Packers will be a litmus test for Bears’ resurgent offense
The Bears have scored 30 or more points in their last four games — against defenses that rank in the bottom six in the NFL. This is the time to find out just how real this rejuvenation is.
The Bears’ offense has been a revelation since Mitch Trubisky replaced Nick Foles at quarterback against the Packers at Lambeau Field.
In five games with Trubisky, the offense has averaged 32.6 points (fourth in the NFL in that span), 387.4 yards (10th), 6.0 yards per play (10th), 151.4 rushing yards (fifth) and 5.2 yards per carry (sixth). They were 31st or 32nd in all five categories in Foles’ seven starts.
That’s an amazing reversal of fortune by any NFL standard, and more than a tribute to Trubisky or a knock on Foles. The Bears solidified their offensive line, tailored their offense to Trubisky’s strengths and gave play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
And they’ve played the last four games of this stretch against four of the worst defenses in the NFL — the Lions (31st in yards, 32nd in points), Texans (30th/26th), Vikings (27th/28th) and Jaguars (32nd/31st). They’ve improved from 31st to 18th in the NFL in scoring in five weeks.
And the league has noticed — and responded.
“I thought Jacksonville took a couple of things away from us that we had been pretty good at recently,” Lazor said. “I thought during the game we responded pretty well.
“You give them credit. They’re NFL players and coaches. They studied the film. They see what we do well, so we had to make some adjustments in games that turned out to be pretty good.”
The challenge of responding to the NFL’s response to the Bears’ sudden success on offense will be even greater Sunday against the Packers and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who has a history of getting the upper hand against the Bears.
From the start, it hasn’t taken Pettine long to respond to coach Matt Nagy’s offense. In the 2018 opener, the Bears drove 86 and 60 yards for a touchdown and field goal in the first two offensive drives of the Nagy era against the Packers at Lambeau Field. They gained 165 yards on 50 plays and scored six points the rest of the game in a 24-23 loss. Except for a 24-17 victory at Soldier Field that season — when Trubisky threw two touchdown passes and had a 120.4 passer rating — the Bears have lost the battle.
This Packers defense is ranked seventh in the NFL in yards allowed and 16th in points allowed — though it is fifth in the NFL in first-half scoring defense (10 points per game). They just held the Titans, who came in ranked first in the NFL in scoring and second in yards, to 260 yards and 14 points — though their better acclimation to the snow at Lambeau Field was a factor.
Still, the challenge for the Bears is obvious.
“I think you have to assume that Green Bay knows us very well,” Lazor said, “because they studied us five weeks ago. Obviously, there’s a history with the coaches playing not only against the scheme but also against our players. I go into this game feeling like if there’s anything about us to know, just assume Green Bay knows it.”
As Lazor noted, the chess match in the NFL is constant.
“Even when you’re not doing well, the other team is trying to stop you, so you have to [be ready to respond] all the time,” he said.
But this time, the Bears are playing from strength — with an offense that is balanced, on a roll, playing with extreme confidence and has room for growth. This opportunity could be defining for this offense and this coaching staff.
“What we need to do is make sure we do everything possible to stay one step ahead schematically of what we’ve shown on tape,” Nagy said. “They’re great coaches, so they’re going to try to shut things down that are working, and then we gotta be able to counterattack. That’s where you see the differences, and you gotta be well prepared and rely on your coaches.”