Bears follow the blueprint to first place in NFC North


GLENDALE, Ariz. — This is the Bears’ blueprint for success in 2018: A dominant defense makes enough plays to support an offense with a quarterback working through some serious growing pains.
That’s how things played out in the Bears’ 16-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday at State Farm Stadium, with Khalil Mack turning in another standout performance and Mitch Trubisky having an uneven game. But the path to the Bears’ second win of the season — which put them in first place in the NFC North for the first time since 2014 — was difficult.
Vic Fangio’s defense smothered Arizona after a shaky start, forcing four turnovers (interceptions by Eddie Jackson, Sherrick McManis and Bryce Callahan, and a forced fumble by Khalil Mack recovered by Danny Trevathan) and allowing the Bears’ offense to battle back into the game. Mack single-handedly saved at least six points with his sack of Sam Bradford late in the second quarter and his forced fumble early in the fourth quarter.
But Arizona gouged the Bears’ defense to begin the game, scything downfield with a couple of explosive plays that this defense is generally good at not allowing. And after Trubisky lost a fumble deep in his own territory, the Cardinals dialed up a perfect 21-yard pass from Bradford to David Johnson to mount a quick 14-0 advantage.
Trubisky’s struggles didn’t slow down, though, with a number of missed throws leading to the Bears managing just three points in the first half. A theme of the game, though, was the Cardinals’ defense bailing out Trubisky with some silly penalties, like two roughing the passer flags on the same second quarter drive and an unnecessary roughness penalty in the fourth quarter.
Trubisky did connect on a deep ball to Allen Robinson for a 39-yard gain in the third quarter that sparked the Bears’ first and only touchdown drive of the game, but he struggled with his decision making and accuracy on those passes throughout the game. He was able to lead a 13-play, 44-yard drive that ended with Cody Parkey hitting what turned out to be the game-winning field goal with four and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Tenth overall pick Josh Rosen nearly staged a game-winning drive after entering for Bradford after Parkey’s field goal, though. But rookie Bilal Nichols made an outstanding tackle on third down near midfield, then Bryce Callahan picked off Rosen to effectively end the game. The Bears forced a turnover on all four of the Cardinals' second-half possessions.
Or, consider this: After allowing that 14-0 lead, the Bears' defense held the Cardinals to, in order, a punt, punt, punt, interception, interception, forced fumble and interception before the clock ran out with a sack by McManis (and Jackson had a pick-six negated by Mack being offsides).
The Bears expect Trubisky and this offense to improve throughout the course of the season, and to eventually be good enough to consistently win games without the aid of an outlandishly-good defense. But until they develop into that, you’ll see plenty more games like Sunday. And that means…if you’ll excuse the callback:
The Bears are who we thought they were.

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