Even in bitter loss, this much is clear: Allen Robinson is that dude for the Bears
The Chicago Bears still are in search of their first playoff victory since 2010 — and anything short of that next season should be considered a letdown.
However, one thing made abundantly clear during the Bears’ devastating defeat Sunday to the Philadelphia Eagles is that the franchise’s long quest to find a true No. 1 wideout whom it fully can count on has reached its destination.
Allen Robinson is that dude, Bears fans.
We know what you might be thinking:
For $25 million guaranteed, he better be.
A true No. 1 puts up more than 54 catches, 754 yards and four TDs in 13 regular-season games.
Great, the Bears have a WR1. They still lost a playoff game in which their offense failed to show until it was too late.
Those would all be valid responses, but as always, context is king, so let’s dig a little deeper on what Robinson brought to the Bears in his debut season and, in particular, on Sunday in perhaps the best game of his career.
For starters, whether you’re a believer in momentum, the fact that Robinson’s franchise postseason-record 10 catches for 143 yards came in the final game wasn’t by accident and portends well for 2019. Remember, he’s still only 15 months removed from ACL reconstruction; the likelihood of more performances like Sunday coming in his second season with the Bears is a strong one.
Robinson helped QB Mitch Trubisky largely by putting the Bears’ offense on his back in the final 16-plus minutes Sunday, catching five out of six targets for 102 yards in that span. That includes what was at the time the go-ahead 22-yard score and the biggest play on what should have been the game-winning drive — a 25-yard grab off a corner route after perhaps Trubisky’s best conviction throw of the game.
“A-Rob did a great job of running his routes and getting open, and I was just trying to put it in a spot for him to make plays,” Trubisky said. “And he made a bunch of great catches.”
Big-time players make big-time plays in their team’s biggest spots, and no skill player on the field Sunday was better than Robinson — including the receiver whom he essentially replaced, Alshon Jeffery.
Sure, Jeffery also came through in the clutch for the Eagles, but which receiver would Bears fans rather have for the next three seasons? We know our answer: the one who is three years younger, who costs slightly less and who not only can go up and get the ball but who also separates consistently with pristine routes.
Remember the Bears’ last true No. 1 wide receiver and arguably his biggest locker-room kerfuffle, aimed at former PK Robbie Gould? Yeah, Robinson brings Brandon Marshall’s big-play ability without his big baggage.
Asked yesterday what he told Cody Parkey following what was likely the maligned kicker’s final doink as a Bear, Robinson, like the rest of his teammates, was all class.
“Keep your head up. That’s the league,” he told reporters. “There’s ups and downs. Unfortunately it’s the playoffs so we don’t have another week to redeem oneself. Again, keep your head up. It’s part of the game.”
In a league full of diva receivers, the Bears will never have to worry about Robinson.
Obviously, the Bears need him to stay healthy in 2019 after missing three games with groin and ribs injuries this season. Availability is the reason Jeffery isn’t still here, after all. But don’t worry about the seemingly pedestrian numbers by relative WR1 standards. Matt Nagy’s offense is defined by its diversity, and Robinson simply won’t get 13 targets and 10 grabs weekly like he did Sunday.
But he still showed all of the qualities the Bears desire in their go-to receiver: elite ball skills (his 58 percent catch rate was up six points over his Jacksonville average); dependability, especially on the money down, where he led the team in first-down conversions (36); accountability; big-play prowess (team-high 13.7-yard catch average) and the ability and desire to take over a game in crunch time, which we saw him do Sunday on the franchise’s biggest stage in nearly a decade.
The Bears have been looking for a receiver like Robinson for well over a decade. But the search is over.