Jaguars are the gift that keeps giving in Bears’ chase for playoff spot
A blowout victory means the Bears can clinch a berth with a win over the Packers in the regular-season finale.
Christmas Rick is here, ready to spread good cheer about the Bears, with a lot of help from the Jaguars. I mean a lot of help from the Jaguars.
The Bears took one step closer to the postseason with a 41-17 victory Sunday. If they beat Green Bay next week or if Arizona cooperates with a loss to the Rams, they’re in. Considering that their sixth loss in a six-game losing streak came in the first week of December, a playoff berth would be something of a Christmas miracle.
Because I’m trying to stay in the holiday spirit, I won’t belabor just how bad their opponent was Sunday. But I will say this: You can’t spell “Jacksonville’’ without “JV.” I won’t mention that the Bears’ three-game winning streak has come against teams with a combined 11-34 record or that the Jaguars have lost an unspeakable 14 straight.
What’s important is that the Bears have scored 36, 33 and 41 points, respectively, in those victories. The offense has figured a few things out: Running the ball is good. Mitch Trubisky on the move is good.
Playing the Texans, the Vikings and the Jaguars: also pretty good. Christmas Rick wants to know why realism can’t be part of the holiday spirit.
It’s hard to overstate how (opposite of good) the Jacksonville defense is. The Bears’ Artavis Pierce had a 23-yard run in the fourth quarter, followed immediately by a touchdown run. This is notable because no one, including Artavis Pierce, had ever heard of Artavis Pierce before.
Yes, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky did throw one of the worst, most brain-cramped interceptions you’ll ever see, launching a pass into an area of the end zone populated by three Jacksonville defenders. And, yes, he should have been picked off one other time Sunday. But we’re here to talk about his niceness, not his naughtiness.
He did what he does best, throwing short, safe passes, many of them to Allen Robinson, whom the Jaguars seemed to think should be left alone. Trubisky completed 24 of 35 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for a score. He did a lot of rolling out. He also did a lot of handing off, another reason the Bears’ offense has been so productive since coach Matt Nagy gave up the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. David Montgomery rushed 23 times for 95 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville.
(Whoever called a Cole Kmet end-around with the Bears at the Jags’ 1-yard line in the second quarter ought to have his play-calling card permanently revoked. Wait. Who would utter something so lacking in comfort and joy? Not Christmas Rick!)
The Bears’ sudden discovery that a football is meant to be moved down the field has led to renewed talk that Trubisky has finally “turned a corner.’’ Am I skeptical that he has? Not at all! Sure, the temptation is to say that the guy has turned more corners in his four-year career than an Uber driver. But during this happy time of the year, the right thing to say is that Trubisky finally seems to understand that he needs to stay in his (short-passing) lane.
It’s what made his interception, which I promised not to talk about again, so bewildering. He scrambled around and threw a pass he knew better not to throw. It’s a pass he used to throw, before the three-game winning streak. If he throws it again, New Year’s Rick is not going to be happy.
Nagy’s advice to Trubisky at halftime after the interception?
“Forget it,’’ he said. “Next play.’’
“Trying to do too much,’’ Trubisky said afterward.
If the Bears want to beat the Packers at Soldier Field in the regular-season finale, they’ll need Trubisky to stop doing that. And they’ll likely need Green Bay to sit some starters, including the starter named Aaron Rodgers.
Trubisky’s strengths and weaknesses haven’t changed. They’ve been shepherded and corralled under Lazor. The kid is not at his best in the pocket. He’s at his best when his legs are moving. He’s at his best when he’s going fast and not thinking. He’s at his best when he’s not throwing the ball more than 25 yards. When an opposing defense realizes that, then we’ll get to see if he has the ability to adapt.
But for now, the Bears have a chance. They’re 8-7. They have a defense that, when it’s right, can do some damage. It would help, a lot, if the pass rush showed up next week and beyond. It didn’t Sunday. But that’s quibbling after a blowout victory.
The Bears scored 21 points in the third quarter Sunday, three fewer than they had scored in the third quarter in the previous 14 games combined.
What says “Merry Christmas’’ more than that?