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5 Takeaways: Bears make strong statement with season-opening win

2 years agoChris Emma

As the final seconds ticked off the clock and the rain poured down along the lakefront, the Bears ran to the northwest corner of Soldier Field and dove through the soaked Bermuda grass with victorious belly flops. 


The Bears began this new era for the franchise with a season-opening 19-10 win over the 49ers at Soldier Field, rallying back from behind with all of their points coming in the second half. Coach Matt Eberflus started his tenure in Chicago with a victory while this team produced a result that should come as a surprise to many. 


Here are the five takeaways from the Bears’ opening win: 


1. Starting with a statement 


Two days before the Bears took to Soldier Field and kicked off this season, third-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson acknowledged the skepticism surrounding his team. 


The Bears have been projected by many pundits to be one of the very worst teams in the NFL – with doubt around the NFL as to whether Chicago has enough talent to consistently win. 


“It bothers me,” Johnson said. “I see it. You get the mentions. If anybody says they see it and it doesn’t bother them, I think they’re lying. 


“If you channel it the right way, you can kind of use that to your advantage.” 


On Sunday, the Bears did just that in knocking off a dynamic 49ers team. They did it with the methods Eberflus and his staff have preached since arriving to Chicago this offseason, with the Bears showcasing their coach’s HITS Principle – Hustle. Intensity. Takeaways. (Playing) Smart.  


Eberflus was quick to point out that the Bears were “not perfect” by any means, but they finished plus-1 in the turnover differential, were sound in discipline and stood strong in the fourth quarter.  


“We’re not really worried what people are saying outside of this building,” said Bears veteran wide receiver Dante Pettis, who hauled in a 51-yard touchdown from quarterback Justin Fields in the third quarter. “We know who we have and we know what kind of team we are. We’re going to go out there and fight every game, regardless of what people are saying.” 


For these Bears, the belief stems from their work. Admittedly, some players were curious of Eberflus and the principles he came in preaching to this team. They’re required to hustle each play in practice, called out in meetings for any lapse in effort and must constantly meet a standard. During the first week of training camp, top wide receiver Darnell Mooney said players were laying on the floor in exhaustion. 


But the Bears stayed the course and their results came across clearly on film. They saw that what Eberflus demanded of them was paying dividends.  


It’s why those slides through the northwest corner of Soldier Field were so sweet. They went out and proved a point. 


“I definitely feel the culture right now,” Bears guard Teven Jenkins said. “That’s exactly what we’ve been building.”


2. Luke Gets it 


As the Bears went into their locker room at halftime trailing 7-0, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy prepared the adjustments his unit needed. 


The Bears had just 68 yards of offense through two quarters and the 49ers had frustrated Fields with pressure. Getsy made the changes necessary to swing this game. He went to Fields with some tweaks to the game plan. 


“We were just trying to get into a rhythm,” Fields said. 


To counter the 49ers’ aggressive defensive front, Getsy incorporated more play-action looks and moving pockets for Fields. He designed opportunities for Fields on the move and schemed open targets in coverage.  


When Fields hit a go-ahead 18-yard touchdown to wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown in the third quarter, he had a choice between St. Brown as his first read and wide receiver Byron Pringle who was wide open on the back side. Either decision would’ve resulted in a touchdown if Fields put the ball right on the spot.  


The Bears scored on their first three drives of the second half and finished the game in victory formation. 


3. BoJack’s game-changer 


During his first years in the NFL, Bears safety Eddie Jackson proved to be one of the very best players at his position. He warranted respect as a two-time Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro player in 2018. 


But Jackson had fallen off the last two years and his underperformance became a point of emphasis with the Bears’ struggles. As one of Chicago’s highest-paid players, Jackson knew he had to be better. 


“That player is still here,” Jackson said last week as he reflected on his best form. “That player still exists. A lot of people are writing me off personally. It’s cool. I work the best when I’m an underdog.  


“I got a lot to prove. There’s a lot on the line.” 


Sure enough, Jackson stepped up for the Bears. He produced his first interception since the final game of the 2019 regular season when he jumped a route in coverage and picked off 49ers quarterback Trey Lance early in the fourth quarter.  


Eberflus said the Bears viewed this season as a clean slate for Jackson, believing he could emerge in this defense.  


“I couldn’t be prouder of him,” Eberflus said. 


4. First impressions 


Bears general manager Ryan Poles has plenty of belief in his 11-man first draft class. But in the opener Sunday, it was one rookie in particular who shined the brightest. 


Dominique Robinson a pass rusher selected by the Bears in the fifth round this year capped his NFL debut with 1.5 sacks, seven tackles and one tackle for a loss.  


The Bears believe Robinson is an ascending player in part because of his background in football. He arrived to Miami (OH) as a quarterback in 2017, moved to wide receiver the next two seasons and caught 21 passes and three touchdowns, then shifted to defensive end in 2020 and began to thrive. 


Robinson made an impact as an NFL pass rusher and showcased why the Bears see such promise in him. 


5. In ‘N Out 


The Bears made an important addition back in March by signing veteran offensive lineman Lucas Patrick to anchor their offensive line at center. But those plans will have to wait. 


On Sunday, Patrick did not start and played his only action at right guard while working a rotation with Jenkins. It was part of the Bears’ plan as he works back into action following a right hand fracture suffered in late July. 


Patrick played his first game with a large cast on his right hand, which prevents him from effectively snapping the football as a center. Sam Mustipher, who started all 17 games last season at center, worked back into that position. The plan formed this week was for Patrick and Jenkins to rotate at right guard. 


It remains to be seen how the Bears will align their starting offensive line moving forward. But after a tumultuous preseason, Jenkins savored the opportunity to play as a starter and soak in this victory with his teammates. 


Jenkins won’t soon forget sliding through the puddles of Soldier Field. 


“I felt like a little kid again,” he said. 

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