Bears' win vs. 49ers filled with bright spots for future of rebuild

·6 min read

Schrock: Bears' win vs. 49ers filled with bright spots for future originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

CHICAGO – It has been cringe-worthy at times. The relentless coach speak from Matt Eberflus on the dais at Halas Hall over the last five months.

But everything Eberflus has preached since the moment he was introduced as Bears head coach showed up Sunday in their 19-10 Week 1 upset win over the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.

Precision. Preparation. Discipline. The H.I.T.S (hustle, intensity, takeaways, and smart football) principle.

Sunday’s win at a rain-soaked Soldier Field over a perennial contender was all about Eberflus. About his preparation and his teachings. The things he and his staff drilled into the Bears all offseason.

The 49ers made mistake after mistake. They had 12 penalties for 99 yards. They turned the ball over twice. When they had the Bears on the ropes, they let them off the mat.

Kyle Shanahan’s team may very well have more talent. It certainly has more elite talent than the roster Eberflus was given.

But there was no question which team was the tougher, better-coached unit Sunday.

“You give yourself a chance,” Eberflus said after the win. “You know, we’ve said from the onset that we’re going to play smart, aggressive football. You can still hit, and do the things, and play aggressive, and finish plays, and do it the right way. But you do it the smart, aggressive way.”
 
Eberflus’ acronyms were everywhere on the field Sunday. When the Bears took the lead and the deluge commenced, they had already defeated the 49ers. All that was left was the final score.

“The ball game was over,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson said. “They didn’t want to play no more.

“It’s really hard to throw the ball down the field. It’s hard to do a lot with those weather conditions. You can see it in their eyes. They was trying to get out of here and go home.”

Sunday’s game was a slop fest from the jump. One that the Bears won not because they are more talented but because they didn’t beat themselves. The fundamentals hammered into them all offseason and training camp made sure they opened the Eberflus era with a win.

Is that formula sustainable? Will it work in perfect conditions Sunday in Green Bay?

We’ll find out.

But while the win over the 49ers belonged to Eberflus, there are a few other bright spots that point to the Bears being on the right trajectory entering the rebuild.

Second-year quarterback Justin Fields responded from a brutal first half that saw him finish 3-for-9 for 19 yards and an interception.

At halftime, it looked like the rain might wash away any chance of a breakout Year 2 for Fields. The offensive line was getting pushed around, the wide receivers weren’t separating, and the running game was nowhere to be found.

But the Bears’ offensive staff adjusted in the second half, and Fields took it upon himself to utilize his athleticism and escapability to take pressure off his offensive line and create off-schedule.

“Personally, Justin Fields being able to extend plays which we all knew,” wide receiver Byron Pringle said when asked about positives from the Bears’ offensive performance.” I knew before coming here. He can be able to extend plays with his legs and keep his eyes down field and find guys like Dante [Pettis] on them passes. That’s kind of big because defense always lose receiver when the quarterback gets outside the pocket and be able to extend plays.”

That 51-yard touchdown pass to Pettis, a product of a scramble drill, tied the game and put Trey Lance and the 49ers on the ropes.

It was yet another example of how Eberflus’ fanatical coaching of the fundamentals paid off. In training camp, Darnell Mooney told the media the Bears didn’t practice the scramble drill under the old regime. It was talked about but never practiced. It’s clear things have changed, and the game flipped on a scenario the Bears have spent time practicing.

Fields was far from perfect Sunday. The conditions certainly played a factor. He wasn’t able to consistently throw the ball with accuracy. The Bears’ offense could not run some things they wanted to, partly due to the rain and partly due to the 49ers’ game plan.

But Fields shook off a horrid start, steadied himself and the offense, and outplayed Lance when it mattered most.

All things considered, Fields looked the part in less-than-ideal circumstances.

“I love his composure throughout the game, from the first to the fourth,” Pringle said of Fields. “He knew it was four quarters we have to play. Not just no one half. I like how he handled himself. Kind of like the guy where I left from, Pat Mahomes. He always calm and being able to progress and keep the offense rolling, not just giving up on the guys because something bad happened early in the game.”

While Fields was working to reignite the Bears’ offense Sunday, a trio of rookies helped the Bears’ defense stuff Lance, giving Fields a chance to play hero.

Safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerback Kyler Gordon played every snap on defense, combining for 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. Meanwhile, defensive end Dominique Robinson played 28 snaps, notching seven tackles, two pressures, and 1.5 sacks.

The kids are all right.

“No, it was good by really all the rookies,” Eberflus said. “I mean, you look at the way the rookies performed, you know, from the punter to our nickel to Dominque to all the guys, all the guys that played, Braxton [Jones], they all played well. And that’s really a tribute to Ryan Poles and his staff bringing the guys in here that have the maturity to be able to handle an NFL game and the coaches getting them ready, and then the guys going out there and doing it.”

Poles drafted those rookies to be the foundational class of this Bears rebuild. They made a loud statement in their NFL debuts.

“We’re just letting people know how skilled we are,” Brisker said of the Bears’ defensive rookies. “We can keep getting better, you know. It’s just the first game, you know. We just going to keep building and getting better and make sure we are doing everything right for this team.”

A coach who manically prepares for everything, a staff that adjusts every series, a second-year quarterback with the composure of a 10-year vet, and a rookie class already paying dividends.

As far as debuts go, the Matt Eberflus Bears were a rousing success and should give hope that this rebuild has the necessary ingredients to succeed.

Now comes the hard part.

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