Bears

A 'bad' offense finds ways to lose

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A 'bad' offense finds ways to lose

The offense started in a huge hole, partly its own making, and finished with perhaps the most meaningless 438 yards in recent memory. The output was the second-highest of the season; the 41 percent third-down conversions was strong; but the 14 points were the ultimate point and the Bears found ways to undo almost every bit of good they did.

It is now officially a bad offense, which is one where players take turns failing to execute. The shuffle on the offensive line may be a problem, for example, but the reason for most of the shuffling is because of poor performance, which is far from restricted to those five positions, either.

QUARTERBACK D

Jay Cutler had devastating accuracy issues that led to lost opportunities and Minnesota points. He finished with 22 of 44 for 260 yards and a touchdown, but in a game that needed the quarterback to make plays, he failed to in too many situations while the Vikings were being credited with just four quarterback hits for the game.

Two interceptions of Cutler were the difference in the game, both contributing to touchdowns for the Vikings. The first, on the Bears first possession, was not all his fault after Alshon Jeffery went down. But his overthrow of Marshall in the third quarter was a turning point when it was intercepted and returned 56 yards for a touchdown by rookie safety Harrison Smith.

Cutler forced too many throws to Marshall in coverage but the other options werent inspiring trust and he occasionally held the football too long, although receivers were at some fault for that. Cutler skipped a ball to a wide-open Devin Hester in the second quarter for a missed big gainer.

Jason Campbell was in at mop-up time after Cutler appeared dazed from a blow to the head and other hits.

RUNNING BACK B

Matt Forte was against a stout front but provided a solid all-around game. He finished with 85 rushing yards on 13 carries, including a run for 36 yards in the third quarter and had a 15-yard run for a second-quarter first down for a contribution on the scoring drive.

Forte also caught six of seven passes thrown to him for an additional 34 yards. Michael Bush and Armando Allen were used on just one carry each, Bush for six yards and Allen for three.

Forte also was active in pass protection, delivering frequent chips on his way out of the backfield and into his routes.

RECEIVERS AF

Brandon Marshall (the "A") was virtually the only offense in the first half when the game was getting away from the Bears. Marshall, who finished with 10 catches, 160 yards and a touchdown, got the Bears out of a huge hole in the second quarter with a 39-yard back-shoulder grab against double coverage.

Marshalls touchdown catch in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter brought the Bears back to near-life with a chance to recover an onsides kick and go for a tie.

After Marshall, however

Alshon Jeffery signaled his return from a second injury stint with a 22-yard TD catch with 1:52 in the first half, which was a major play at the moment.

But his slipping down contributed to a crushing interception on the Bears first series that set up Minnesotas second touchdown. Jeffery had a chance for a third-quarter TD on a broken play but failed to make the catch in the end zone.

Devin Hester dropped a touchdown pass at the Minnesota 13 with under five minutes to play and a chance to pull the Bears to within one score. The Bears still scored but needed several more plays to do that at a time when they didnt have time.

Tight end Kellen Davis was overthrown on several occasions but also failed to make catches in some crucial situations.

OFFENSIVE LINE D

The protection of Jay Cutler was spotty, not all the OLs fault. But the Bears were never able to gain consistent control at the point of attack on the running game. That part of the offense may have averaged 6.6 yards per carry (including quarterback scrambles) but never had any control of the game the way it did in the Vikings game two weeks ago.

The line had penalties assessed on four of the five positions JMarcus Webb cost the Bears with a holding penalty in the second quarter that was a net minus-20 yards by wiping out a big completion to Marshall. Roberto Garza was beaten for a sack on the next play and a promising drive was stopped. Gabe Carimi was flagged for a false start on a first-down play and Brown had a holding penalty of his own.

Left guard Edwin Williams was benched in favor of rookie undrafted free agent James Brown in the first half.

The Vikings swarmed around Cutler at times but the quarterback and receivers were frequently the reason as plays went on too long with the football still in Cutlers hands.

COACHING D-

The run game was marginally effective and coaches managed to use the run enough even with a 14-point deficit through most of the first quarter. But the final tally of 55 passing plays vs. 18 running plays (three by quarterbacks) was a recipe for disaster and with Cutlers accuracy problems, disaster happened.

The lack of discipline on the offensive line (four penalties) was a concern and is inexcusable in the 14th week of a season.

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

View from the Moon: Bears 'siestas' continue, leaving progress difficult to find, but it’s there ... somewhat

Consider this a connect-the-dots exercise, with the end game being to figure out what the overall picture is. Because the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions was many things, a couple actually very good, but too many of them kinda-to-very bad...

The overarching point of the 2017 season, per senior Bears management, is progress. Not just on the part of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had a fourth solid performance in six NFL starts; but on the Bears as a whole. A week after showing anything but, the Bears showed something that could masquerade as progress.

How real is it? The Bears in the past eight days have given few reasons to trust it.

Because while coming close against a respectable Lions (6-4) team counts for something, the Bears are still 3-7 at the end of the day and 3-13 under John Fox against the NFC North – a division winning percentage of .188, which would be lower than that of the Marc Trestman Bears (.250), who managed to win their three NFC North games in two seasons vs. Fox’s three.

