By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) I’m a bit embarrassed to admit what I just saw, because this feels like I’m pulling you aside to whisper that I just saw Sasquatch, or perhaps a unicorn, or something aloft and metallic that will be officially dismissed as a weather balloon.
So feel free to dismiss me as a crackpot and go on about your business, but I’ll be over here with my scribbled notes and canned food, sure that my eyes didn’t deceive.
There were young Chicago Bears out there playing effective defense.
On the road for a second consecutive week and forced into action and unfamiliarity due to injury, there were a handful of kids – rookies, even – who were brought here by the same Phil Emery derided for his draft-day whiffs on that side of the ball, who nonetheless were able to play well enough to make a difference in a 27-19 victory over the Jets on Monday night and enliven an early season in an increasingly volatile league.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. It wasn’t one for those craving aesthetics, as it was filled with bad officiating – the phantom interference on Alshon Jeffery, the blown-dead Jay Cutler fumble, the cowardly failure to overturn the game-extending late Jets first down and more – and marked by sure interceptions dropped by both teams at critical times. It was a hash of missed blocks, bizarre play-calling and uncapitalized opportunities.
But there was Kyle Fuller, Jonathan Bostic, the twin rookie tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton inside, all making plays. Ahmad Dixon crashing down the field on punt coverage, too. There was rookie Brock Vereen on the deciding play at the back of the end zone.
Charles Tillman was only in the cutaway shots to the sideline, and Lance Briggs was giving his all despite looking like a man trying to run with a pumpkin in his pants. Chris Conte hurt as usual, Shea McClellin was out, and Jeremiah Ratliff wore pregame sunglasses for scary reasons.
So Fuller forced two fumbles as if paying artistic homage to Tillman and intercepted a Geno Smith pass in the end zone. Bostic led the team with six solo tackles and seven assists, while Ferguson notched his first career sack and Sutton looked quick off the snap. Another “Young” player, Willie, had sound edge discipline, kept contain and showed impressive closing speed.
This bodes well, especially as injury attrition appears to be a headwind like it seems to be for every team in this increasingly strange and unpredictable NFL. For whatever reason, seeing new resources forced into action and succeeding to some extent is purely positive, even if it comes against an opponent deserving fair question.
For the purposes of this bizarre observation that I share with you, I admit taking the offense for granted. When Jay Cutler is running a system designed by Marc Trestman that features these receivers and this kind of pass-blocking, you can’t blame me. And we’ll save the absence of a needed running game for another day.
It’s starting to be a real thing with Fuller, and perhaps others, is what I mean. He made some mistakes with angles and reads, but he can play. That he did so spectacularly last week in San Francisco and then on Monday night in New York is not something small to be dismissed. The game is slowing down for Bostic, and he appears to be speeding up. The tackles are stout.
They may have to matter more than they should too soon in a season that already feels eight or nine weeks old, but I swear.
I saw defensive prospects on the Bears who might be OK — and maybe better than that.