Winning successive games on the heels of a six-game skid that seemingly sullied a 5-1 start, the Chicago Bears remain in reach of their 2020 vision of making the NFC playoffs.
Entering a Week 16 visit to the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars, losers of 13 games in a row, the Bears are one game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the final NFC wild card spot.
“We’re excited,” Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. “I mean, this is what you play for.”
After navigating offensive struggles for much of the season, the Bears (7-7) have found a resurgence behind a jelling combination on the line that has allowed Trubisky room to operate and created space for running back David Montgomery.
Injuries and inconsistency on the offensive line led coach Matt Nagy to employ six different lineups in the first 10 games. However, in the four games since the Bears have started the combo of Charles Leno at left tackle, Cody Whitehair at left guard, Sam Mustipher at center, Alex Bars at right guard and Germain Ifedi at right tackle, Montgomery has eclipsed 100 yards three times.
The Bears’ highest output in the first 10 games was Montgomery’s 89 yards in Week 8.
“When you watch tape, you see these linemen,” Nagy said. “They’re running to the ball, they’re picking guys up off the ground, they’re celebrating. … So it starts right there and it starts with the belief, and trust then filters down to or moves on to David at running back, to CP (Cordarrelle Patterson) at running back, to Mitchell at quarterback.”
Jacksonville (1-13) has been outscored 71-24 in its past two games while facing AFC playoff contenders Tennessee and Baltimore. In Week 15, the Ravens controlled the line of scrimmage — and most other facets of the game — in building a 26-0 halftime lead en route to a 40-14 home victory.
While Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew passed for 226 yards and two touchdowns, he had only 58 yards through the air in the first half. Meanwhile, the Jaguars offensive line allowed five sacks and running back James Robinson, who is battling ankle issues, rushed for only 35 yards, his second-lowest output of 2020.
“I mean, we were getting one or two yards in the play-action game. We weren’t able to make plays,” Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone said. “Either not pulling the trigger, or not being in good position, or pressure coming — it gets to you. It’s a lot of things. When you don’t play that well … it’s not one thing, it’s everything.”
Marrone said Minshew and veteran Mike Glennon, a former Bear, would compete this week for the starting job, adding some intrigue.
After the New York Jets upset the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15 for their first victory of the season, the Jaguars suddenly gained an inside edge for the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, a selection that likely would bring Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence to Jacksonville. The Jaguars have the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker on the Jets.
Nevertheless, Marrone said the Jaguars remain focused on ending the losing streak.
“No one has advised me anything different than to go out there and win,” he said. “I understand, I guess, from a standpoint of I was young growing up, you know, and I had a favorite team and was excited to see where they were going to pick.”
–Field Level Media