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Chicago Bears

Hub Arkush: Trubisky shines; defense solid front to back

Bears coach Matt Nagy celebrates with his team after beating the the Green Bay Packers and clinching the NFC North on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Bears coach Matt Nagy celebrates with his team after beating the the Green Bay Packers and clinching the NFC North on Sunday at Soldier Field.

There is a great deal more to be revealed from studying the tape of an NFL game than only the performances of players.

For example, which plays or schemes were called in certain situations and against which defenses or formations.

We’ll get to that in a moment.

Matt Nagy said Monday of Mitch Trubisky’s performance: “In particular what jumped out to me today was how great of a game that Mitch played.”

Nagy was particularly impressed with how Trubisky moved around in the pocket, keeping plays alive, and it’s easy to see on the tape where he’s coming from.

Trubisky definitely outplayed Aaron Rodgers, something you rarely hear around the NFL, and only his accuracy still being a touch off made it a B+ kind of day.

The running game did not resemble the juggernaut we saw a week earlier against the Rams. Jordan Howard had a rare fumble – although he curiously avoided getting it pinned on him in the game book – and Tarik Cohen saved his biggest play for special teams. But both were key to the victory and had solid B, B- games.

Howard’s blocking in pass protection is a badly underrated aspect of his game.

Bears receivers were solid with a few special plays from Allen Robinson, Josh Bellamy, Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen, but they also were well covered on a number of plays.

Anthony Miller still is struggling to carve out a spot for himself, not receiving a single target on the day, and the overall group earned a B, B-.

The offensive line had a good day protecting Trubisky, allowing only one sack to one of the NFL’s top five pass-rushing teams, but it struggled to block the run at times, also grading out at B, B-, with Charles Leno getting an A+ for his postgame marriage proposal.

The defense was excellent from front to back.

Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman each demanded double teams all afternoon, making it nearly impossible for the Packers to block Bears linebackers, who had a great game.

Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd were particularly impressive, with Floyd playing his best game as a Bear.

As impressive as the Bears’ pass rush was with two sacks for Floyd, two for Mack and a third he shared with Bilal Nichols, the coverage in the secondary was responsible for some of it.

For the most part, the Packers avoided Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson as best they could by targeting Prince Amukamara and Sherrick McManis, who was very good filling in for Bryce Callahan in the slot.

The D-line and secondary received a B+, and the linebackers were an A.

The Bears’ special teams were very good – with the exception of one obvious play.

Punter Patrick O’Donnell had two punts downed inside the six-yard line and a net average of 44.3 yards (compared with the Packers’ 31.0), and Cohen’s 44-yard return to the Packers’ 15 set up a Bears field goal with 6:43 to play that made it a two-score game.

Let’s give the special teams a B+ and talk about the ill-fated fake punt separately.

It’s not up to me or any of you to question the wisdom of the fake. If it works, Nagy is a genius, and as much as he loves his gadgets and gizmos, Bears fans are going to have to learn to take the good with the bad.

At the moment his record is speaking for itself.

What I did take issue with after repeatedly watching the tape is the fake play that was called.

The Bears had linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Isaiah Irving, along with tight end Daniel Brown, lined up around long snapper Patrick Scales from tackle-to-tackle, not a blocker in the bunch.

Only Kwiatkoski got a solid block, and the Packers’ outside rushers came crashing down so fast Benny Cunningham never had a chance.

It’s more than a little shocking to me that “Willy Wonka” Nagy didn’t come up with something more clever than that – a fake that might have had a chance.

That said, I give Nagy a D, not for the decision to fake a punt on fourth down but for the play he called, and an A+ for everything else he’s done, earning his team its first NFC North title in eight seasons.

Beat the Packers for only the third time in the past 18 matchups, and you get good grades.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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