Thoughts and observations after watching the film and going through the stats of the Bears’ 33-7 win against the Bengals in Week 14:
1. Cornerback Kyle Fuller was one of the Bears’ best players. According to Pro Football Focus, he was targeted nine times and allowed only three catches for 14 yards. He wasn’t perfect on every snap but his aggressiveness still stands out on tape.
2. I said this on pre-game show on WBBM-AM (780) … the Bears should try and keep Fuller. They have to start somewhere at cornerback. Marcus Cooper has a three-year deal, but he’s not playing, which makes him a candidate for an early release. Prince Amukamara signed only a one-year deal. General manager Ryan Pace didn’t draft Fuller, but he’s still a first-round pick for the franchise. Use the franchise tag and let Fuller prove his worth again.
3. Bengals star receiver A.J. Green seemed due for a big day after 49ers receivers Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor torched the Bears a week ago. But it didn’t happen because of Fuller, Amukamara and some help from safety Eddie Jackson and nickel back Bryce Callahen (see Jackson’s interception). Green had only five catches on 12 targets for 64 yards.
4. Overall, the Bears’ banged-up defense deserves more credit than it’s gotten for the win in Cincinnati. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio got a resilient effort. It helps to have defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and linebacker Danny Trevathan to lead the way.
5. The same can be said about the Bears’ offensive line, which was missing guard Kyle Long. Did you see how big some of those holes were for running back Jordan Howard?
6. The Bengals are in a bad place. Here are some of their quotes from Sunday:
“I don’t think anybody expected this to happen.” — quarterback Andy Dalton
“I’m at a loss of words today.” — coach Marvin Lewis
“It felt like a bad day at practice.” — receiver Brandon LaFell
“Everybody was embarrassed.” — Defensive end Chris Smith
“Of course, I’m shocked.” — Green
7. A change in personnel helped the Bears convert a fourth-and-three during their long 15-play, 86-yard drive in the second quarter. The Bears were lined up in shotgun with backs Benny Cunningham and Tarik Cohen next to quarterback Mitch Trubisky, receiver Kendall Wright out wide to the left, tight end Daniel Brown upright in the left slot and receiver Dontrelle Inman out wide to the right.
And then the Bengals called a timeout.
The Bears returned essentially in the same formation but with Howard in for Cunningham and tight end Adam Shaheen in for Brown. Shaheen also was on the line in a stance. With good protection up front, Trubisky found Shaheen for 16-yard gain on the fourth-down play. He crossed the Bengals’ zone coverage.
8. Knowing Trubisky, he’ll be hard on himself regardless of how well he played against the Bengals. But there is one throw he definitely won’t like. On third-and-one from the Bengals’ 9, Trubisky had Shaheen one-on-one against defensive back William Jackson in the end zone. But he threw a low pass. Jackson got his arm between Shaheen’s hands to break up it up. A lofted throw would have allowed Shaheen to use his size.
9. That said, Trubisky was exceptional in Cincinnati. One big play by him has been overlooked, too. He made it on third-and-12 from the Bengals’ 43 — the play right before the Bears’ aforementioned fourth-down conversion in the second quarter.
On that play, Trubisky stepped up to avoid pressure from Smith, who beat right tackle Bobby Massie. Trubisky, though, still had to shake off defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who split backup guard Tom Compton and Cunningham. Before falling, Trubisky pitched a pass to Cunningham, who gained nine yards to give them a fourth-and-three. All of it was an example of Trubisky’s play-making skills.
10. Why did the Bears’ game plan look so different to everyone? It starts with coach John Fox. He either trusts Trubisky more or has realized that Trubisky’s development and success will determine his fate as Bears coach.
Just remember what Trubisky said after the Bears’ loss to the Lions on Nov. 19: “I know coach Dowell Loggains trusts me a lot with just how far I’ve progressed — and what coach Fox is allowing us to do on offense. We just got to keep getting better each week. I feel like I have.”
11. The Bengals were missing five defensive starters and Dalton was off all game, but how the Bears won still is meaningful. The Bears’ young, drafted players — Trubisky, Howard, Shaheen, Jackson, running back Tarik Cohen and center Cody Whitehair — were some of their best players.