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What we learned from Bears' victory over Buccaneers on Thursday night

It was the first time since a most memorable Super Bowl LII that Tom Brady and Nick Foles squared off. Though a Week 5 matchup hardly compares to the biggest of big games, these quarterbacks battled into the Chicago night for their new squads. It was the Bears defense that owned the night, however, stopping any Brady histrionics on a final drive as the Chicago Bears defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 20-19, on Thursday night.

Chicago Bears 20, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19

1) When it comes to his consistency as a quarterback, Nick Foles is box-of-chocolates-like in that you just never know what you’re gonna get. He’s hot and cold within the span of individual quarters, a microcosm of his career in every 60-minute interval. Any grand designs of Foles transforming the Bears offense into a high-flying bunch might well have disappeared into the October sky. Foles has never been consistent, his streaks reaching phenomenal highs and his lows resulting in him having started for five franchises. But Foles is a winner and a leader of winning teams. That’s what he did on Thursday, once more defeating Tom Brady and the Buccaneers all the same. The Bears are 4-1 and that’s what matters most on this evening. Foles looked great and dismal as he often does, throwing for 243 yards, a touchdown, a pick and an 83.1 rating. This was Foles’ first win as a Bears starter and the franchise is no doubt counting on more. They’re not going to always been pretty, and they’re seldom going to be consistent, but, “Big Nick did his thing,” Khalil Mack bellowed in a FOX postgame interview and right now, Foles’ thing is translating into the Bears being NFC North contenders.

2) As defeat slipped into the Chicago night, Brady could be seen holding up four fingers after an incompletion on fourth and five. It was fourth down coming up, not having gone awry he appeared to be thinking. Nevertheless, the Bucs slipped to 3-2, Brady lost for the first time in his career to the Bears and there is frustration in Tampa Bay. Upon Brady’s arrival in Tampa Bay, an excitement and fervor long absent for the Buccaneers was ignited. An unprecedented offseason for all and a flat start for the Bucs might have expunged some of that excitement, but plenty of reason for rekindled optimism and enthusiasm followed during three weeks of wins. Now, after a loss marked by 11 penalties for 109 yards, the Bucs are clearly still figuring things out. Brady was hassled all night long by a tenacious Bears defense and finished with 253 yards and a touchdown on a night that was far from bad, but just as much removed from remarkable. The Buccaneers are still a work in progress on offense. Fortunately for them, there’s still plenty of season left — just in case there was any confusion in regard to that.

3) Mack was often in Brady’s face and perhaps even rented some space in his head. After a slam that drew a penalty on Mack, a fired-up Brady offered some words that the Twitterverse was hoping would somehow be shared. For the first time in a long time, Mack had multiple sacks. But the way in which Mack impacts a game has been consistent and terrible for the opposition to contend with. He battled Bucs rookie Tristan Wirfs for much of Thursday and it was likely a nightmare the first-rounder is happy to be done with (though he certainly held his own at times). Mack is Mack, numbers or not. He shined Thursday with two sacks, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and a pass defended. But Mack is a consistent wreaker of havoc, stats or not. This time around it was Mack and the defense that led the way to victory — the most important statistic of all, don’t you know — and if there was any need, the multiple-time Pro Bowler shined under the prime time lights and reaffirmed just how dominant a force he is.

4) With a whisper, Ronald Jones had a wonderful night. Jones (17 carries for game-high 106 yards) tallied his second straight game of more than 100 yards in rather quiet fashion. Despite a doubtful designation, Leonard Fournette played, but did little. Nonetheless, in the aftermath of Bucs coach Bruce Arians saying Jones would be his guy in the backfield even after the team signed Fournette, Jones is following up his coach’s devotion with production. Injuries have hampered the Bucs in the skill positions and Brady can’t do it all. Jones is quietly becoming a top back, not just in the status bestowed upon him by his coach, but with his performances and production. 

5) In a loss, the Bucs’ Jones-led running game was promising. In a win, the Bears’ rushing game was non-existent. David Montgomery scored a touchdown. It was the first rushing TD for these 2020 Bears. Just as was the case with Mitchell Trubisky, the pinnacles and pitfalls of the Chicago offense don’t rest squarely upon the QB’s. Montgomery had 29 yards on 10 carries (and seven catches for 30 yards) and the Bears had 35 yards on the ground as a team. Matt Nagy’s offense is best when it’s balanced. A win was had on Thursday, but this is hardly a winning formula. And while we’re on Nagy, it will likely be overlooked, but at the time, as Foles and the offense was driving for an eventual Cairo Santos game-winning field goal, a pass play was called. Rather than eat up more clock, Foles fired off an incompletion. Brady was given 1:13 to go out and win a game. He didn’t and the sports scribes will be kinder to Nagy in the aftermath, but it was a puzzling choice. Much like running the ball just 14 times.

6) The Bears have had a conundrum at quarterback and a stellar defense that garners attention. The Bucs have perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time and therefore a stellar defense that doesn’t garner all that much attention. Tampa tallied three sacks and the front seven was impressive in pressuring Foles and likely impacting Nagy’s lack of run calls. Lavonte David, Jason Pierre-Paul and the rest of the Tampa Bay defenders up front are overlooked, but nonetheless a driving force in whether these Bucs will be contenders at season’s end.

7) Kickers are often faceless entities in the NFL, known only for the fortune of their foot and cast away amid their troubled times. Ryan Succop, perhaps the most successful Mr. Irrelevant there has ever been, is one of many examples of that. He’s seen ups and downs and was picked up after the season’s start by the Bucs. He’s had misses and makes, more of the latter, so far with Tampa and on Thursday generated more points than a much-ballyhooed offense, perfectly converting all five of his kicks, including four field goals. His night will be overlooked, but it was clutch none the same. And, of course, there was Santos. Lost in the revelry of Brady-Foles, Brady’s four fingers and Mack’s monstrous ways, Santos calmly booted a 38-yard game-winner. Santos was the winner of one of the most public kicking competitions of all-time last season and had to battle for a spot this year, too. He made both his PATs and both his field goals, kicking the Bears to a win. Hall of Famers, Super Bowl MVPs and stellar defenses got together — and Santos decided it with his fortuitous foot. Long after the pomp, circumstance and head-scratching of a Double Doink-propelled competition, Santos is still kicking away in Chi-Town. For now, anyway. Such is the way of the lonely kicker.

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