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Mark Potash: Analyzing the best and worst of the Bears after their 3-1 start

Bears coach Matt Nagy (left) congratulates running back Jordan Howard (24) after Howard scored on a one-yard run against the Arizona Cardinals in the Bears 16-14 victory on Sept. 23 in Glendale, Ariz. | Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

A quarter of the way into the season, Sun-Times reporter Mark Potash examines the 3-1 Bears as they head out of their bye week:

The Bears’ identity after four games is …

A team to watch. With Mitch Trubisky’s six-touchdown game against the Buccaneers, the Bears check all the boxes of an NFL team that rises from obscurity to playoff contender — an attacking, ball-hawking defense with a difference-maker in the lead; a franchise quarterback leading a maturing offense that figures to improve with experience. And better coaching than the Bears have had in the past.

Is Mitch Trubisky progressing properly?

The indications are positive, though it looks like it will take Trubisky longer to get there than it has Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson. Trubisky is coming off an historic performance, but it still was against the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL. Need to see more.

What kind of head coach has Matt Nagy proved to be?

Four games is too few to make any definitive judgments, but Nagy sure seems like the right coach for the Bears in their current state of development — getting from Point A to Point B. He’s a 21st-century coach who knows how to deal with today’s players, yet has an appreciation for the history of the game and the franchise that got him here. He has the players’ respect and trust — though Marc Trestman had the players’ respect at this point in 2013 and that didn’t end well, so you just have to see how it plays out. How Nagy handles a winning team and the challenges that come with success still is unknown.

The most impressive part about Khalil Mack has been …

The impact he’s had on everybody around him. He’s lifted the defense beyond his own sacks and pressures and forced fumbles. When Vic Fangio says, “This guy does not have an ounce of prima donna in him.” — that says it all.


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The Bears’ MVP not named Mack has been …

Defensive end Akiem Hicks. It can’t be ignored that just as Mack makes Hicks better, Hicks makes Mack better.

The biggest surprise has been …

The Bears have eight interceptions after four games — equaling their total in 2017, 2016 and 2015.

The biggest disappointment has been …

Running back Jordan Howard (64 carries, 203 yards, one touchdown) is averaging 50.8 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. He’s a victim of circumstance to a degree — the offensive line has yet to gel in the run game; and Howard hasn’t had the workload he needs to get the run game into a groove.

The Bears are on track to …

Have a chance to become a contender. While the Bears are on an early roll, the Packers are banged up, the Vikings’ defense is struggling and the Lions are in a funk under first-year coach Matt Patricia. At 3-1, it’s possible the Bears could be favored in five of their next six games. Things change quickly in the NFL, but the Bears’ fortunes arguably are better than anytime since playing in the NFC Championship Game in the 2010 season.