I wouldn't have been surprised if you'd told me the Bears were going to win this game by 17 points. I'd have been pleasantly surprised, but not stunned if you told me they'd put up 40 points. The way these things played out, though, was interesting to say the least.
Anyone who has read this site for years knows I generally bemoan the crowd that constantly looks to point out how shitty the Bears played in games they won, or bitches about a defense that gives up "too many yards" while getting a ton of turnovers and not giving up that many points. I can't however, say that I feel good about everything, even at 3-0 and coming off a big win.
The defense is absolutely concerning to me. I am glad the turnovers have kept up, and their talent at converting those turnovers into scores is undeniable. The fact of the matter is, however, that these Bears are giving up too many yards and getting very little of a pass rush without blitzing. The lack of pressure from the front four has left the team far too vulnerable to big plays, something that was unheard of for years. It's one thing for the team to give up 350 yards with a big lead and keeping receivers in front of them. It's another thing when those yards are actually coming on 3rd and long, or in meaningful situations. For all of this to change the defense is going to have to figure out a way to get pressure with just their front four, and that's not going to be easy to do without Henry Melton, even if he was struggling.
However, I'm not going to be the buzzkill. There's a lot to be excited about here. This team clearly has yet to play their best game, and they are 3-0 and in first place in the division. The offense played far too conservative for too much of the game, even though I understand that they were trying to protect the lead and avoid mistakes. When it counted, however, and with horrifying flashbacks to John Shoop and others in my mind, they made big plays to clinch the win. Faith restored. Hopefully we'll continue to see them taking steps forward in weeks to come.
Major Wright: He had his questionable moments in coverage like seemingly every member of the secondary tonight, but he made some nice plays in the run game with 7 tackles, a pass defensed, and a huge pick six.
DJ Williams: He had two huge sacks, included a strip, on excellent blitzes. We will admit we were wrong if you keep this up, DJ.
Earl Bennett: Holy shit, that touchdown catch. BBE!
Matt Forte: He had some struggles outside of his big 55 yard run, but still ended with 87 yards rushing and 24 yards receiving, along with a rushing TD.
Jay Cutler: The numbers are certainly unimpressive, with Trestman calling a very conservative (too conservative in my opinion) game once the Bears went up 24-3. The pass protection was certainly shakier than it's been yet this year, with 2 sacks allowed and a ton of pressure surrendered in the 3rd quarter. Despite all of this, Jay avoided mistakes throughout the night, fought his own instinct to force plays downfield, and then made three huge plays in a row once Trestman loosened the reins late. His scramble was brilliant, although I'm not going to celebrate him risking injury by lowering the boom (even if my meatball side wants to high five him). The throw to Marshall was amazing, and Brandon himself said it best: "he threw it 40, 50 yards back shoulder. I've never seen anyone do that." Then the TD pass to Bennett to ice the game was as brilliant a throw as I've ever seen him make. I hesitate to say he's completely "fixed", but he sure seems like a different guy.
Pass Rush: it's still lacking. The blitzes helped early, but as tends to happen once the Steelers picked them up it was big play time for Ben. The DL was better tonight, with several pressures and 3 or 4 sacks Roethlisberger escaped, but they still were not consistently making life uncomfortable for him. This is now a major concern, and I'm not sure how they can avoid shootouts with the QBs coming up on the schedule unless they can get pressure rushing four.
Chris Conte: He bit badly on a pump fake that led to a huge gain for Brown, then failed to get over in time to help Jennings on the big TD toss. He also missed a couple of tackles.
Blitz pick-ups: They were bad, and it allowed the Steelers to shut down the offense for a long stretch.
Injuries: Tillman very clearly struggled with keeping up with Brown with his knee bothering him, and then went out with a groin injury. He's one guy they can't afford to lose. The Melton injury looked bad, and while it may not seem like a loss with the way he's struggled so far this year, it's pretty upsetting. I'd have liked to have seen him get the chance to round back into last year's form. Hopefully Nate Collins is ready for the big job.
That's all for now. This was not as easy as the scoreboard makes it look, nor as ugly as it felt in those tense moments there early in the fourth quarter. Winning on the road against a good defense (and make no mistake, the Steelers are not as good as they've been but are far from bad on defense) is never easy, and the Bears certainly have struggled in that respect in recent years. 3-0 is something to celebrate. Go Bears.