with almost zero risk. If the pass is dropped, it's incomplete and not a fumble.
When you learn from the best you should always use those lessons. Nagy is doing just that.
Every week of Khalil Mack going off this year is going to be an attack on the Raiders, who dealt Mack to the Bears for a pair of draft picks. It's going to be like four or five years before we really know who technically won the deal, but with Mack going nuts and Jon Gruden complaining about Oakland not having a pass rush, it's hard not to point to the Bears as the early winners in the deal.
Monday night was just another example of how Mack impacts a game, with the pass rusher flipping the field on the Seahawks after an ugly Mitchell Trubisky interception (more on that in a second) opened the door for Seattle to try and even things up.
This is not the only damage he's done.
Needless to say, people are raking the Raiders over the coals.
Imagine living with the fact that you let Khalil Mack go— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) September 18, 2018
The Khalil Mack trade was the Brian Schottenheimer hire of trades.— Kevin Clark (@bykevinclark) September 18, 2018
Oakland defense in first 2 games:— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 18, 2018
0 forced fumbles
Khalil Mack in first 2 games:
2 forced fumbles
DROP KICK KICKOFF???
The Seahawks drafted Texas punter Michael Dickson in the 2018 NFL Draft, and used an early pick on him. Dude can punt! Dickson can also go Aussie Rules at a moment's notice. After the Bears picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after Seattle's touchdown to make it 17-10, Pete Carroll had Dickson try and throw a dart near the goal line and put the Bears in a bad spot in terms of field position.
It worked too, with the Bears beginning their drive at the 15-yard line and having to punt.
The Bears are headed to Arizona to play the hapless Cardinals, their second straight matchup against a club with an underperforming offensive line. Things could get ugly for Sam Bradford, and maybe Josh Rosen if he's released from witness protection.
The Seahawks get to host the Cowboys, who just dominated the Giants on Sunday night, in their home opener. Dallas defense has looked sharp, particularly on the defensive front, which is not great news for the Seahawks.