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Bears Mon Sep 09 2013

New Personnel, New Results For Bears

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngIf the only thing you saw from the Bears game yesterday was the box score, you'd probably think the logos got swapped somehow. Timeouts getting burned up because there were too many or too few players on the field, silly penalties that turned into easy points or extended drives, and a number of turnovers are typically the signs of a team with a rookie head coach at the helm. Instead, those stats came courtesy of Marvin Lewis's team -- the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL.

The Bears were courtesy three-point favorites from a betting perspective, a number given to the home team when Vegas sees an even matchup. Talent-wise, that number is right where it should be, as each team is a solid pick to make a run at the playoffs. But when taking into account that the Bears have a new head coach, a new offensive system, a new play-caller on defense in the booth and on the field, not to mention an almost totally revamped offensive line and linebacking corp, it was going to be an incredibly difficult game for the home team.

Thankfully, this isn't the team that we all painfully remember. From all accounts, Ted Phillips made the right hire by going with Phil Emery as his general manager. His free agent decisions and collegiate talent scouting have been game changers for the Bears the past two years. They especially showed on Sunday.

Brandon Marshall has been a top-three wide receiver that cost the team just a pair of third-round picks. Jermon Bushrod did just fine against a talented defensive front. As did Matt Slauson, who opened up the hole for Matt Forte's touchdown run. DJ Williams played fine in place of the retired Brian Urlacher in the middle, and James Anderson made the key third down pass deflection to give the Bears the ball for the final clock-killing drive. Martellus Bennett made three important receptions, despite dropping a ball early and committing two penalties.

And then there were Emery's draft picks. For 2012 draftees, Alshon Jeffery was a frequent target of Jay Cutler when the team needed to move the sticks or shorten up a down and distance opportunity. Shea McClellin didn't see a ton of snaps, but drew a holding penalty and recorded the Bears only sack on a stunt play set up by the Stephen Paea's fantastic afternoon. Isaiah Frey didn't make any big mistakes in coverage either.

The 2013 class was the talk of the postgame though. Rookie right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills didn't light up the screen, but got the job done against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. They allowed no sacks, only two QB hits (Carlos Dunlap had a third on a play designed to let him go), and made the blocks of the game on the fourth-and-one that extended the touchdown winning drive midway through the final quarter. A "ballsy play call," Cutler said, "that's what Trest is all about."

That, of course, the description of Emery's most important decision of all: hiring Marc Trestman to lead the team in one of the most important years for the franchise in the last decade. With an aging team filled with playmaking potential free agents, Trestman was brought in to get the team to the promise land now. He coached a helluva game.

Sure, the timeouts taken because the play-clock was set to expire is still a bit maddening, but Cutler said it was because of the looks he was seeing, not because the calls were slow. And instead of panicking when down by 11 and letting Cutler chuck it all over the field, Trestman dialed up a nine-play, 80-yard drive that featured four runs mixed in five short passes.

The third-down play on defense was excruciating, but it was a breath of fresh air on offense. Bunch sets and slot alignments allowed Marshall to get free, and the Bears were able to convert four times on third-and-seven-plus -- the seemingly impossible for previous Bears teams kept fans on the edge of their seats.

The most important fact from yesterday's game is that we never saw Bad Jay. The interception he threw directly into the arms of Vontaze Burfict seemed like a vintage Cutler force, but replays showed defensive end Michael Johnson got his hand on the QB's left shoulder right before release -- forcing the ball left and shallow of a surprisingly wide open Bennett. It wasn't Bad Jay, it was a matter of ill timing.

Per Trestman's design, Cutler had total offensive control. The two runs that finished the Bears second TD were line audibles ("Jack Black" was Sunday's run call at the line) that Cutler made. He didn't have to force a ball pretty much all day. His receivers were open, and the timing and quick release routes were all brilliantly drawn up.

This isn't your father's Chicago Bears any longer. This is a team that can score with their back against the wall. This is Marc Trestman's team. These are Phil Emery's players. This is Ted Phillips's dream.

 
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