First & Long: Bears Beat Panthers to Take NFC North Lead, Defense Outstanding, Santos Has Nagy’s Trust, Rodgers Benched in Packers Loss

Despite some sketchy late-game clock management by head coach Matt Nagy and an offense that continues to play like it’s stuck in second gear, the Bears are unbelievably 5-1. Coupled with a Packers loss, yesterday’s 23-16 win over the Panthers leaves the Bears undefeated in the NFC and leading the division. Tread cautiously with those Super Bowl hopes, but Chicago has to be considered a playoff contender just six games into the season. They’re now 5-0 in conference games, though they’ve only played one divisional opponent, beating the Lions 27-23 in Week 1.

The Bears’ lone loss this season came against the Colts on October 4 in a game played at Soldier Field.

Perhaps it’s just the magic (or luck) of Nick Foles, but the Bears don’t seem to have a go-to formula that’s responsible for their success. Their defense is workmanlike and bailed out the team’s offense numerous times yesterday. Foles and company did just enough to get the job done.

Chicago’s offense was limited to just 261 total yards, but converted half of their 14 third-down chances. The passing attack was nothing spectacular, as Foles completed 23 of 39 passes for 198 yards with one TD, one interception, and a 70.2 passer rating. The quarterback’s minuscule 5.1 yards per pass attempt won’t win many games, but it was adequate enough yesterday. The ground game, led by David Montgomery, wasn’t much better. The second-year running back averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on 19 rushes for a total of 58 yards.

Foles’ postgame comments were focused on his team’s offensive output.

“We can improve,’’ he said. “I think that’s exciting. If we were winning these games and playing perfect and (the games) were this tight…what do you do? Where do you improve?’’

You don’t have to love the Bears, but no matter how they got to 5-1 there’s no denying that they’re a first-place team. For now, anyway. With upcoming games against the Rams, Saints, Titans, and Packers, we can hold off on playoff talk for now. Should they come out of that sequence of games with a 7-3 record or better, it’s safe to assume fans can start dreaming about an NFC North title and a playoff berth.

Bears News & Notes

Forward Progress

The Bears (5-1) will take on the Rams (4-1) next week in Los Angeles on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Entering yesterday’s games, the Rams, led by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, were first in the NFL with 20 sacks. Linebacker Khalil Mack leads the Bears with 4.5 sacks.

The Bears close their 2020 schedule with five of their last seven games against NFC North rivals. They’ll play the Packers on November 9 and January 3 (home), the Vikings on November 16 (home) and December 20, and the Lions on December 6 (home).

Third & Long

In the third round of the 1979 draft, the Bears passed on Joe Montana, who was the consensus pick among future GM Jerry Vainisi and scouting director Bill Tobin, in order to select RB Willie McClendon, who was preferred by then-GM Jim Finks. The 49ers chose Montana 16 picks later. The Bears had selected defensive linemen Dan Hampton and Al Harris in the first round and WR Rickey Watts in the second. Finks believed Montana would be available for the Bears to select in the fourth round.

Pick Six

Breaking down Sunday’s best performances.

  1. Derrick Henry – The Titans running back ran for 212 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns, a 94-yard burst in the 4th quarter that gave Tennessee a 29-23 lead and a 5-yard sneak from the shotgun formation for the winning score in OT. The Titans are now 5-0 after beating the Texans 42-36. Houston fell to 1-5.
  2. Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee’s QB had an outstanding game, completing 30 of 41 pass attempts for 364 yards and four TDs.
  3. Justin Jefferson – Minnesota’s rookie WR had another big game, nabbing nine of 11 targets for 166 yards and two TDs, though most of that yardage came in garbage tie as the Falcons(1-5)  pasted the Vikings 40-23. At 1-5, Minnesota trails the Bears and Packers by four games.
  4. Dolphins Defense – Shutouts are rare in the offense-first NFL, but Miami’s defense played like the ghosts of their undefeated 1972 team, holding the Jets to just 248 total yards in a 24-0 win. New York QB Joe Flacco was sacked three times for 38 yards in losses and completed just 21-of-44 passes for 186 yards with one INT.
  5. Brandon McManus – The Denver kicker accounted for all of his team’s points as the Broncos (2-3) edged the Patriots (2-3) 18-12. McManus made all six of his FG attempts, including five from 40+ yards.
  6. Rob Gronkowski – The Tampa Bay TE had his best game since returning from retirement, catching five passes for 78 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown toss from Tom Brady, Gronk’s first TD since December 12, 2018, when both he and Brady played for the Patriots.


Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had a forgettable game against the Bucs yesterday, but he did have one winning moment after celebrating a would-be touchdown. Rodgers was eventually removed from the Packers‘ lopsided 38-10 loss to Tampa Bay (4-2).

Rodgers also earned the dubious honor of having one of the worst performances of the day.

Backfield in Motion

Foles is like a tall glass of ice-cold whole milk, with a little bit of cream floating on top. The Eagles, of course, were continually blasting the Meek Mill classic en route to their Super Bowl win over the Patriots in 2017 with Big Game Nick as their QB.

At The Podium

  • “I would first say would you rather lose pretty or win ugly? I think that we’d rather win ugly. I think that’s [a] common thing. I think it tells you a lot about our team. Is this who we are offensively? We want to improve, we want to get better, we want to have rhythm. If you can put up 50 points and lose a game, those 50 points don’t mean anything.” – Nick Foles
  • “From [Cairo Santos] being a kicker in Kansas City when I was there for those years… I always had a lot of confidence in him. Never once did I ever think about the kick being made or the kick being missed. I’ll be honest with you: I’m really in that mode right now with him. I know that. That 55-yarder, it didn’t shock me that he hit it.” – Matt Nagy

Half-Time Entertainment

Backfield in Motion by Mel & Tim – Every Sunday my dad would spend the entire morning whistling this song ahead of kickoff. He wasn’t a Bears fan, but he truly loved Gale Sayers and Walter Payton. He also loved Carl Garrett and I suppose we’re all accountable for our sins on Judgment Day. In fairness, Garrett wasn’t a bad RB, but, unfortunately, his two years with the Bears were sandwiched right between Sayers and Payton.

Back to top button