When it was time to break down the Bears in the locker room after their 15-6 victory against the Rams, coach Matt Nagy didn’t call in a player.
It was time to praise and thank defensive coordinator Vic Fangio for what his unit did against the high-scoring Rams, who didn’t score a touchdown for the first time under coach Sean McVay.
“First of all, I couldn’t pick one [player] on defense,” Nagy said Monday. “It was too good across the board. What Vic symbolizes is our defensive coaching staff and our players, that whole unit. They played at another level.”
That said, here are five takeaways after watching film of the victory:
What’s up, Mitch?
You can’t sugarcoat quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s performance. He didn’t play well. His outing was reminiscent of his early struggles against the Seahawks and Cardinals in which overthrows and late throws were prevalent.
“I’m pretty disappointed in myself, the way I played, especially being out two weeks,” said Trubisky, whose overthrown passes to tight end Trey Burton and wide receiver Josh Bellamy resulted in interceptions.
According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, 12 of Trubisky’s 16 completions were within 10 yards. He only completed one throw down the field: a 17-yarder to Burton on second-and-21 from the Bears’ 26.
Neither Trubisky nor Nagy wanted to use Trubisky’s two-game layoff as an excuse. But it was evident that the emotions of his return in prime time, combined with the Rams’ defensive scheme, affected him.
Trubisky only looked in rhythm on the Bears’ possession after nose tackle Eddie Goldman’s sack of quarterback Jared Goff for a safety. He was 4-for-5 for 38 yards, including a two-yard touchdown pass to offensive lineman Bradley Sowell.
Trubisky’s three completions to wide receiver Allen Robinson on the drive, which went for 12, 14 and 10 yards, came via run-pass options. Robinson was the first read.
“They wanted to play a certain way, so we wanted to make sure we adjusted the right way, and getting into some of those RPOs is what we felt, in that situation, was the best thing for us,” Nagy said. “They were working.”
Fuller and Floyd
Cornerback Kyle Fuller made an All-Pro play when he intercepted Goff’s pass to wide receiver Josh Reynolds on first-and-10 from the Bears’ 27 in the third quarter. It came one play after Trubisky’s third interception.
“It was a bunch formation,” Fuller said. “I feel like the routes got kind of messed up. I just [felt] it out, and [Goff] threw it.”
Fuller’s interception epitomized an outstanding night of coverage by the secondary. He eyed Goff, who stared down Reynolds, and jumped Reynolds’ out route. As Fuller said, the Rams’ routes were “messed up,” and he should thank outside linebacker Leonard Floyd for that.
Floyd showed why he’s a versatile and valuable part of Fangio’s defense. Playing in coverage on the same side as Khalil Mack, Floyd jammed Reynolds, the outside receiver in the bunch formation, and affected the Rams’ timing. Floyd then handled running back Todd Gurley in coverage.
It was the second play in the third quarter in which Mack and Floyd were on the same side and a big play was made. The Bears combatted a similar formation from the Rams with the same look on the first play of the third quarter. It ended with Mack and Floyd forcing Gurley out of bounds for a five-yard loss.
Another Eddie money
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks joked after the game about having Goldman’s sack of Goff for a safety reviewed.
“Oh, man, we still might have to turn that one in,” Hicks said. “I was back there. But you know what? Eddie, our nose guard, works so hard just in the scheme of our defense. You got to almost give that to him. He had to work through two or three people just to get there. So all kudos to Eddie Goldman. He is an unsung hero of this defense.”
Goldman’s sack didn’t exactly play out that way, but Hicks is right. Goldman is the linchpin of the defense — one that held Gurley to 28 yards on 11 carries.
On his sack, Goldman was left one-on-one against center John Sullivan. Left guard Rodger Saffold helped left tackle Andrew Whitworth with Mack. Goldman overpowered Sullivan, driving him from the 7-yard line to the 1 before reaching Goff.
The Bears’ plan for Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald worked. According to press-box statisticians, Donald was involved in two tackles and had one quarterback hit.
Trubisky dropped back to pass on 11 of the Bears’ 16 third downs, and Donald was double-teamed on all but two — one being “Santa’s Sleigh,” the trick play that resulted in the two-yard touchdown catch by Sowell.
Donald got through rookie left guard James Daniels on that scoring play, but Trubisky already rolled to the right after a play-fake to Hicks.
Donald’s one highlight came when he stopped Jordan Howard for a one-yard gain on third-and-two from the Bears’ 45 late in the second quarter. He quickly beat right guard Bryan Witzmann with a swim move.
His only hit on Trubisky came when he raced past Witzmann on second-and-nine from the Bears’ 13 in the third quarter. But it was a screen to Tarik Cohen, who gained seven yards. Witzmann was one of the blockers.
In the trenches
Center Cody Whitehair deserves special mention for the performance of the offensive line, which paved the way for 171 rushing yards from the backs.
Whitehair made key blocks on the Bears’ longest plays. He pulled to the right and away from Donald on Cohen’s 32- and 23-yard runs, reaching and blocking linebacker Cory Littleton.
Whitehair helped Daniels often in pass protection, but Daniels was left alone against Donald on Cohen’s long runs. Witzmann also handled defensive linemen Ethan Westbrooks (32-yard run) and Michael Brockers (23).
“Cody did a really good job,” Nagy said. “There are times where, depending on the protection scheme, there are double-teams, and he’s the extra guy that we can use. . . . Collectively, I thought that the 11 guys on offense, when we needed to make some plays, they did that.”