Ellis: Bears finally realized they don't have to be boring


(670 The Score) Now that’s how you lose a football game. It took a roundabout way of getting there, but Sunday's Bears adventure found its way to exactly where we expected, more or less, as they lost 29-22 to the Vikings.

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Dropping back-to-back games in part because of pivotal mistakes from wide receivers who probably wouldn't be on many other rosters is certainly a bit on the nose, but it’s not like anyone is stunned by the team’s talent deficiency five weeks into the season. When you’re in the "I hope our quarterback throws more than 15 passes today" phase of a rebuild, it’s easier to pretend like the final score doesn’t matter. But in the Bears’ case, there’s a very dorky case to be made that it doesn’t. Because while they didn’t, you know, beat the Vikings on Sunday, what they did do (and I speak for everyone who has watched all 20 quarters of Bears football this year) was almost as exciting -- they may have realized that they don’t have to be boring.

Don’t be alarmed, but the Bears went for it on fourth down at one point Sunday afternoon. And would you believe it, it worked. With a little more than three minutes left in the third quarter from the Vikings’ 37-yard line, quarterback Justin Fields lined up in shotgun, took the snap and – needing four yards – got seven on a scramble to move the chains. Four plays later, Cairo Santos hit a 43-yard field goal to pull Chicago within two. Converting short-yardage situations en route to a field goal that gets you to 19 points feels like a very Bears reason to be celebrating, but beggars can’t be choosers/progress isn’t linear/mind your own business. The only reason the Bears even had to kick a field goal in the first place was because a deep shot from Fields to receiver Darnell Mooney one play earlier fell incomplete – the drive was already, all things considered, a resounding success.

With all due respect to "getting out of bounds," if there’s one lesson the Bears can learn from this loss, it’s that they can get away with playing like that way more often than they have been. There really isn’t a reason for the Bears to not consistently play like the team they were in the second half – just because they’re going to be a bad team doesn’t mean they have to stay a bland one. Respectable losses aren’t a stupid concept, but the idea that said respect comes solely from the score line is. Leaning into the type of risk assessment that they embraced against the Vikings – the common sense fourth-down attempts, the more frequent deep shots, the occasional dice rolls – isn't only a smarter way to play modern, aggressive football, but it also just gets fans off your back during a season in which expectations are already plenty low. (And while that may not be the goal of play-calling, it’d definitely give their social media team some peace of mind.)

On Sunday, 13 of Fields’ 21 passing attempts came in the second half, and he completed 12 of them for 135 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t just that he operated the offense with rhythm and comfort, it’s that he did so in consistent stretches. It’s almost like, even with bad wide receivers, talented quarterbacks give teams a better chance to win when they’re throwing 13 times per half, not per game. Even with his passing opportunities coming at a historically low rate, Fields' development has looked much-improved over the last three weeks or so. It seems like there’s also a weird, almost counter-intuitive relief setting in about the Bears’ skill level, but that’s the power of a potential franchise quarterback. What’s the point in shying away from that reality?

There probably isn't a more fitting day for the cliched reminder that bad football seasons are marathons, not sprints. There will be quarters and halves and entire games for the Bears that don’t inspire nearly as much optimism as a seven-point road loss to the Vikings in early October did. The good news is that the Bears don’t even need to win any of games –– all they have to prove is that they’re not boring, and Sunday was a great start. It'd be nice if they won the Packers one, though.

Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.

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