The fourth and fifth takeaways from the Chicago Bears win focus on the coaching and the defense, and it’s about time.
4. Matt Eberflus likely saved his job Thursday, but sustained success needs to come next
I have been far from the bandwagon of Matt Eberflus this season and I’ve made that very clear. However, if I’m going to take a man to task, I must also acknowledge when that man answers the bell.
Eberflus has been seen as the culprit for this poor Chicago Bears team so far this season. After all, that is what you sign up for as a head coach in the NFL. That’s why it was completely feasible to believe the reports that Matt Eberflus was coaching for his job on Thursday.
Eberflus, the owner of the longest and most defensively embarrassing losing streak in Bears head coaching history, was clearly on a mission Thursday to quiet the noise around his team. This was reflected in his play calling on defense.
Eberflus’ Bears have become known for their stubborn willingness to play Cover 2 at all times without bringing extra pressure. We had the lowest blitz rate of any team since his hire. Yet, the Bears have been unable to get home and sack the quarterback.
Credit to Matt Eberflus for noticing and adjusting, as Thursday he dialed up more pressure than he ever has a Chicago Bears coach. While many of these plays did not result in a sack, they likely gave Washington a little trouble considering the film would suggest that the Bears blitz less than any other team in the NFL.
One game doesn’t swing the dial from one end of the spectrum to another, so I will be hesitantly optimistic when it comes to the Eberflus version of the Chicago Bears.
We would benefit from stability, but Eberflus needs to prove he can galvanize the troops and adequately make halftime adjustments on a regular basis before his hot seat begins to cool.
5. The defense has a long way to go, but Thursday was a great start
Last but certainly not least, I wanted to address the defense as a whole because they all deserve credit.
Aside from a scary second-half moment where it seemed as if the Bears were going to blow another big lead, the defense woke up in Chicago. There are multiple players on that side of the ball who deserve recognition.
First, no one deserves it more than Greg Stroman Jr., CB on the Bears. He was around the ball all evening, amassing seven tackles to go along with an interception and a sack. While it was awesome to see him aggressively tackling and rushing, the interception was his biggest play by far.
This Chicago Bears team has lacked turnovers for an extremely long time. It’s part of why it becomes hard to criticize the offense a lot during blown leads. The defense hasn’t been able to protect a lead by themselves for most of two years.
On Thursday, when the Bears needed a turnover more than ever, Greg Stroman stepped up and made a play by undercutting a route by a Commanders player to intercept Sam Howell.
I also want to give credit to the defensive line. While jumping out to a big early lead may have assisted, the Bears absolutely shut down the Commanders’ running game. Beyond that, players made plays behind the line of scrimmage.
The two players who stood out most in my opinion were Andrew Billings and DeMarcus Walker. Billings has been given some love from pundits and fans during this season, but Walker has been a ghost. He was supposed to be a big difference-maker, but so far he was simply a guy.
Walker seemed to be tired of that, as he racked up a sack and was in the backfield disrupting multiple plays. Billings absolutely dominated his point of the line of scrimmage as well, making run stops and putting pressure on Washington at all times.
Last but not least, Terell Smith was extremely impressive during his start. He did not look like a rookie who was overwhelmed by the moment, He may have been emboldened by it. It would be enormous for the secondary if Smith pans out.
Not only did he make plays in the coverage game and run game, his best play was an impressive strip-and-recover play in the third quarter which may have well saved the game for the Chicago Bears. Smith may be unheralded but don’t be surprised if he sticks around a long time. He has the characteristics you want from an NFL cornerback.
Let’s hope he, and the rest of the defense, can keep it up next week. It’s still early in the season, and although the odds may be improbable, the Chicago Bears are not out of the playoffs yet. Let’s hope this game will be the catalyst to better football being played in the Windy City this season.
After all, that is what Chicago deserves.