Hub Arkush: Chicago Bears steal a big one in Detroit

November 23, 2018

In a season in which the Chicago Bears’ cup certainly runneth over, their Thanksgiving Day 23-16 victory over the Detroit Lions felt a lot like a glass half empty win.

Yes, the goal is to win the game, and it was just 12 days ago that fans and media alike were talking about needing to at least go 1-2 in the compressed three-game schedule the Bears faced just to maintain their place in the NFC North and playoff races, and most believed 2-1 would be great.

That the Bears won all three and are now without a doubt at worse the third-best team in the NFC, behind New Orleans and the L.A. Rams is cause for huge celebration.

We can also celebrate the defense once again for a couple of huge plays, none bigger than Eddie Jackson’s 41 yard interception return for a TD that provided the margin of victory, and our hats should be off to Chase Daniel, who did exactly what you hope your backup QB can do: make enough plays to get a win, and none that can cost you a football game.

But with the Bears’ 8-3 record and accomplishments to date in the 2018 season comes a whole new perspective as to what is reasonable to expect of this team going forward.

They are so far ahead of schedule that we are not analyzing what the Bears have to do to sneak into the back end of the playoffs anymore. Now it’s what are they going to have to do to win playoff games?

Are they continuing to get better each week?

It is not my job to be a cheerleader, and the Bears did not take a step forward in Detroit.

Let’s start here: where do we suspect Jordan Howard will be playing in 2019, because it seems highly unlikely it will be in Chicago?

Perhaps even more curiously, when exactly did Taquan Mizzell beat Howard out for his RB spot?

I know, I know, Mizzell scored his first NFL touchdown, but has anyone seen anything from him that suggests he should be taking away touches from Howard?

That Matt Nagy either can’t figure out how to use Howard or is unwilling to try is puzzling, but it shouldn’t be our biggest concern.

It’s really not even about Howard.

The big problem is no matter how well the defense plays, and for that matter no matter how well Mitch Trubisky plays, the Bears won’t beat the rest of the league’s top playoff clubs if they can’t run the football — and right now they can’t.

The only reason the Lions were in the game Thursday was head coach Matt Patricia put the game in LeGarrette Blount’s hands, and against the NFL’s best run defense he put his club on his back and almost stole one.

But without his franchise quarterback, and facing the NFL’s 26th ranked run ’D (24th in average gain per rush allowed), Nagy refused to even try to develop a running game, handing off to his backs just 11 times while dropping to throw over 40 times.

With points and more from your defense, you can squeak one out against the Lions that way, but if that’s how you want to take on the Rams or the Saints, it’s a really bad idea.

Hey, Nagy is a candidate for Coach of The Year, and I will strongly consider voting for him because he has brought this team so far so fast. Looking at the total package, I can’t think of anyone other than Bill Belichick you’d rather see coaching the Bears right now.

And I get the game is changing and aerial shows and track meets are all the rage right now.

But trying to win big games without a ground game is like playing with one hand tied behind your back, and you don’t get extra points for it even when you win, which you won’t as often when you can’t run the ball.

Maybe it was just the short week and getting their backup QB ready that led to Thursday’s game plan, but if the Bears are going to compete in January we should all hope we don’t see it again.

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