CINCINNATI — Random thoughts and observations while covering the Bears’ Week 14 matchup against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
1. Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky (25-for-32, 271 yards, one-yard touchdown pass, four-yard touchdown run) needed this win. It might not matter much to some fans, but it deeply mattered to him. Trubisky’s resolve never was shaken during the Bears’ five-game losing streak, but he needed results. He was the Bears’ best player against the Bengals, who were missing five starters on defense (see below). Trubisky’s effectiveness as a passer seemingly opened things up for running back Jordan Howard (23 carries, 147 yards, two touchdowns).
2. Want development? The Bears’ entire rookie class played well on Sunday:
— Safety Eddie Jackson had an interception and also forced and recovered a fumble by star receiver A.J. Green.
— Tight end Adam Shaheen had four catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.
— Running back Tarik Cohen ran for 80 yards on 12 carries. He also had a 15-yard touchdown reception overturned in the first half.
3. The Bears’ defense played well, especially with injuries sidelining outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, defensive lineman Eddie Goldman and safety Adrian Amos. But the Bengals’ offense also showed why they were ranked 31st in total yards and 30th in rushing heading into the game. They were bad (as we also stated below earlier in the game).
4. The win was great for Trubisky … but coach John Fox? He needs to win out to really change his hot-seat narrative. A 33-7 win against the downtrodden Bengals was good, but it shouldn’t be overvalued during a 4-9 season.
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1. Trubisky’s 19-yard completion to tight end Dion Sims down to the Bengals’ 14 stood out. Trubisky had Bengals safety Josh Shaw barreling down at him and still got a strong throw off while on the move. It was a big-time throw — one of several highlights during a big day for the rookie.
2. Slot receiver Kendall Wright (10 catches, 107 yards) and the Bears’ tight ends couldn’t be stopped. Trubisky excelled with their help. Wright has quietly put together a decent season, considering how low expectations were for him coming in.
3. The Bengals are bad.
4. Quarterback Andy Dalton is bad.
5. Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ game plan? Not so bad. It was pretty good, actually. He exploited matchups, got Trubisky on the move and got the ball in the hands of Shaheen and Cohen.
1. Penalties continued to mar the Bears’ offensive success. Just ask Cohen. He had a 15-yard touchdown reception wiped out by backup guard Tom Compton’s illegal block. Against the 49ers last week, Cohen had a 67-yard punt return and 22-yard reception negated by penalties.
1(b). Case in point, again: Trubisky completed a 22-yard pass to Wright to reach the Bengals’ 19. But a holding penalty was called on guard Josh Sitton.
2. The Bengals might be bad and banged up — see below — but Trubisky’s success during a long drive that started on the Bears’ 5 still is important. He spread the ball around and overcame the aforementioned penalties. The Bears settled for a 27-yard field goal by Mike Nugent, but the Bears’ drive consisted of 15 plays for 86 yards and four first downs. They held the ball for eight minutes, 11 seconds. That’s impressive regardless of the opponent.
3. Shaheen was a big part of that drive, too. He didn’t catch a contested pass in the end zone on third down, but he had three catches for 43 yards in the first half.
4. It’s OK if the Bears attempted a Hail Mary to end the first half, but let’s limit the hits that Trubisky takes — particularly ones in the head — in fleeting moments.
1. Second-year safety Deon Bush was active after sitting out last week with an ankle injury, but veteran Chris Prosinski started his second game in a row since being signed on Nov. 30. It’s just another reminder that Fox and his staff are concerned more about wins than developing young players for the future.
1(b). Bush later replaced Prosinski in the first quarter. He was in coverage when receiver Brandon LaFell scored a 14-yard touchdown, though it could have been the result of a miscommunication in the secondary.
2. The Bengals are bad … and banged up. Five starters were out: linebackers Nick Vigil and Vontaze Burfict, cornerbacks Drew Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones (placed on injured reserve on Saturday) and safety Shawn Williams. Defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow started in place of star Geno Atkins (toe), too.
2(b). So the Bears should have been be able to run the ball like they did with Howard (21-yard touchdown in first quarter) and Cohen on their first drive.
3. Nugent missed an extra point. The curse of Robbie Gould lives on.
(The Bengals cut Nugent last year after his missed six point-after attempts.)
4. The apathy for the Bears in Chicago is real. And the same apparently can be said about the Bengals in Cincinnati. I took this picture several minutes before kickoff.