CHICAGO – The Bears’ 19-14 exhibition opening win over the Kansas City Chiefs is being celebrated by coaches, players and fans alike, as it should, because winning always beats losing no matter the circumstances.
But the game also was a prime example of why these practice games need significant context to fully gauge their value, and it is important to understand very little happened Saturday that is likely to significantly change what we thought we already knew about the Bears going in.
Let me put it another way.
The first half of the Chiefs game was 14-0 Kansas City with K.C. outgaining the Bears, 187-123, on 37 plays to 27, out-passing the Bears 162 to 60 and converting 6 of 9 third downs to only 2 of 7 for the Bears.
In the second half, the Bears dominated, 19-0, outgaining the Chiefs, 162-18, ran 36 plays to 26 for K.C., out threw them 88 to minus-9 and converted 4 of 9 on third down to 1 of 7 for the Chiefs.
Other positives included the Bears plus-2 turnover-to-takeaway edge, their 28 called rushing plays vs. only 30 pass attempts [four that became scrambles] in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s new run-based scheme. And with Robert Quinn, Angelo Blackson and Mario Edwards Jr. all taking the day off, the team still finished with four sacks for 34 yards, six QB hurries and seven tackles for loss.
As expected immediately after the game, Eberflus lauded his club’s “game day operations,” low number of penalties and teamwork.
But at the end of the day, what we learned by any objective measure was the Bears’ first and second strings weren’t particularly efficient or effective vs. the Chiefs, while their third and fourth strings were dominant.
The first half wasn’t all gloom and doom and needs to be quantified by the fact that David Montgomery, Cole Kmet, Ryan Griffin and Riley Reiff all were absent, and there were a few moments of promise.
After going three-and-out on their first possession, including a third-and-6 sack on which Michael Schofield pretty much whiffed on Chris Jones, on the Bears’ third play of their second possession on third-and-4, Justin Fields dropped a 26-yard dime on Darnell Mooney that showed a chemistry only the special QB/WR duos have and likely was a product of all the offseason work they did together.
On the third play of his third and final possession, Fields threaded a needle with a dynamic back shoulder throw to Tajae Sharpe, one of several plays Sharpe made that may have secured him a roster spot.
Rookie safety Jaquan Brisker was arguably the brightest star on the field in the first half, and a couple of undrafted rookie free agent local kids, Jack Sanborn and Micah Drew-Treadway, each had special moments in the second half.
Sanborn arguably had the biggest impact of any player on the field with both Bears’ takeaways, an interception on the Chiefs’ first possession of the second half, setting up the Bears’ first touchdown that completely turned the momentum of the game and a fumble recovery that set up the game winning field goal before finishing with five tackles, a pass defense, one tackle for loss and a couple big special teams hits.
Trestan Ebner, defensive tackle Trevon Coley (2 sacks) and Trevor Siemian all had moments where they noticeably impressed.
On the downside, Getsy’s offense while balanced was ineffective, although we have to assume most of it is still under lock and key in the playbook.
While the backups played well, the first- and second-string offensive lines were ineffective.
The day was a mixed bag for Dazz Newsome, who badly muffed a punt and ended up taking an 11-yard loss trying to recover, but he did eventually add the Bears’ second touchdown on a 13-yard square out in the end zone from Siemian.
With Kyler Gordon and Kindle Vildor both out, the Chiefs picked on Lamar Jackson and Davantae Harris at cornerback.
All in all it was pretty much what you’d expect from a first exhibition game, and it’s greatest value will probably be as a marker of how much improvement both the team and individuals can make Thursday night in Seattle.
Although at the Sanborn residence in Deer Park I’m guessing there maybe a little extra celebration Saturday night.