GREEN BAY, Wis. — Even in defeat, the Chicago Bears emerged from their heartbreaking 24-23 loss Sunday to the Green Bay Packers as a possible future force to be reckoned in the NFC.
For years, the Bears were simply an afterthought, finishing dead last in the NFC North from 2014-17.
But the Bears unveiled a creativity and explosiveness on offense not seen since the Marc Trestman honeymoon period in early 2013.
The brief Trestman era turned out to be an abject failure, but these Bears appear to have staying power with a young core of talented skill-position players, many of whom are signed to lucrative, longer-term contracts.
In the NFL, it all starts and ends with the quarterback.
Second-year Bears signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky resembled the All-Pro in Sunday’s opening half, not Aaron Rodgers, who left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury but returned triumphantly after halftime. Trubisky looked in complete control of Matt Nagy’s offense, completing 8 of 9 pass attempts for 99 yards (112.5 quarterback rating) and rushing for a 2-yard touchdown as the Bears built a 17-0 halftime lead.
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Everywhere you looked, the Bears had playmakers at Trubisky’s disposal: Tarik Cohen, Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Jordan Howard all made their presence known.
Of course, Trubisky’s play — like the rest of the team’s — declined in the second half, but he showed promise in a brand-new system.
Is Trubisky on the same level as Rodgers? Of course not. But very few, if any, quarterbacks in the NFL are.
For his part, Nagy called plays that kept Green Bay’s defense off balance during the first 20 minutes. However, the first-year head coach was probably a little too conservative in the final two quarters as the Bears unsuccessfully attempted to stave off the feisty Packers.
Remember, though, the Bears had one of the league’s worst and most predictable offenses under former head coach John Fox. On Sunday night, Nagy used creative packages such as three running backs in the backfield and a trips formation that featured left tackle Charles Leno split out to the right as a slot receiver.
On defense, the Bears frustrated the Packers offense until the final quarter, led by new arrival Khalil Mack, who earned every penny of the massive six-year, $141 million contract he recently signed. Mack, who was inexplicably traded to the Bears by the Oakland Raiders, dominated Green Bay’s offense, recording a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery — all on the same play — and a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown prior to halftime.
The rest of Chicago’s defense did its part, too, until its end-of-game collapse.
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks looked unstoppable at times. Defensive backs Bryce Callahan and Eddie Jackson both made key stops to stifle Green Bay drives.
Even eighth overall pick Roquan Smith, who did not start the game, registered a sack on his first NFL snap.
For a while, almost everything the Bears touched turned to gold in front of a prime-time audience that was probably confused.
Wait, the Bears are for real?!
Yes. The franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2010 let one slip away, but these aren’t the same old Bears.
Far from it.
Overlook Chicago at your own peril.
Green Bay’s late rally proved the Bears are still vulnerable, but the NFC North just got a whole lot more interesting.