The Chicago Bears are at the halfway mark in their season with a 5-3 record. That’s good for first place in the NFC North, ahead of the second place Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears, under first-year head coach Matt Nagy, have had a wild season through eight games. They lost an opening night heartbreaker at Lambeau Field, followed that up with three straight wins, and then lost another heartbreaker in Miami.
There’s an argument to be made that the Bears really should be undefeated had they not shot themselves in the foot so many times. But for a young team that is learning how to win with a rookie coach and a young quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, the Bears will take 5-3 and control of their own destiny in the division.
With a crucial, divisional showdown looming against the Detroit Lions this Sunday at Soldier Field, we look back at the eventful first half and hand out some hardware!
Best Moment of the First Half
There are so many to choose from in what has been a pleasantly surprising first half of the season. From Khalil Mack’s dominant Bears’ debut against the Green Bay Packers, to Trubisky’s career day against Tampa Bay, to the defensive clinic put forth in Buffalo, there have been plenty of good moments. But I’ll go with Prince Amukamara’s pick-six of Russell Wilson against the Seattle Seahawks.
Why? Well, the Bears had just lost in brutal fashion a week earlier to start the year at Lambeau Field in front of a national audience. And this was their home opener, again in prime time, with a chance to redeem themselves. The Seahawks were a wounded team coming in, but they hung around by forcing multiple Trubisky turnovers.
With a chance in the fourth quarter to drive and tie the game, Wilson stared down his receiver and Amukamara read it perfectly, breaking on it as soon as it was thrown and never stopping en route to the end zone to put the Bears up 24-10 late in the fourth quarter. That pick sealed the Bears’ first win of the year and Matt Nagy’s first career win as a head coach.
Honorable Mention: Sherrick McManis sacking Josh Rosen to end the Cardinals’ game, Khalil Mack’s strip-sack of DeShone Kizer in Green Bay, Mitch Trubisky’s TD pass to Allen Robinson against Tampa Bay
Worst Moment of the First Half
There are plenty to choose from here as well. The game in Miami against the Dolphins is chock full of them, from the bad OPI call on Trey Burton, to Trubisky’s end-zone pick on the very next play, to the defense failing to tackle Albert Wilson or Kenny Stills or Frank Gore or anyone, to Cody Parkey’s missed game-winning field goal attempt in overtime. Okay, I need to block that game out entirely already …
But I’ll go with Randall Cobb’s 75 yard TD to put the Packers up 24-23 in Week 1. Where do I begin? After dominating Green Bay and injuring Aaron Rodgers in the first half, somehow, the Bears’ offense couldn’t do anything in the second half and Rodgers got the Packers back within striking distance. And then this play, on a 3rd-and-10, with the Bears up 23-17 late in the fourth quarter, was a short pass to Cobb and he ran, untouched, all the way to the end zone. The play was a gut punch to Nagy and the Bears, as it was Randall Cobb (again) hurting them.
The Bears had a chance to win the game, as Trubisky was gifted an extra set of downs following a roughing the passer penalty on a fourth down, but he couldn’t get it done. Still, the Packers had no business being in that game, and the Bears let them come back and snatch it from them on a play like that.
Dishonorable Mention: Albert Wilson’s 75 yard TD in Miami, Mitch Trubisky’s entire final drive in Green Bay, Cordarrelle Patterson’s kickoff return TD, Kevin White falling short of the goal line on Trubisky’s Hail Mary
Offensive Player of the First Half
This award is interesting. Matt Nagy’s scheme has ensured that no one player will be the ‘focal point’. Instead, many players have contributed in different weeks, and the production spread is quite even among all the Bears’ playmakers. The run game has not been extremely effective, but Jordan Howard has 439 yards on the ground and five touchdowns. Trubisky is next with 302 yards, and Tarik Cohen isn’t too far behind with 229 yards.
On the receiving end, Taylor Gabriel has 426 yards and two touchdowns, Cohen has 406 yards with three TDs, Trey Burton has 371 yards with five TDs, Allen Robinson has 285 yards with three TDs, and rookie Anthony Miller has gotten going in recent weeks with 210 yards and three TDs (and several missed opportunities for big plays).
That’s a lot of evenness, huh? That said, I’m going to go with Tarik Cohen for the award — he’s been the most consistently productive performer for the Bears and has been a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Teams still have no clue how to defend him, and credit Nagy for knowing how to use him. He’s been excellent.
Honorable Mention: Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Mitch Trubisky
Defensive Player of the First Half
This one is even more interesting. In September, this award would’ve gone to Khalil Mack, no questions asked. In fact, Mack was putting on a super-strong case for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and was even on pace for some MVP votes. That’s how big of a force he was to open the year.
But other players have been excellent as well, and have picked up the slack while Mack has been nursing an injured ankle. The Bears have gotten spectacular production on defense from Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Jackson, Roquan Smith, and Prince Amukamara. We already know Hicks is a top player, and Jackson has ascended to become one of the best safeties in the NFL.
But my vote goes to Kyle Fuller. He’s been sensational this year after receiving a big extension in the offseason. Other than the dropped interception in Green Bay that would have sealed a Week 1 upset on the road, Fuller has played lockdown coverage and has not only secured multiple INTs for himself, but has helped manufacture some for his teammates. See: Leonard Floyd’s pick-six last week in Buffalo. Cornerback is arguably the most difficult position to play on defense, and Fuller has been very, very good.
Honorable Mention: Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Akiem Hicks
Most Valuable Person
Notice I changed the award name to be Person instead of Player. I have to award this to Matt Nagy. He’s been a godsend for the Bears. From bringing innovation and creativity to the offense, to maintaining some continuity on defense, to being able to hire a powerhouse set of coaches to work with him on building something special in Chicago, Nagy has done it all.
He’s matched the Bears’ entire season win total from 2017 in half a season, and has the Bears playing fun, exciting football. Not once have the Bears been unprepared to start a game, a theme that was so unfortunately common during the John Fox era.
Oh, and he’s a joy to listen to at press conferences and while mic’d up. Seriously. He is everything the Bears wanted and needed in a head coach. And more.
I could listen to Matt Nagy talk about fluid dynamics. https://t.co/qMP2vVonl0
— Dhruv Koul (@DhruvKoul) November 5, 2018
Best Game of the First Half
This has to be the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears put on an offensive clinic, Trubisky was sensational and had his best game as a pro, and the Bears ended ‘Fitzmagic’ that day. Not a bad day.
Worst Game of the First Half
The Green Bay loss hurts a lot because it was a missed opportunity to make a statement, on the road, in prime time, against their biggest rivals. But the game that hurts more is the Miami Dolphins loss at Hard Rock Stadium. Just … ugh. I’m not explaining it. Moving on …
Second Half Predictions
Early second-half Bears' predictions:
vs. Lions – W
vs. Vikings – L (SNF)
@ Lions – L (Thanksgiving Day)
@ Giants – W
vs. Rams – W
vs. Packers – W
@ 49ers – W
@ Vikings – L
Final record: 10-6.
— Dhruv Koul (@DhruvKoul) November 8, 2018