NFL Kickoff Weekend was both exciting and disappointing at the same time. As a Bears fan, it was exhilarating at times but then ultimately a letdown at the end. I think the opening Sunday being on 9/11 contributed to these feelings.
The Bears lost to the Houston Texans 23-14 yesterday at NRG Stadium, site of Super Bowl LI (51) this upcoming February 5. Will either of these teams be able to not only start their season in Houston but also end it there? It’s unlikely, but the Texans are probably a better bet than the Bears. In my preview the other day, I predicted the Bears would win 24-20. After watching this game, I think I may have underestimated the Texans. They are a solid football team. They may have one of the best defensive lines in football with Vince Wilfork, J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney. These guys harassed Jay Cutler all day despite Chicago’s recent upgrade of their offensive line. They have one of the NFL’s premier WR’s in DeAndre Hopkins. It looks like they made a solid investment bringing in QB Brock Osweiler. They are led by Coach Bill O’Brien and they won their division and went to the Playoffs last year with Brian Hoyer at QB. I could easily see them repeating as AFC South Champions in 2016.
Of course, it’s too early to proclaim grand conclusions. The Bears just signed former Pro-Bowler Josh Sitton about a week ago so there will be plenty of cohesion and camaraderie built this Autumn in the Bears offensive line unit. Even though the Bears lost this game, when you look at the schedule this could end up being one of the hardest matchups of the season. So it would be premature to extrapolate too much information from such a small sample size.
My early reactions to the game were very positive as the Bears built a 7-0 lead after a Tracy Porter interception followed by a solid drive led by Cutler’s passing to Alshon Jeffery. Jeremy Langford punched it in for a rare Bears 1st quarter lead. Just as impressive was Cutler’s 75 yard drive in 3 plays to end the 1st half, giving the Bears the lead going into the locker room at 14-10.
The 2nd half was a big “Debbie downer” for Chicago fans as the Texans ultimately outscored the Bears 13-0 after halftime. This wasn’t a surprise to Texans fans as they finished last season with the second best 2nd half point differential in the league at +95 points. The only team in 2015 that was better after halftime was Arizona at +98. So what does this mean? It means Houston is a team that gets better as the game goes on. It means their coaching staff makes excellent halftime adjustments at the chalkboard and the players execute those changes to win ballgames in the 3rd and 4th quarters. That’s exactly what happened in Week 1.
Chicago still led 14-13 after 3 quarters but then the 4th started. I know what you’re thinking…..you’re thinking OMG this guy’s prediction is gonna play out! The Bears will outscore Houston 10-7 in the 4th and his 24-20 prediction will be exactly correct! Needless to say, it didn’t turn out the way we hoped. Houston dominated the final period, winning 10-0, thus giving them the 23-14 victory. How did they do it?
- They received a gift mark on the 3rd and 1 QB sneak by Osweiler with about 14 minutes left. He seemingly gained nothing but somehow the refs awarded him a 1st down, thus keeping the drive alive at the Bears 21 yard line. If they were faced with a 4th and 1, would the Texans have just kicked a FG? Would they have been stuffed on a second QB sneak? It turned out to be a key moment of the game because Houston scored a touchdown a few plays later when…..
- They got the ball to #15 Will Fuller, the Rookie WR from Notre Dame. His TD was on a well executed WR screen on a 3rd and 7 from the Bears 18 yard line. He had to first make a tough catch on a low throw from Osweiler. Then he made a fine weaving run to paydirt.
- Houston stopped Chicago’s comeback attempt on 3 drives before the final gun sounded. Cutler was sacked on 3rd downs, ending 2 of those 3 drives. Again, Houston’s DL outmatched Chicago’s OL.
Game Balls go to……..
#94 Leonard Floyd
In my preview I told you to keep an eye on Floyd. Wow! I’m glad I watched this super athletic rookie in his debut. This kid has superstar written all over him. He recorded 6 total tackles and was credited with a half sack (along with Eddie Goldman) for his takedown of Brock Osweiler in the 3rd quarter. Floyd was pressuring the Texans QB all day, showing solid pass rushing skills as well as providing good run defense. Floyd is a reason to watch the Bears all season. There are going to be plenty of #94 jerseys sold this Fall.
#50 Jerrell Freeman
Freeman recorded 17 total tackles with 9 unassisted and 8 assisted stops. He provided solid run stopping as well as tight pass coverage. His Bears debut went very well. GM Ryan Pace must be very happy with certain offseason acquisitions, Freeman being one of the main ones.
#21 Tracy Porter
Porter had to cover DeAndre Hopkins all day and he did very well considering Hopkins is one of the league’s best. He had 4 tackles and a very impressive interception on the first drive of the game. He wrestled the ball away from Hopkins and gave the Bears the early momentum.
Player of the game was……….
#59 Danny Trevathan
Trevathan played an excellent game in his Bears debut. He recorded 11 total tackles and a sack. Even more important than his stats, he provided leadership and a winning mentality to a defense that sorely lacked in those departments the last few years. You can see why the Broncos had such a great defense with this guy lining up in the middle. He brings a quiet confidence and ecstatic energy to the defensive team. He should have a Pro Bowl year for the Bears.
The Bears are 0-1, but don’t worry. This is an improving team that still has high hopes. Next week Chicago will have their home opener on Monday Night vs Philadelphia.