Forget what you know about the NFL. Despite what analysts and coaches want to tell you, this isn’t a passing league. Vertical attacks are overrated, and having a quarterback that can make all the throws is unnecessary. If you don't believe me, just take a few minutes out of your Sunday to watch the offense of the 2017 Chicago Bears.
The Bears have already matched their win total (3) from last season. After scrapping the Mike Glennon project, Coach John Fox decided to save his job (for the time being) by starting Tim Teb…erm…Mitch Trubisky.
Fox coached the Minor League Baseball Player Who Must Not Be Named during his time in Denver, and has brought over many of the principles that led the Broncos to a 7-4 record during the peak of Tebowmania.
First and foremost, the Bears have (almost) completely taken out passing plays from their offense. After a close loss to the Vikings in Trubisky’s first start, the first-year signal caller has attempted just 23 throws in his last two games. For comparisons sake, Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders attempted 23 throws while there was no time left on the clock in their Thursday victory over the Chiefs. Now there weren't really 23 throws attempted in that short of a span, but the Raider gunslinger did attempt 52 passes in that game -- which is four more than Trubisky has attempted over his three-game span as a starter.
Instead of putting all of the pressure on a rookie QB to make plays, Fox has leaned on his defense and two-pronged rushing attack to win games. No matter how often they shuffle players in and out, the Bears will always find unique and odd ways to score. A decade ago, they were getting a handful of touchdown returns from Devin Hester every year. The Bears also led the league in defensive touchdowns during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. This team just finds ways to get into the endzone despite having a notoriously mediocre offensive attack.
Fox’s team this year has inherited that knack for scoring wonky touchdowns. They scored on a fake punt by Pat O’Donnell in Week 5. In the win over Baltimore, a Tarik Cohen passing touchdown and a 90-yard pick six by Adrian Amos kept them in the game before kicker Connor Barth sealed the victory in OT. Rookie safety Eddie Jackson was the most recent star, as his pair of long defensive scores were the lone touchdowns in an upset victory over the Carolina Panthers. In this contest, Trubisky completed just four(!) passes.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 15, 2017
Much like Tebow’s run in the NFL, this style of play has a short shelf life. Teams will adapt to the Bears style of play and make the necessary changes. However, this Bears team has something that a lot of NFL teams strive all season for: An identity.
Their rushing attack can be both punishing and explosive. After a slow start to the year, Jordan Howard is getting into a comfortable groove. The second-year back averaged 106 yards-per-game over the last nine games of the season last year. As such, look for him to get even better as the season wears on. They brought in Tarik Cohen in the 4th round of this past year’s draft -- giving them a dynamic they didn’t have last season. Cohen is a scat-back that thrives in the open field. Essentially, he is a perfect complement to the bigger Howard. Either guy ultimately can carry the offense for stretches at a time.
— NFL France (@FirstDownFR) October 22, 2017
With all of that said, this franchise almost always hangs their hat on the defensive side of the ball. Losing Jerrell Freeman in Week 1 was a tough blow, but their depth and youth have more than made up for it. Danny Trevathan and Pernell McPhee are two of the better linebackers in the league. Fourth-year backer Christian Jones has stepped up big-time in Freeman’s absence. Leonard Floyd is an absolute monster, building upon his stellar rookie season from 2016. Former 3rd round pick Akiem Hicks is having a career year with 6.0 sacks through seven games. Their secondary lacks household names, but have competed all year long. They are led by blue-chip cornerback Kyle Fuller -- who has come on strong since missing all of 2016 with a knee injury. Amos provides stability in the back end, while Jackson is a budding star out of Alabama.
The way their defense has been playing, even Glennon is probably sitting on the sideline thinking he could have led this team to a few wins. But let’s give credit to Trubisky where it’s due. Although he hasn’t shown the extent of his throwing ability, Trubisky’s athleticism has allowed the Bears to stretch the field. It has opened up rushing lanes for himself as well as his running backs. They’ve used him in roll outs to extend defenses. He’s taken care of the ball and allowed opposing QB's like Joe Flacco and Cam Newton to make the same mistakes that they have always been known to make.
There’s no telling how long this style of play will keep Chicago in the win column this season. The Bears travel to New Orleans this week to take on the suddenly stingy Saints defense. New Orleans will surely attempt to break Trubisky out of his shell. For the time being, Fox and his club have made the best out of their situation, and are assimilating their young QB into the NFL in a safe and successful manner.