Haugh: Start Of Bears Season Fun As Opinions Fly

September 11, 2018 - 5:29 pm
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(670 The Score) True or false? The Bears produced one of the most exciting halves of football during the first two quarters of their 24-23 loss to the Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

That’s true. Not since Devin Hester dazzled Chicago on every punt and kickoff return have the Bears captivated an audience quite like that.

True or false? The second-half collapse that crushed so many Bears fans’ hearts killed any momentum the team can take from Week 1.

That’s false. As difficult as the defeat was to accept and process, new coach Matt Nagy could find plenty of positives amid the rubble.

True or false? This is fun.

That’s true too, so here are five more true-or-false questions about some of the opinions offered in the wake of a fascinating season opener.

Hint: There are no wrong answers.

True or false: Nagy got too conservative in the second half and that helped the Packers come back from a 20-0 deficit.

False.

Conservative is the wrong word yet the one most often used locally this week to describe the Bears’ offense after taking a 20-0 lead. That offers a convenient narrative to explain the Bears blowing it but paints an inaccurate picture. The Bears' run-pass ratio in both halves belies that theory. They ran 28 plays in the first half as they jumped to a 17-0 lead: 16 passes and 12 runs (58 percent pass). They ran 38 plays in the second half as the Packers stormed back: 23 passes and 15 runs (61 percent pass). That added up overall to 39 passes and 27 runs, a 59/41 percent pass-run ratio that was consistent in both halves. The difference? The Bears fooled the Packers on the first two series of the game with imaginative sets, creative calls and solid execution. They relied on the element of surprise that wore off. It wasn’t that the Bears were safer in the second half as much as they needed to be smarter, calling plays that caught the Packers off-guard. The Packers adjusted, but the Bears never countered. Nagy arrived known as a dynamic play-caller, a reputation he lived up to – until the second half.

True or false: Mitchell Trubisky needed to show more progress in his first start of the season to justify all the hope invested in the quarterback.

True.

Trubisky started hot, completing his first seven passes. He showed confidence and the moxie the Bears love, especially running the football. But he missed too many open receivers and threw too many inaccurate passes for a guy supposedly known for his accuracy – especially an open Allen Robinson in the end zone that would have opened up a 14-0 lead. Postgame, Trubisky acknowledged having “happy feet” that revealed an inexperienced quarterback still trying to find a comfort level in the pocket. That only comes with repetition. Maybe it never will come for Trubisky but it’s still too early to draw conclusions after 13 NFL starts. He must develop poise that improves accuracy and eventually the command will come. It wasn’t necessarily a compliment when people cited Trubisky’s ability to use his feet to keep plays alive and run downfield as his most distinguishable trait against the Packers. He’s a franchise quarterback, not a running back, and he needs to make that obvious sooner rather than later.

True or false: The Bears' strong first half justified Nagy sitting his starters for the second-to-last preseason game.

False.

That was the consensus opinion on social media after the Bears jumped out to a 17-0 start thanks to an innovative offense that hadn’t taken a live snap in 22 days and a pass rusher who skipped training camp altogether. But the longer the game grew, the more the Bears looked like a team that could've used the work. The offense sputtered, and Trubisky missed open receivers that exposed his inexperience. The defense appeared to run out of gas going at NFL game speed that's only possible to simulate during, well, NFL games. Nagy’s philosophy to rest starters during preseason indeed gave the Bears a healthy roster for the opener but not necessarily one as prepared as it could've been for an actual opponent.

True or false: Phil Simms got carried away Sunday on CBS when declaring the Bears are a team with no weaknesses.

True.

Simms gets paid to be provocative but, just like when he was an NFL quarterback for the Giants, accuracy matters. And this bold opinion was the equivalent of an overthrow. The Bears improved themselves in almost every position group, but to suggest they have no weaknesses is wishful thinking. Offensive tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. must stay consistent. The safety tandem of Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos need to assert themselves more regularly. Can the Bears feel good yet about the receivers opposite of Allen Robinson? And, last but hardly least, Trubisky in 13 NFL starts hasn’t removed enough doubt to know for sure that quarterback won’t be a Bears weakness this season. Everybody saw in the opener how improved of a team the Bears are this season, but what Simms was suggesting goes too far.

True or false: Saints receiver Cameron Meredith being a healthy scratch Week 1 means Bears general manager Ryan Pace made the right decision in letting Meredith go to the Saints.

False.

Staunch defenders of Pace jumped to that conclusion, but that ignored the specific criticism of Pace for letting a potentially productive receiver go for a measly $1 million. The Bears declined to match the Saints’ two-year, $9.6-million offer sheet with $5.4 million in guarantees – a decision more understandable than Pace neglecting to tender Meredith a contract at $2.9 million instead of at the low level of $1.9 million. The higher tender likely would have prevented the Saints from pursuing Meredith because it would have cost any team a second-round draft pick as well. Coming off a torn ACL in his left knee that caused him to miss the 2017 season, Meredith continues to navigate his way back from that injury.

To suggest Meredith being inactive for Week 1 justifies Pace’s decision to let him go for a team that always could use quality depth at the position misses the point. The health concerns the Bears had about Meredith indeed might prove to be valid, but it’s premature to say the Saints missed on Meredith. Pace did a terrific job restocking the Bears roster with the reprieve ownership gave him, but it remains to be seen whether taking the safe route with Meredith was the smart one.

David Haugh is the co-host of the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Listen to the show here. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidHaugh and email him at [email protected].​​​