Even though we knew the Chicago Bears’ season wasn’t going to be defined by a play in Week 1, the image of Kyle Fuller dropping an interception that would have beaten the Green Bay Packers on opening night is still burned in our brains eight weeks later.
We had an inkling that the 2018 Bears wouldn’t ultimately be judged by what happened in that season-opening loss to Green Bay. Instead, we knew that the story of Matt Nagy’s first season in Chicago would be told by how the team responded from adversity like that. And I’m not sure a player embodies that spirit more than cornerback Kyle Fuller.
Fuller’s third-quarter interception of Nathan Peterman was his fourth of the year, which put him in a tie with Washington’s D.J. Swearinger, Atlanta’s Damontae Kazee, and Carolina’s Donte Jackson for the league lead. That’s good company for Fuller, whose 89.3 grade from Pro Football Focus ranks him as the site’s fourth highest-graded cornerback.
I suppose racking up four interceptions in your last four games will certainly boost your profile, so let’s take a moment to re-live the awesomeness that was Fuller’s interception against Buffalo in what was a lopsided 41-9 win for Chicago:
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) November 4, 2018
This is truly poetry in motion for Fuller. On this play, Fuller had leverage in his coverage and did what he does best and essentially ran Kelvin Benjamin’s route for him. And on this occasion, Fuller’s skills led directly to an interception. Beyond jumping the route, watch how Fuller reacts to make the play on the ball, uses his hands like a receiver, and controls his body to get up into a position to return it. It’s an all-around impressive play by Fuller, who deserves a gold star for his efforts.
For many, Fuller making a play like this was a surprise. Especially for those who still have that Week 1 drop of what was a layup of an interception still stuck in their head. But as far as I’m concerned, this was a long-time coming for Fuller.
After a season in which he racked up 22 passes defended and came away with just two interceptions, Fuller was often seen at training camp working on his craft. Between his work in practice, individual drills, and with the JUGS machine, Fuller put in the necessary work in the offseason to improve a weakness in his game. It was only a matter of time before that hard work manifested itself into a game situation. That Fuller has four interceptions in his last four games is a sign that you can always improve as a player, even in your fifth year as a pro at age 26.
Sunday’s interception tied a career best for Fuller, but there is still work to be done with eight games to go in the regular season. At this rate, Fuller is on pace for an eight-interception season that would represent the best showing by a Bears defensive back since 2012 when Tim Jennings came away with nine picks. If Fuller keeps getting challenged and continues to show that his offseason work has paid off, then seeing him get to 10 interceptions before the season ends isn’t out of the question. Who would’ve seen that coming after Week 1?
The more the Bears win, the less I think about that loss at Green Bay because the team seems to have used that defeat as a teaching and jump-off point for improvement. So while it wasn’t the type of first impression we hoped to see from Fuller, that moment can now be presented as a minor setback that set up a major bounce back. And since there are eight more weeks left to play in the regular season, there is still more time for Fuller to author some more game-changing moments where he is the playmaker with the ball in his hands at the end of a play.