In the afterglow of the Chicago Bears’ 17-13 win over the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, there is plenty to be optimistic about.
After all, the team has worked its way back into playoff contention with the win, and it also serves as a signature victory for the team as they work through the rebuild envisioned by G.M. Ryan Pace.
With that in mind, here are three positives that fans can take from the game.
Secondary Stellar in Victory
The Bears’ secondary has been one of the most consistently criticized elements of the team’s roster this season, but on Thursday night they were absolutely at their best. Tracy Porter led the way for the Bears, defending four passes and notching an interception against Aaron Rodgers. He nearly had a second interception, but a penalty negated the pick and allowed the Packers to get on the board in the first quarter.
In addition to Porter’s solid coverage, the team got some big plays out of Bryce Callahan as well. Twice in the opening minutes of the game Callahan was able to wrap up Randall Cobb for minimum gains, forcing Green Bay back off the field and giving the offense a chance to get going.
He also made a big play to deny Cobb a chance at a first down conversion in the second quarter, forcing Green Bay to settle for a field goal instead.
His best work came in the closing seconds however, as he played some tight defense on Davante Adams on the final play from scrimmage for the Packers.
There is still plenty of work to be done as the team overhauls the secondary, but with Porter’s performance, an underrated day at the office for Chris Prosinski, and contributions from both Callahan and Kyle Fuller (who had several key run stops), this team should be pleased with their performance on Thursday.
Mariani Struts His Stuff at Receiver
Whenever the Bears’ special teams unit is discussed, Mariani’s name ultimately comes up, and rarely in a good way. He has struggled at times this season to haul in both kick-offs and punts, and he has been largely replaced in the former department and could end up being replaced in the latter if he continues to struggle.
Where Mariani certainly did not struggle on Thursday was in catching the ball for the Bears. He was targeted just three times in the game, but he hauled in all three catches and picked up a couple of first downs for his trouble. He was especially great on the drive in the second quarter where Chicago knotted things up, diving for two first downs and helping the team keep the chains moving.
Mariani also played a key role on an Alshon Jeffery catch in the third quarter, as he provided the downfield block that allowed the receiver to get all the way down to the three-yard line.
There were plenty of questions about how Jay Cutler would handle the team’s receiving corps with all the injuries they’ve had to deal with this season, but Mariani has definitely shown a bond with the quarterback, and it was on full display on Thursday.
Houston Continues Emergence in Fangio’s Defense
When Vic Fangio came into the fold in Chicago, he threatened to take Lamarr Houston out of a position where he’s had plenty of success in his career: at defensive end in a 4-3 system.
Instead, Houston was forced to learn the ropes as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, but instead of just pouting and biding his time until the Bears dumped him, Houston has gone the other direction and become a solid force for the team’s pass rush.
His sack of Rodgers on Thursday tied him for the team lead in sacks with Pernell McPhee, with both players hitting five on the season. He ended up with seven tackles overall in the game, including two for a loss.
Along with the emergence of Willie Young, Houston’s rise to an important role on the team’s depth chart has certainly helped to soften the blow of not having a healthy McPhee at times for the Bears, and he continues to build a strong case for more playing time.