The Chicago Bears regular season opener was a tale of two halves.
The first half revealed a club good enough to hang with a playoff team on the road. In the second half the Bears looked like one of the worst teams in the league.
With that in mind, here are five Bears up and five Bears down from Sunday's 23-14 loss to the Houston Texans.
ILBs Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman
The Texans offense gained 344 total yards, with 129 yards coming on the ground. For a Bears defensive front seven that was supposed to be the strength of this team, that's nothing to write home about. Yet it would have been a lot worse without the presence of Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. The club's new ILB pairing combined for 28 tackles (Freeman 17, Trevathan 11), 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack from Trevathan. Chicago's defensive line struggled at the point of attack, which allowed Houston's offensive linemen easy access to the second level, yet the Bears' two veteran linebackers consistently fought off blocks and made plays. They looked fast, aggressive and confident, which is a stark contrast to their predecessors. According to Pro Football Focus, Trevathan and Freeman had 8 run stops apiece. Freeman in particular was all over the field, making shoestring tackles to save big plays, shutting down pass catchers immediately after the catch and blowing up screen passes. Chicago's two new inside linebackers are the real deal.
OLB Leonard Floyd
Leonard Floyd got the start in his first NFL contest and Chicago's first-round rookie did not disappoint. Floyd finished with six total tackles (tied for 4th most on the team), 1 QB pressure and 1 QB sack. His QB pressure came off the right side on a 3rd-down play, where Floyd used a speed rush to fly around the corner, forcing an early throw from Texans QB Brock Osweiler that fell incomplete. Floyd's sack came off the left side, where he again used his explosiveness and speed to easily turn the corner against LT Chris Clark. Floyd was also stout against the run, consistently shedding blocks and chasing down ball carriers from behind. It was a strong first showing for the 9th overall pick in this year's draft.
WR Eddie Royal
Eddie Royal tied for a team-high with four catches for 57 yards and a TD. Working almost exclusively out of the slot, two of Royal's catches resulted in third-down conversions, while his touchdown put the Bears ahead with less than a minute remaining in the first half. On the score, Royal used a wicked head fake that spun Houston's nickelback in a circle, easily creating necessary space at the goal line. Royal was hampered by injuries all last year but if he can stay healthy this season, he showed in Week 1 his immense value as the third option in Chicago's passing attack.
WR Alshon Jeffery
The Texans had no answer for Alshon Jeffery in the first two quarters, particularly on the final drive of the half. With 24 second remaining in the half and the Bears backed up at their own 27-yard line, QB Jay Cutler let fly a majestic deep ball up the right sideline. Jeffery easily disposed of S Andre Hal and climbed the ladder for a 54-yard catch. The Bears would score the go-ahead TD on the following play. Jeffery finished the game with four catches for a team-high 105 yards. He was so dominant in the first half that Houston essentially double teamed him the entire second half. Even if the offense continues to struggle, Jeffery is going to have a monster season.
Honorable mention: QB Jay Cutler, G Kyle Long, CB Tracy Porter and G Josh Sitton
OTs Charles Leno and Bobby Massie
In the second quarter, Texans OLB Whitney Mercilus flew right past lead-footed RT Bobby Massie for the first of five sacks on Cutler. Mercilus's first sack came on 3rd and 2, shutting down the drive. In the third quarter, Mercilus beat LT Charles Leno around the edge, clobbering Cutler from behind and forcing a fumble, which the Bears were lucky to recover. The offense gave up five sacks on the day, with two the fault of Massie and Leno, both coming on crucial 3rd-down plays. If this becomes commonplace for the Bears offensive tackles it will be a long, long season for Cutler and the offense.
WR Kevin White
It was a rough first game for Kevin White. He was targeted a team-high 7 times but caught just 3 passes for 34 yards. He also dropped what would have been a third-down conversion, then cut off an out route that resulted in a game-changing interception. White received an earful from Cutler and receivers coach Curtis Johnson for a game in which his mental mistakes were just as costly as his physical mistakes.
OLB Willie Young
After receiving a two-year contract extension this off-season, Willie Young was absolutely dominant in training camp and made his presence felt in the preseason as well. In the opener the Bears failed to pressure Osweiler consistently and much of that falls on Young's shoulders. He not only failed to pick up a QB hurry or a sack, he didn't even register a single tackle in the game. In essence, Young was invisible on Sunday, particularly during a second half in which the Texans outscored the Bears 13-0. Young needs to have a bigger impact going forward, especially on passing downs, or Chicago's secondary will be torched on a weekly basis.
RB Jeremy Langford
All that talk of a committee backfield went for naught in the opener, as Jeremy Langford received 17 of the 18 total running back carries. Yet Langford averaged just 3.2 yard per carry, finishing with just 57 yards on the ground, adding two catches for six yards. He also missed a block in blitz pickup on Chicago's final drive that resulted in the fifth and final sack of Cutler. The Bears offensive line opened some holes early for Langford but he couldn't make the most of them and was tripped up by the "turf monster" on multiple runs. The Bears want Langford to be a three-down back who can replace Matt Forte, yet the second-year running back fell far short of that high bar on Sunday.
Honorable mention: NT Eddie Goldman, C Cody Whitehair, TE Zach Millernull