CHICAGO — So I was struggling to figure out what exactly I wanted to say Sunday night about the Chicago Bears-Los Angeles Rams battle at Soldier Field when, early in the second half, I heard Cris Collinsworth say following Eddie Goldman dropping Jared Goff for a safety, “Strangely I’m really enjoying watching defense tonight.”
Why should that be strange?
What the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs did three weeks ago in their 54-51 track meet was a video game — fun, I suppose, for anyone who’s never heard George Halas, Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick explain the basics, that football is a game of blocking and tackling, fans who have just come to enjoy watching half of a great sport.
What the Bears and Rams did Sunday night was play football and wake up the echoes of the “Monsters of the Midway.”
Going in, the Rams wanted to hang onto their one-game lead over the Saints for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but with three games to play it wasn’t exactly something they were going to lose any sleep over one way or the other.
With a one-and-a-half game lead in the NFC North and in essence a two-game lead on the sixth and final playoff spot, sure the Bears wanted the win, but they knew regardless of the outcome of this one they were still going to be in pretty good shape.
This game was never really about who won and who lost, although obviously the “W” is a beautiful addition to the Bears’ trophy case right now.
This one was a day at the office for the Rams that didn’t go as well as most have for them this year.
They may still be the best team in the NFL, and there will be more good ones for them before this season is over.
For the Bears, it was a rite of passage.
The secondary mission for the Chicago Bears on Sunday night was to send a message to the rest of the league and their own fan base that they are, in fact, a legitimate contender in the NFL right now, not next year.
The first goal was to prove it to themselves, but something tells me they already knew.
What the Bears did to the best offense in the NFL isn’t supposed to happen in the NFL anymore.
But there it is, in the record books.
And by the way, running the football is still considered offense. Jordan Howard had 19 carries for 101 yards, Tarik Cohen was 9-69, and their combined 28-170, 6.1 per carry was the difference in the game to that point as the Bears dominated the time of possession, keeping the “D” rested and vicious.
Contrast that with the Rams’ Todd Gurley, the best offensive player in football right now, managing just 11-28, 2.5, and that is why the Bears were winning 15-6.
Los Angeles defensive tackle Aaron Donald is going to be the Defensive MVP in the NFL this year, and he absolutely deserves it. But he was a non-factor versus the Bears thanks in large part to a brilliant plan by offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich, and an outstanding performance from the interior of the offensive line, Brian Witzman, Cody Whitehair and a coming-of-age, breakout game from James Daniels.
Khalil Mack was the best defender on the field on this night, but he got a run for his money from Leonard Floyd, who like Daniels took his game to a whole new level.
The play of the game unsurprisingly may have once again come from Kyle Fuller, who on the very next play after a John Johnson interception with 11:00 to play and the Bears up just 15-6 gave the Rams the ball at the Bears 27, stepped in front of Josh Reynolds to pick off Jared Goff for the third of his four picks and for the most part stick a fork in Los Angeles.
There is work to be done for sure if the Bears are to be taken seriously in January. It’s hard to win playoff games if Mitch Trubisky doesn’t play a lot better than he did vs. the Rams.
But he’ll get there eventually, and for now isn’t it nice to know that defense and a running game still wins in the NFL?