Who, what are the Bears? Maybe three straight division games will offer answer
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Eight games into the season, do you know the Bears? Do you know who they are and what they’re made of?
I feel good about their first-half success. I still don’t have a good feel for them. Their 5-3 record is surprising, refreshing and encouraging. They’re in first place in the NFC North, and, my goodness, how many people saw that coming? But every time I start to tell myself that the Bears can be exceptional — when I tell myself to get over it and to fully commit — something makes me stop.
Is that something a somebody? Is it Mitch Trubisky? I still have commitment issues when it comes to the quarterback.
But now come three straight division games. Three games in 11 days that should give us a better idea of who and what the Bears are. They play the Lions and the Vikings at home, then Detroit again, this time on the road.
Those three games will tell us everything, right?
Then again, the Lions are 3-5, they recently traded their best receiver and their quarterback is coming off a loss to Minnesota in which he was sacked 10 times, which I believe crosses the legal threshold of what constitutes a felony.
What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get both feet onboard?
How’s this: The Lions trounced the Patriots 26-10 in Week 3. They’re legit.
Not when I see that the Jets blew out Detroit 48-17 in the season opener.
A completely healthy Khalil Mack would go a long way toward reducing my inability to fully believe in the Bears. Sources tell me that defense wins championships. All I know is that the Bears’ defense was dominant when their edge rusher’s ankle wasn’t howling at him. The greatest news for Bears fans this week would be if coach Matt Nagy walks to the lectern and announces that Mack is back to his old, quarterback-eating self.
I’m trying to keep things in perspective. It’s very cool that the Bears are where they are. There is locomotion going on, momentum. Many of the steps being taken are of the forward kind. And given what the city has been through with this franchise for the better part of a decade, I think I feel relief more than anything, like a hostage who hears a door being knocked down and flash grenades going off.
But there are times when it still feels tenuous, and much of that has to do with Trubisky. He has looked really good in some games (Tampa Bay and Miami) and really average in others (New England and Buffalo).
It’s why I’m especially looking forward to the Vikings game Nov. 18 (now a 7:20 p.m. start instead of noon). The Vikings’ defense is ranked sixth in yards allowed per game (322.2), just behind the Bears, who are fifth. It will be a chance for Trubisky to step up against a dominant group. His running ability could be the perfect answer to Minnesota’s feral pass rush, led by Danielle Hunter, who has the most sacks in the NFL with 11½.
Maybe it’s not fair to keep raising the bar on Trubisky without committing to him along the way. But I can’t help myself. When it comes to him, I . . . just . . . don’t . . . know.
After the Bears blew out the Bills 41-9 Sunday, Trubisky told reporters that he’s excited about his team’s opportunity to prove itself against NFC North opponents. As much as he believes in the Bears, it’s clear he thinks other top teams don’t believe in them quite as much.
“We still carry ourselves with a chip on our shoulder,’’ he said. “We’re trying to earn that respect across the league that we are a good team — all three phases — and we can play with anybody. We’re eager to prove ourselves.’’
If you think the Bears are pretty good but not great, as I do, it’s OK. Trubisky is telling you that you’re not alone in that regard. He clearly senses that the best teams in the NFL don’t believe the Bears are top tier. And his reference to “all three phases’’ suggests that he thinks there is widespread doubt about his team’s offense.
Hopefully, these next three games will give us a better idea of what the Bears and Trubisky are. But if discernment isn’t possible, if definitive answers aren’t forthcoming, you’ll settle for two victories, won’t you? That’s what I thought.