As concerning perhaps, the loss left the Bears 3-9 under Fox in games decided by three or fewer points, the hallmark of what simplistically can be ID’d as “losing” teams.

“We’ve had a lot of close games, and it’s just finding a way to close those out,” Trubisky said. “We’re going to work towards that, and figure it out for sure.”

What makes “progress” difficult to see, though, is that the Bears do not play like a team either coached to be or with the proven ability to play at a professional level all the time. Teams with that problem typically make coaching changes at the ends of seasons, since the conclusion usually is that the talent can be there, just that the coach in hand, fair or not, can’t get it out of the roster.

“We’ve shown spurts and moments, like we have for some time now,” Fox summarized. “But we have lulls. We have siestas. We just don’t do it for 60 minutes. ... People have ups and downs. Well, we’re in a stage as a football team where we have those moments in games. We have to do a better job of coaching it and we have to do a better job of executing it in games.”

The Green Bay Packers were one kind of measuring standard last week, and the 3-7 Bears were embarrassed against a foundering team that had been soundly beaten by the Lions the week before the Bears faced them, and buried 23-0 at home Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Lions were a different kind of quiz, a real offense putting up more than 27 points per game. The Bears allowed the Lions their requisite 27 points (seven of those coming on a touchdown return of a Trubisky fumble), but put up nearly 400 yards and 24 points of their own in a game that ended on a Connor Barth missed field goal from 46 yards, Barth’s fifth miss in 11 attempts from beyond 40 yards.

(Barth’s miss may have been particularly bitter for Fox, after watching Detroit’s Matt Prater win the game from 52 yards – the same Matt Prater who kicked for Fox in Denver in 2011 when Fox’s Broncos beat the Bears in the Marion Barber Game with Prater field goals from 59 yards to tie with 3 seconds left, and from 51 yards to win in OT.)

“All these games in the NFL – they’re hard games – but when you have a game like this that you should win, you just have to win those games,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright. “I think with us, when we win one of those close games, it will help us get over the edge and we’ll start stacking them up on top of each other.”

Then again...

The Bears seemed to lose their compass in the third quarter, with one rushing yard on four attempts. But they finished with 222 yards and the way they amassed them mattered: 125 and a touchdown for Jordan Howard; 53 for Trubisky, a number of them on designed runs; and 44 plus a TD for Tarik Cohen – all combining to average 7.4 yards per carry.

Bigger picture, the Bears were in the position of having at least a chance to tie because Trubisky managed to drive the Bears 55 yards in the final 1:32 from the Chicago 17 to the Detroit 28. This would constitute something shiny lying there in the mud, and make no mistake: This is a big deal.

To put Trubisky in some kind of context: Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, the fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills, replaced Tyrod Taylor in the Bills starting lineup Sunday, against a Los Angeles Chargers defense allowing opponents to complete more than 64 percent of their passes. Peterman completed 11 of 14 in the first half, about 79 percent. But – five of the Peterman “completions” were to Chargers.

DeShone Kizer has been in and out and back in the starting lineup for the Cleveland Browns, suffering through a rookie season with one of the worst teams arguably in NFL history. But – Kizer, with 12 interceptions vs. four TD passes, is one of the reasons the Browns are in various “worst ever” discussions.

Trubisky threw 30 passes without an interception on Sunday, and 65 without a pick over his past two games. He’s thrown 145 NFL passes with just two interceptions, an INT rate of 1.4 percent that ranks ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan and a list of others. Critics of his development can have their points, but the kid has learned ball security at an early NFL age even while averaging 32.4 pass plays per game.

The next step is getting his team over the top, because he is still completing just 53.1 percent of his passes and was missed badly on a number of throws on Sunday. His deft TD pass to tight end Adam Shaheen in the first half was NFL-perfect (where his guy or nobody catches it), but his throw low and behind running back Benny Cunningham at the goal line in the first quarter forced the Bears to settle for a field goal in a game decided ultimately by three points.

Trubisky clearly gets the big picture, too, pointing the thumb and not any fingers. He paused before answering a question about his rookie learning curve:

“I think adversity is a great teacher,” he said. “Overcoming the struggle is a great teacher. There’s no rookie excuse. You don’t get a freebie because you’re a rookie.

“My teammates trust me and they have confidence in me, so I’m preparing as I should. Coaches have me prepared and my teammates have my back. New situations are going to arise every time, but there are no excuses. I’m just looking at these opportunities as chances to overcome, and not dwell on it.”

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Alex Brown goes off on Connor Barth

On the latest Under Center Podcast, Laurence Holmes, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down the Bears loss to the Lions on Sunday following Conner Barth’s missed field goal in the last seconds of the game and debate whether or not Tarik Cohen should be a part of the Bears two-minute offensive packages.

Plus, if the Bears hope to keep Vic Fangio past 2017, does he need to finish out the season as the Bears interim head coach?

Listen to the full Under Center Podcast right here: