For the second consecutive week, quarterback Jay Cutler (26 for 45, 252 yards, 2 TDs) led the Chicago Bears on a late fourth-quarter drive that resulted in an emotional victory. Even more impressive: Cutler pulled off his second straight come-from-behind win without his top three receivers (Kevin White, Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal).
Stepping up in their absence was third-year receiver Marquess Wilson, who had six receptions for 86 yards and his first touchdown of the year. In addition, undrafted rookie Cameron Meredith had 52 receiving yards on four catches, two of which came on the game’s final drive.
Chicago’s defense gave up just 286 total yards and allowed just 10 defensive points. It was the fourth time in five games in which the defense has held its opponent to 200 passing yards or fewer.
The defense ranks fourth in the league in total yards and is vastly improved over the past two years, even with injuries and questions throughout the starting lineup.
The team’s biggest nemesis continues to be injury, and although they have battled through the maladies, one has to wonder how long that can continue.
Luckily for the ailing Bears, they will head to Detroit this week to face the 0-5 Lions and then enter the bye week, when they will attempt to finally get healthy.
1. Don’t count this team out just yet.
Despite a rough 0-3 start to open the season, the Bears have a chance to go into their Week 7 bye at 3-3, and the biggest reason for that is the coaching staff.
It’s no secret this team lacks NFL-caliber talent throughout the entire roster but even through injuries, the Bears continue to get better.
Last Sunday, they started three rookies, four second-year players and two third-year players, and pulled off the road win. The “next man up” philosophy is running true and strong so far and has been mostly infused with youth; yet as a whole, this team hasn’t skipped a beat.
With the Bears improving on both sides of the ball in spite of the injuries, is it realistic they can contend for a Wild Card spot in the NFC?
This team still has a long way to go and I’m not sure they have A) enough talent and B) enough depth to continually weather injuries, and thus legitimately compete the majority of the season in a contending atmosphere.
What’s clear is that this team will compete hard each and every game because of their coaching staff. As some have seen over the past two weeks, resiliency is becoming a common theme with this squad.
A 3-3 mark going into their bye week and getting back a healthy Jeffery, Royal, and eventually White, could make the offensive unit somewhat scary but can the defense hold up their end of the bargain and keep improving? Time will tell but with only five NFC teams over the .500 mark, at least one of those Wild Card spots will be up for grabs.
Although this team has a long way to go, don’t count out a confident and growing young core if the Bears can get healthy down the stretch.
2. Is this finally the week Alshon Jeffery returns?
Jeffery is still nursing a hamstring injury that cost him the past four games. He was limited in practice this week and is listed as questionable, yet that was the case last week and he did not suit up.
He said this week that he feels “much better” but head coach John Fox said it’ll be another game-time decision for Jeffery.
“You’d have to ask him that,” Fox said. “We’re just trying to progress him along. You’d think time heals, probably, but you’d have to ask him that.”
Jeffery is as close to returning as he’s been all season and it will be his decision whether he plays on Sunday in Detroit.
3. Just how good is Pernell McPhee?
McPhee has played just five games in Chicago but it’s obvious he’s a keeper. The former Raven signed a five-year, $38.75 million deal this offseason and he’s paid dividends early in the year, and not just with his on-field production.
Outside of his team-leading three sacks, 27 pressures, one interception, and even a blocked punt, McPhee has quickly become a leader both in the locker room and in the … hotel room?
Yes, you read that correctly. Just last week, McPhee held a team meeting at the team’s hotel and had them “lock arms” and delivered an inspirational speech in hopes of building some continuity. So far, it has worked.
McPhee’s impact has been very noticeable in 2015 and the Bears aren’t the only team he has affected. His former team, the Baltimore Ravens, have struggled mightily, especially in third-down situations, ones in which McPhee used to shine in Baltimore.
McPhee’s overall value to the Bears is large. So far, this looks like a “gem” signing by GM Ryan Pace.
The entire defensive unit has improved and McPhee’s “dawg” mentality has played a large role. Through five weeks, he ranks fifth in Pro Football Focus’ “Edge Defenders” rankings and has risen up those rankings each week.
He’s working with little pass-rush help at the other outside linebacker position and could do even more damage as the defensive line develops.
Time will tell how McPhee ultimately pans out but so far, he looks like a piece around which Pace can build his defense.
What to watch this week
- Can Marquess Wilson continue to develop as a top target? He’s improved each of the past two weeks – 12 catches, 185 yards, 1 TD combined – and even with Jeffery and Royal back, he could still play a large role in the offense moving forward.
- Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is coming off an awful Week 5 in which he threw three interceptions and was benched. Head coach Jim Caldwell said he will stick with Stafford but will he be on a short leash? With a weak offensive line, an non-existent running attack and Dan Orlovski as their backup, the Bears defense should be licking their chops at the opportunity to get Stafford out early.
- Who will step in for Shea McClellin, who is listed as doubtful this week and will not play? Against the Chiefs, the Bears replaced McClellin with third-year veteran LaRoy Reynolds, who was inconsistent. Reynolds will likely make his fourth career start against the Lions on Sunday, but don’t sleep on Jonathan Anderson, who was just elevated from the practice squad this week. The good news on McClellin is that the knee injury is reportedly just a PCL sprain, and he could return to action following the bye.