USA TODAY US Edition
BEARS APPEAR IN GOOD HANDS
Team shows fight in Week 1 loss to Packers, is smart to let Forte carry load on offense
Let’s make one thing clear right away: The Chicago Bears are not going to the Super Bowl this season. Heck, just getting to .500 might be a stretch.
This is, after all, a team with Jay Cutler as quarterback. As bad as Eli Manning’s late blunder was Sunday night, that’s a one-off.
Cutler getting picked off by Clay Matthews when the Bears still had a chance to upset the Green Bay Packers was one more example of Cutler being a mistake waiting to happen.
That said, the Bears are starting to show the effects of new coach and reclamation expert John Fox.
Yes, the loss to the Packers was the Bears’ fourth in a row and 10th in the last 11 games in the NFL’s greatest rivalry. But the 3123 score was a vast improvement from the 55-14 and 38-17 drubbings last season. And unlike under previous coach Marc Trestman, when Chicago often looked flat and unresponsive, these Bears have some feistiness to them.
“Nobody had that stupid look on their face,” running back Matt Forte said. “Like before, when something would happen, saying like the game is lost already when there was time left. I was glad we didn’t have that and that we came out and kept fighting.”
Forte’s heavy workload Sunday — he rushed for a league-high 141 yards and touched the ball on 29 of Chicago’s 69 plays — is the Bears’ biggest reason for optimism.
Forte is one of the NFL’s best running backs, yet he too often got lost in the previous regimes. Sure, Trestman would talk about wanting to run the ball, but Cutler would end up slinging it all over the place. Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase said Forte was going to be their workhorse, and they made sure it happened.
Granted, not every opposing defense is going to be as awful against the run as the Packers. They couldn’t keep a 6-year-old from running wild, let alone someone such as Forte. But Cutler is better when he’s playing in a controlled environment — see the first half, and then see that interception — and Forte needs to be the centerpiece of the offense for that to happen.
The defense needs more playmakers, particularly in the secondary. But it’s showing signs of the nastiness that is the hallmark of any good defense. After Aaron Rodgers questioned Ego Ferguson about a late hit, the secondyear defensive tackle exchanged a few words with the two-time NFL MVP.
“He’s a talented guy. He’s athletic, big, strong,” Rodgers said. “He’s going to be a beast over the next few years playing against them.
“John Fox is a great coach. So is (defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio,” Rodgers added. “I look forward to the challenge of competing against them for a number of years.”
Being competitive with the Packers won’t be enough in a season or two. But it’s better than what the Bears have been the last few years.