What the Chicago Bears Can Prove With Win over Falcons
Since before training camp started Bears coach Matt Nagy has talked about establishing an offensive identity with their running game.
In two games it would appear they've done this, but what the Bears haven't made clear is their identity as a full team.
Are they a potential contender for a division title and the playoffs, or are they merely an average team benefiting from a few breaks, one headed eventually for disaster?
"We know what we're capable of if we do play four quarters, so that's gotta be the goal," quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. "That's the focus this whole week, how can we continue to stay locked in, aggressive and attack for all four quarters?"
They've won once with a comeback and a late break for the ages. They've won once by dominating early just enough to offset a late-game collapse.
So where does this put them?
"I think we're really close," safety Tashaun Gipson said. "I think that at the end of the day, that's what makes good teams great and that's what makes great teams the best, putting it together."
Gipson had to laugh about being a part of two so drastically different efforts.
"I've been playing (in the NFL) for eight years, this is the first time we've all been in a unique situation like this," Gipson said.
It even had Nagy perplexed this week when he had to explain where his team stood through two games.
"I would say we're just OK right now," Nagy said. "I think we expect a little better.
"But I'm not criticizing our players and our coaches. That's a part of being in the second week with no preseason. So we have high expectations. And we want to be better."
Going 3-0 might not stamp them as title contenders. Ask former coach Marc Trestman.
His Bears in 2013 took a 2-0 record into Pittsburgh of all places, and totally trashed the Steelers to go 3-0. All Hail Jay Cutler.
Then opponents realized they really had no defense whatsoever and a year later they had a new coach and general manager.
These Bears do know they have a capable defense with potential for greatness. They also think they see the sprouts of an offense popping up.
"We've been able to run the ball," wide receiver Allen Robinson said. "In the passing game, we've gotta be better. We've gotta make more tough catches, gotta run crisper routes.
"But we've been able to establish the run. So we're just trying to play off that, trying to execute a little better on third down and in the red zone."
Beat a team with a real offense like the Falcons have with Matt Ryan, Todd Gurley, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, and a defense with enough play makers to cause problems, and then the Bears will have a better idea who they can eventually be.
It will take more than a partial effort.
"We have to continue to execute," safety Eddie Jackson said. "We have to take it all the way til the clock hits zero."
If they do it, when the clock strikes zero they still may not know exactly who they really are, but they could head into Week 4 alone in first place in the NFC North anyway.