What a ride.
The Bears’ 2018 season ended with a doink a few weeks before anybody wanted it to, but man oh man what fun it was. After four straight years of shifting attention to the draft by November, the Bears went 12-4, established themselves as one of the best teams in the NFL, and laid waste to the division. Along the way, they got to officially end the season of both the Packers and Vikings and made the entire city of Chicago go crazy with football fever.
Lest we forget some of the highlights of 2018:
- After three brutal games to start the season, Mitchell Trubisky finally had his coming out party when he laid waste to the Bucs in week 4. Just to make sure you knew it wasn’t a fluke, he followed it up with 300 yards and multiple touchdowns in both of the next two games.
- Khalil Mack, Eddie Goldman, and company embarrassed the Rams on Sunday Night football with the whole world watching (and picking against Chicago), proving once and for all that this team was in fact for real.
- Eddie Jackson just kept scoring touchdowns, Kyle Fuller led the NFL in interceptions, and the defense as a whole made big play after big play.
- Linemen and linebackers kept scoring touchdowns on trick plays, just for fun.
- The Bears finished the season winning 9 of their last 10 games, with the only loss coming on the road in overtime with their backup QB.
- The Bears finished with the NFL’s 3rd best W/L record, 4th best point differential, and 3rd best turnover differential, all key indicators of the best teams in the league.
The offense came out and had their worst first half in months.
But Mitchell Trubisky pulled it together in the 4th quarter with a flawless drive, mostly throwing to Allen Robinson. Touchdown Bears, and it felt like the game was over with the best defense in the NFL having a 4th quarter lead to protect.
The defense reverted to their early season form and failed to finish, again. Touchdown Eagles, and the Bears’ season was 56 seconds from ending. Things looked bleak, because Trubisky hadn’t really had any last-second game winning drives this year; he’d never really needed to.
Tarik Cohen had a big kickoff return, and Trubisky bailed the defense out, marching the offense down the field and setting the Bears up for a game-winning 43 yard field goal.
Cody Parkey hit the upright AGAIN. Check that, he hit the upright AND the crossbar, and somehow the kick didn’t go in. (How in the world does this keep happening to him? More than half his misses this year were doinks off the upright.)
After a roller coaster of a fourth quarter, midnight had struck, and the magical season had turned back into a pumpkin. And now we stare into the abyss of eight long, excruciating months without any Bears football.
The window is wide open…
But fear not, Bears fans, because this team isn’t going anywhere. Over the next several months, I’m going to look at Chicago’s upcoming 2019 season from several perspectives to explain just why I believe that so strongly. After the Bears traded for Khalil Mack, I re-evaluated their 2018 prospects, and ended with the following words, which I still believe 100% are true today:
I still don’t think the Bears are legitimate Super Bowl contenders in 2018, as history quite clearly says that teams just don’t go from being consistently bad to that good in one offseason (spoiler alert though: I think they absolutely should be among the early Super Bowl favorites for 2019). It’s somewhat rare for teams to go from consistently bad to the playoffs, but there is some precedent for that, and my heart and head both say the Bears are poised to make that leap now that Khalil Mack is in the fold.
That’s right, I believe the Bears should be the early Super Bowl favorites for next year. Jeff and I had the following exchange on Twitter today, and I think it’s a great way to focus a lens on the offseason as the Bears move on from 2018 and begin to prepare for 2019, no longer the plucky underdogs but firmly established as an upper echelon NFL team who won’t catch anybody by surprise.
The window is wide open.
— Johnathan Wood (@Johnathan_Wood1) January 7, 2019
The Bears’ title window begins now. This is a roster brimming with talent on both sides of the ball. They now have the experience of what it takes to be a winning team, plus the bitter pill of this seasons’ abrupt ending to drive them to improve over the offseason.
The window is wide open, and we get to spend the next 8 months looking at how exactly they can climb through it.