After an impressive debut, Bears fans can't wait to see more of Khalil Mack on Monday night at home against the Seahawks
The Chicago Bears opened the 2018 season last Sunday looking like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They started out hot; pitching a shut out on defense, displaying the efficiency of head coach Matt Nagy’s offense, and briefly taking Aaron Rodgers out of the game en route to a 17-0 halftime lead.
Khalil Mack made a huge splash in his first game in a Bears uniform, becoming the first defensive player since 1982 to have a sack, interception, forced fumble, fumble recovery, and a touchdown in one half of play (Lawrence Taylor was the last player to do so). But there was still one half to go...
Rodgers returned with a vengeance, sprained knee and all, as the Packers outscored the Bears 24-6 to win the game. He took advantage of a defense that had worn down as the game went on, while Chicago's offense stalled after an energetic first half. From one half to the next the Bears looked like two completely different teams. Now the focus turns to this week's game against Seattle, as Chicago will host Seahawks at Soldier Field for "Monday Night Football."
The Packers they’re not but the Seahawks can easily make the Bears 0-2 if they repeat the same mistakes. Despite getting sacked six times in a loss to the Denver Broncos last week, Russell Wilson – who’s much more mobile and athletic than Rodgers – still managed to throw for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Seattle outscored Denver 14-10 in the second half, as the defense intercepted Case Keenum three times and hit him five times. Seattle may no longer be the team it was a few years ago but the
Seahawks are still competitive and are capable of winning this game.
The Bears will have to adjust their game plan and completely change their approach for Monday night. For this week they’ll be facing a dynamic quarterback, a defense that can still get to the quarterback and force turnovers, and a team overall that can take advantage of mistakes. Here are five specific adjustments that the Bears will need to make before taking the field against the Seahawks.
1. More touches for the running backs
Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combined for 107 rushing yards against Green Bay, but did that damage in only 20 carries. Howard averaged 5.5 yards per carry on his 15 attempts while Cohen also averaged five yards per tote. The two running backs also combined for eight catches for 41 yards on nine targets. From the outset we were told that both would be prominently featured in Matt Nagy's offense. If that is truly the case, expect them to the ball even more on Monday night. Finding the end zone once or twice certainly wouldn't hurt either.
2. Keep Mitchell Trubisky in the pocket
While the second-year quarterback can make plays happen with his feet when he needs to, he is more effective from the pocket. Against the Packers he was officially credited with seven carries for 32 yards and a touchdown, but he also was sacked four times (for 16 yards lost). The touchdown was nice, but the Bears are probably best served with him hanging in the pocket and finding his receivers. He finished 23 of 35 for 171 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions against Green Bay, but there were a couple of instances where he missed an open receiver.
3. Let’s see more from the tight ends
Trey Burton and Dion Sims both got into the act against Green Bay, but they combined for a total of three catches for 24 yards. Trubisky targeted his tight ends nine times in total with Burton hauling in just one of his six looks. Tight ends are supposed to be another big part of Nagy’s offense but that wasn't the case last Sunday. That needs to be corrected against the Seahawks. Seattle gave up three catches for 44 yards (on five targets) to Denver tight ends Jake Butt and Jeff Heuerman in Week 1.
4. More Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith
The Bears' new dynamic duo at linebacker, Mack and Smith combined for six tackles, two sacks, two tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, an interception, a fumble recovery and a touchdown. As impressive as that looks on paper, it must be pointed out that most of that damage was done in the first half. Conditioning probably played a part in their second-half fade considering both missed all of training camp and the preseason. They simply ran out of gas as Rodgers was able to pick apart the Bears in the pocket despite hobbling around on one leg. It's too easy to assume Chicago would have prevailed had Mack and Smith both been able to play more snaps, but there's no argument these two need to be on the field for the Bears' defense to reach its full potential.
5. Increased pass rush
Against Green Bay, the Bears registered four sacks and were credited with seven QB hits. While those numbers are nice, it clearly wasn't enough as Rodgers had a huge second half (playing with a sprained knee that limited his mobility) and still finished with nearly 300 passing yards and three touchdowns. If Chicago is going to struggle in coverage, then the pass rush will need to generate more pressure and big plays. That is especially the case when going up against Russell Wilson, who is even more mobile and athletic than Rodgers. Consider that Denver sacked Wilson six times and hit him 11 times (also picked him off twice) and he still kept his team in the game until the very end.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of www.chicagobears.com)