In many ways, the Bears' 2019 season was everything 2018 was not. Injuries to key players hurt the team throughout the year, a tough midseason schedule did them no favors, and the offense took a massive step backward. One constant, though, was the steady performance of the defense. Despite their turnovers and sacks leveling off from the highs of 2018, the unit gave up just 18.6 points per game, good for 4th in the entire league. That the team finished .500 and was alive in the playoff hunt into December speaks volumes about Chuck Pagano's group, and NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms thinks Matt Nagy and his offense could benefit from leaning on that elite unit in the upcoming season.
"They gotta play through their defense, I think that's where they messed up last year... your defense is going to be able to win you a number of games. There's nothing not to like about the Bears defense. It's arguably the best front seven in football. The secondary, I think, is a pretty damn good group as well. But last year, when you're throwing the ball and your offense is off the field every three plays, I don't give a damn who your defense is. You can bring back the ‘85 Bears, if they have to go out there every 4th play, they're eventually going to wear down, and I think that's what happened to the Bears defense later in the year last year; it just was too much on them on a weekly basis. So I think the offense and Matt Nagy need to figure out a formula that works for the team, not necessarily just what looks good on paper and stats for the offense."
The formula Simms speaks of is not unfamiliar to Bears fans. A solid-not-spectacular offense supporting a great defense could be the description of many successful Bears teams over the years. However, the offense did not hold up their end of the bargain in 2019 to say the least, and the team missed the playoffs in disappointing fashion. That being said, Simms sees reasons for optimism heading into 2020, and points to the league's final four from the 2018 season as proof that a team can win without a superstar QB if there's a great foundation around them.
I think to be successful in football, you want to build your team first… you can certainly make it happen with less than a franchise-type quarterback. Let's not forget, three years ago we had Blake Bortles, Case Keenum, and Nick Foles in the final four of football competing against Tom Brady. You know why they were there? Not because they're good or better than Tom Brady or franchise quarterbacks, but their team was really good around them. The Bears unfortunately don't have that franchise guy. I'm not counting the Bears out of the mix in 2020, there's still some things to really like if they can play and apply the right formula on the field in 2020.
Of course, Simms picked Nick Foles as his winner of the upcoming QB competition, and if the Super Bowl LII MVP can re-capture some of that magic, who knows where he might take the Bears in 2020.
Chris Simms explains why Bears should lean on their defense in 2020 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago