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Bears

Arkush: Bears' young core takes big step

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) throws to a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) throws to a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

CHICAGO – There was a lot to be happy about for the Bears and their fans Sunday.

For about 55 minutes of its 27-24 overtime victory in Baltimore this Bears team played about as well as can be expected, and most of the ringleaders are young – or at least younger players.

Jordan Howard and Kyle Fuller were the best players on the field Sunday, and they were joined by Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Christian Jones, Adrian Amos, Josh Sitton, Kyle Long, Dion Sims, Zach Miller, Tarik Cohen and of course, Mitch Trubisky as the reasons the Bears came away with their second win of the season.

All but Long, Sitton and Miller are 27 years old or younger. Long is only 28, and among the youngsters, only Hicks and Trevathan are as old as 27.

This was the first sign of a developing young corps of talent Bears Nation has been waiting for, and there is more in the pipeline.

Their somewhat older coaches had a good day, too, as the offensive game plan was more than just one they could win with; it took advantage of their greatest strengths and put the kids in a position to win.

On defense, Vic Fangio again showed why he is among the best coordinators in the game. It was no coincidence that the players the Bears hope to build a top unit around had their best day, allowing only nine points and claiming three turnovers, including their first two interceptions of the season.

Now before the celebration gets out of hand, there are a few things to acknowledge.

The Baltimore Ravens have been bitten as badly as the Bears by the injury bug, if not worse, and this was the first time this season one could argue the Bears have been the more talented team on the football field.

I didn’t think there was another receiving group in the NFL as poor as the Bears. Then I saw the Ravens.

The Bears’ special teams were awful, allowing 15 points, which should never happen. A late punt returned for a touchdown by the Ravens forced the Bears to go to overtime to claim a win that comfortably should have been theirs in regulation.

But since the opportunities have been rare this season, and might be going forward as well, let’s focus on the positive for now.

Given the opportunity, Howard proved once again that he can be one of the best running backs in the game, if not the best.

More of a continuing surprise is Fuller, who was everywhere Sunday and the most dominant player on the field from either team.

In the final year of his rookie deal, Fuller has created a real dilemma for the Bears. Over the first six weeks, he has been their most productive and consistent defender, although many of us were surprised he still was with the team when it went to training camp, and most of us assumed he wouldn’t be when camp ended.

If the Bears don’t try to get him extended right now, they will run a real risk of losing him to free agency at the end of the year.

One step forward, two steps back?

Lastly there is the kid quarterback who took a huge step forward with a 94.0 passer rating, a big improvement from 5.1 yards a pass last week to 7.1 this week. While he lost another fumble, he didn’t come close to throwing an interception.

As much as many wish to ignore it, the fact that Trubisky came to Chicago having played only 13 games in college is a huge deal, and there is no question that baby steps – at least in the beginning – are the best way for him to develop.

He might not have made a huge leap Sunday in Baltimore, but he did walk like a man, and that was a big step forward over last week versus the Vikings.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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