Congratulations on a job, done.
With a 41-17 win, the Chicago Bears (8-7) put Jacksonville (1-14) -- the likely future home of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence -- out of its misery on Sunday and kept control of their playoff destiny with one game left to play.
Far be it for the Bears -- losers of six straight at one point of the year -- to walk into a game overconfident, but the Jaguars had every motivation to lose, and they started Mike Glennon at quarterback. The same Mike Glennon to whom the Bears all but gifted generational wealth ($18.5 million) for what amounted to four starts in 2017. In addition, Jacksonville’s promising rookie running back James Robinson was held out with an ankle injury.
The Bears were expected to win -- and by a lot. Mission accomplished. The Bears scored 30-plus points for the fourth straight game for the first time since 1965, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Chicago is an opportunistic bunch, to say the least.
The Bears have feasted on the league’s defensive bottom-feeders -- Detroit (31st in total defense), Houston (30th), Minnesota (27th) and Jacksonville (32nd) -- during their recent renaissance.
The Bears have assured themselves of finishing no worse than .500 in each of head coach Matt Nagy’s three seasons. Reaching the playoffs for the second time in three years would all but assure that most of the organization will return in 2021.
How quickly things can change in the NFL.
QB breakdown: Mitchell Trubisky completed 24 of 35 passes for 265 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and one rushing touchdown. For the most part, Trubisky played fine. But the 26-year-old quarterback made a couple of egregious errors -- a terrible interception in the end zone, a near interception that a Jaguars defender dropped, overthrowing a wide-open receiver for what would have been a sure touchdown, etc. Against better teams, that probably would hurt the team’s chances of winning. Whatever happens next year with Trubisky happens. He’s playing really well against really bad teams. Take it for what it’s worth.
Troubling trend: The Bears still get too cute on offense sometimes. On first-and-goal from the Jaguars’ 1-yard line in the second quarter, the Bears called for an end-around handoff to tight end Cole Kmet -- instead of just feeding the ball to workhorse tailback David Montgomery. The handoff to Kmet predictably went for a three-yard loss. The Bears eventually had to settle for a field goal when a touchdown had seemed all but assured before Chicago called for Kmet’s number on first down. The Bears can get away with mistakes like that against inferior teams, but next week against Green Bay, or in the playoffs, the consequences could be dire.
Encouraging trend: Montgomery is on a tear. The former third-round pick carried the ball 23 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. Montgomery has scored a touchdown in five straight games, the longest streak by a Bears running back since Neal Anderson in 1991. After driving fantasy football managers crazy for close to a season and a half, Montgomery has scored seven total touchdowns since the Bears’ bye week (Nov. 22).
A-Rob’s return: Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson played four memorable years for the Jaguars, highlighted by Robinson’s 80-catch, 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown season in 2015. Robinson did not disappoint in his first game back in Jacksonville since he joined the Bears in the spring of 2018. Robinson’s game-high 10 catches for 103 yards put him at 100 receptions for the season -- the first time Robinson has reached the 100-catch milestone. The last Bears wide receiver to catch 100 passes in a season was Brandon Marshall in 2013.
Touchdown machine: Critics universally panned the free-agent contract ($9 million guaranteed and a no-trade clause) that tight end Jimmy Graham signed with the Bears, but the 34-year-old veteran caught his seventh and eighth touchdown passes of the season on Sunday, which ranks second among all NFC tight ends behind only Green Bay’s Robert Tonyan (10). To put that into perspective, Graham had only five combined touchdown receptions in the previous two seasons in Green Bay. Graham also hauled in a season-long 30-yard catch in Chicago’s victory. Graham now has 17 multiple-touchdown games over the course of his illustrious career.
History in the making: Veteran kicker Cairo Santos keeps plugging along. Santos, who has not missed a field goal since Week 3, went 2-for-2 on Sunday and is now tied with Robbie Gould (2006) for the franchise record for consecutive makes (24) in a season. Remember when the Bears used to have a kicker crisis? The Bears have still not signed Santos to an extension, but it feels like a foregone conclusion.