The Chicago Bears picked up their first preseason win of the 2018 season in a 24-23 comeback Saturday night against the Denver Broncos. Although the win mainly belong to the reserves who overcame a 13-point fourth quarter deficit, the main focus was on that of the starters who played deep into the second quarter.
There were highlights and lowlights on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball including the NFL’s new helmet rule. Here are three takeaways from the Bears Broncos game from Saturday night:
Matt Nagy’s offense will be fun to watch when fully ready
Fans and the media got the first detailed look of what new head coach Matt Nagy’s offense will look like under quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky flashed both positively and negatively during his time under center. Trubisky completed 9-of-14 passes for 90 yards including a touchdown pass and an interception.
Newly acquired tight end Trey Burton stood out the most as he caught four passes for 45 yards including a 7-yard touchdown catch. Rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller made a highlight catch out jumping and out battling two defenders to haul in a 19-yard completion from Trubisky.
Burton showed exactly why the Bears wanted him to apart of Nagy’s offense. He will be a safety target in the passing game whenever Trubisky is pressured allowing him a high percentage target when others are guarded by a opposing defenses. The Bears new tight end was uncovered on three of his four receptions. The offense saw little of free agent receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel who are expected to be key contributors in the offense, and even in their absence the Bears moved the ball with success Saturday night.
The offense was hindered though due to penalties, timing issues, and turnovers. Trubisky mishandled a shotgun snap in his own end-zone and was sacked for a Broncos safety. Tarik Cohen was caught out of position on two plays and was the target when Trubisky was intercepted.
The second-year quarterback showed his frustration after the play as he believed Cohen had done enough to cut across the defender who intercepted the pass. Penalties by the offensive line cost the Bears field position on two of their drives. If the team is able to clean these mistakes up, the offense could be very exciting to watch come the regular season.
The Defense’s biggest weakness was exposed
The one concern shared by most regarding the Bears defense heading into the season was their lack of depth at the outside linebacker position and its effect on the pass rush.
There are high expectations for third-year linebacker Leonard Floyd to produce even with having little help on the other side. The team signed former 49ers linebacker Aaron Lynch to be the other starting linebacker, but he has yet to practice this pre-season due to a hamstring injury.
Against the Broncos, Floyd left the game early due to a hand injury leaving the defense without a proven pass rushing linebacker. If Floyd and Lynch are unable to stay healthy, this leaves the Bears offense extremely thin at the position and puts the defense at huge risk when defending the pass.
General manager Ryan Pace will need to address the depth of the position before the start of the season whether via trade or a signing following roster cut downs come Labor Day weekend. For the defense to be as good as they have been the last few seasons, the outside linebacker position needs a talented pass rusher that adds depth.
The NFL’s new rule will be an issue next week
One of the most talked about topics throughout the first two weeks of the pre-season schedule has been the NFL’s enforcement of its new helmet rule. The rule is supposed to protect its players and flags any player lowering their helmet when tackling.
Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller was flagged against the Broncos, but on the replay, it showed that Fuller had not violated the rule as he had proper tackling form as his helmet was up. It was in fact Broncos running back Andy Janovich who not only lowered his helmet, but led with it too.
The rule has been extremely controversial as the rule is not specific and has left referees to flag even the cleanest of tackles. The issue will be the main focus during week three of the pre-season as it is dress rehearsal week for NFL teams. Starters will play midway into the third quarter and prep for the game like a regular season game. There will be eight nationally televised games next week across five networks.
Any controversial penalty during one of those televised games will only magnitude the controversy surrounding the rule. It may cause the NFL to hold discussions to resolve the issue before the start of the regular season on September 6th.