The Colts hit the road to take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier field Sunday, and they’ll do it against an undefeated Bears team. While that record might be a bit deceptive, it certainly is not wrong to say that this is the toughest matchup the team has faced yet this season. If they can go in and dismantle the Bears as they’ve done to the Vikings and Jets in the past two weeks, it will tell us a lot more about just how good this Colts team really is. If, more realistically, they have a tough fight on their hands, that will tell us something too.
To get an idea of what exactly they’ll be facing, I talked with Jeff Berckes of Windy City Gridiron and we exchanged some questions ahead of the game. You can read my responses here. Here’s what he had to say:
The Bears haven’t gotten there by the smoothest route, but they sit at 3-0 all the same. What would you say is this team’s identity through 3 weeks?
I suppose it’s resiliency. Those two fourth quarter comebacks were highly unlikely - like less than 1% chance to win on those win probability charts unlikely. I get that it came against bad defenses but you still have to make the plays. With the abbreviated offseason and guys rounding into playing shape at different points, stacking wins however you can get them was the name of the game in September. As we move into October, I think we’ll start to see the true identity of teams revealed.
One thing that drives me nuts is when some people are so stuck in their offseason narratives that they’ll make excuses and write things off to hold onto their narratives. No one cares if you were right in July about the Bears or the Colts or any other team. Just let the games play out and let the story unfold instead of trying to shape the narrative around your worldview. As a Bears fan, it’s been a wild ride that has probably forced a lot of fans to refill their heart medication, but I don’t know if we can determine if this team is “good” or not. I do think we can say that Matt Nagy is a strong leader that has kept that team fighting and put them in a position to be 3-0.
Coach Matt Nagy benched Mitchell Trubisky and has named Nick Foles the starting quarterback for the week. Do you think this change is permanent, or is this likely to go back and forth before the season’s end?
Yes, I think the change is permanent (barring injury). Trubisky has been a hot button issue for Bears fans since, well, probably since the draft, but certainly since last season where he regressed. The Bears openly declared what they thought about Mitchell Trubisky by not picking up his fifth-year option and wading into the veteran QB market in the offseason. We know the Bears made an offer to Teddy Bridgewater and are rumored to have made one to Tom Brady. One has to believe they also did their due diligence on Andy Dalton, who has ties to Bill Lazor on the Bears staff.
In the end, they made a move for Nick Foles, which wasn’t my favorite option, but made sense from a familiarity standpoint. Foles had great success with Doug Pederson in Philadelphia, a close cousin to the Bears system stemming from the Andy Reid tree, and Foles worked with Nagy in Kansas City in 2016 when Nagy served as QB Coach. You make that type of move with the intention of handing over the reins.
With the abbreviated offseason and the hard work of Mitchell Trubisky, it appeared that they felt like it was worth giving Trubisky one last crack at the job. Much like the Titans last year with Marcus Mariota, once he gave the Bears enough evidence that things hadn’t changed, they made the switch. The difference is that the Bears gave the hook early and with a winning record. If Foles can give the Bears a Ryan Tannehill-like season, they could be strong NFC contenders.
Who are the under-the-radar players on offense and defense that Colts fans should be familiarizing themselves with ahead of Sunday’s game?
It probably starts with the rookie 5th round WR Darnell Mooney. He’s been really impressive in earning snaps over more experienced players. In fact, he had the second most snaps last week to only Allen Robinson in that WR corps. When I interviewed Robinson earlier this week, he mentioned Mooney doesn’t make mental mistakes and has come in with great natural instinct for the game.
On defense, you’ll know the name of Jaylon Johnson by the end of the game. The rookie 2nd rounder has enjoyed a fantastic start to his career. The Bears absolutely, 100% needed Johnson to come in and start and not only did he rise to that occasion, but he’s playing at a high level. If he’s not already on the radar, he will be soon.
The Bears rank 20th in DVOA against the run so far this season. Against a Colts team that loves to run the ball and has a talented run-blocking offensive line, how do you expect this defensive unit to fare?
When NT Eddie Goldman opted out of the season, I thought Ryan Pace would run out and plug that hole with another large-bodied individual like Snacks Harrison. That hasn’t happened and a strength of the Bears last year has now turned into a weakness. If anything, it should show Bears fans just how valuable Goldman is to this defense.
I expect the Bears to have some issues against the Colts on interior runs. That’s the biggest mismatch on paper and I assume the Colts will hit it hard. Khalil Mack has been great in all phases this year and Akiem Hicks is an absolute monster (they should sell tickets to Hicks-Nelson one-on-one’s) but if the Colts are able to run away from those two, they’ve got a good chance at gashing the Bears defense.
How does the Bears rookie class look so far?
I already mentioned two picks, Jaylon Johnson and Darnell Mooney, and that’s about all we know from on-field results. Considering the diminished draft capital in the 2020 draft, that’s already a positive. Tight End Cole Kmet has only one catch on two targets but we all know you can’t judge that position as a rookie. Kindle Vildor has been active all three games and the hope is that he can develop into a slot corner to eventually replace Buster Skrine. Trevis Gipson, a developmental pass rusher, got a few snaps against the Lions while Robert Quinn recovered from an injury – the Bears hope that he can be that #3 rusher that Barkevious Mingo is occupying right now. Finally, the Bears took two developmental offensive linemen in the 7th, Arlington “Hambone” Hambright and Lachavious “Pig” Simmons. No idea if either will ever see meaningful snaps but those are wins on the nicknames alone in my book.
Thanks to Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions.