Bears

Bears offense fails with division at stake

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Bears offense fails with division at stake

Once again the Bears offense that spoke of itself all offseason and preseason as explosive is every bit of that -- except in the way that a firecracker is particularly explosive and destructive when it blows up in your own hand.

In another game in which the Bears scored exactly one touchdown, losing 21-13 to the Green Bay Packers, the offense has no one to blame but itself. The Bears netted 190 total yards, converted none of nine third-downs and did to itself whatever the Packers couldnt.

Center Roberto Garza killed a third-and-1 with a flinch on a snap that effectively ended a superb drive at the Green Bay 30 on the first drive. One possession later the offense netted nothing on a drive starting at the Chicago 48.

The offense even occasionally handed the Packers the dagger. The turning point was also an offensive disaster with Devin Hester and Jay Cutler combining for an interception on either a wrong route or wrong throw on a first-down play from the Chicago 37 in the second quarter. Cutler responded by throwing an apparent fit on the sidelines to take care of any remaining composure

The poor plays came from everywhere. Alshon Jeffery was flagged for a push-off on an apparent touchdown on a fourth-and-one. It was fourth-and-one because Matt Forte and the offensive line couldnt get the ball into the end zone from a start of first-and-goal from the Green Bay 5.

No position group was exempt from the follies.

QUARTERBACK D

The onus for the second-quarter interception that was a game-changer will be on Devin Hester but Jay Cutler may have made the mistake in throwing the ball to Green Bay rookie defensive back Casey Heyward. Exact responsibility is difficult to assign but the ball came out of Cutlers hand, as he himself said, and not every poor pass play is on the receivers.

Cutler finished with 12-of-21 passing for 135 yards, a TD (to Brandon Marshall) and the interception, for a passer rating of 72.5, actually a little better than his career mark (60.5) against the Packers. But he again contributed to sacks (four) by holding the ball too long into plays and failing to get throws to receivers on time.

RUNNING BACKS D

Matt Fortes failure to get into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter was anemic. He carried three times, the last two for no gain. Forte finished with 20 carries but for a mediocre 69 yards, 3.5 per carry, and that average was 2.5 without one 22-yard run.

Michael Bush was a curious no-show. He was limited in practice with lingering pain from a rib injury but if a player dresses, it is assumed he is ready to play. Or maybe the Bears just already had a full complement of inactives due to injuries.

Forte gave something to the passing game with five catches and a team-high 64 yards. But lack of consistent impact and not getting into the end zone on three tries from the five-yard line in is not elite.

RECEIVERS F

Devin Hester appeared to foul up a route in the second quarter, leading to an interception that turned the game. It was a two-man route and in any case, quarterback and receiver were not on the same page, to use the words of one of them.

Brandon Marshall caught six of the seven passes thrown to him in one of the few games where he was not the No.1 Jay Cutler target (Forte was). He accounted for the Bears one touchdown on a 15-yard catch behind good blocking by Hester to take out two defensive backs.

But the story of the game became Alshon Jeffery, who caught none of the four passes thrown (not always accurately) to him. Jeffery was called three times for pass interference after he himself committed a face-mask grab on cornerback Sam Shield with Shields inexplicably drawing the penalty.

One of Jefferys infractions cost the Bears a touchdown. The last cost them a 36-yard completion to the Green Bay 20 late in the fourth quarter on what was a potential drive for a tying score. Jeffery said afterwards that he needed to see the film of the game to assess what was happening, which says that he needs to work on in-game analysis quite a bit if he wants to solve problems at the time when they matter most.

OFFENSIVE LINE F

The inability to punch in for a score in the third quarter was not all on Matt Forte by any means. The offensive line started the game strong with a solid opening drive running the ball but was thwarted by Green Bay adjustments almost immediately.

James Brown remained as the starter at left guard over Chris Spencer and handled himself well in the first quarter before being beaten on a stunt for a sack in the second. Spencer then replaced Gabe Carimi after Carimi committed a holding penalty to nullify a Matt Forte run late in the first quarter.

Roberto Garzas flinch on a third-and-one was a major setback in a game where the Bears could not afford many. Or any.

Brown was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Edwin Williams for making too many mistakes. Carimis mistakes got him benched although he said afterwards that the plan was to rotate with Spencer; that appeared to be news to Spencer.

Green Bay had four sacks, of which some were Cutlers fault for failing to get the ball off. But at least two were directly on the protection. Where the Bears turn now for a starting five is an unsolved question.

COACHING F

The plan to attack Green Bay with the run worked early as the Bears controlled the line of scrimmage. The Bears had opportunities and simply did not execute on those.

But the rash of game-changing penalties is laid at the feet of the coaching staff. Those were occurring in every area, from Cutler taking delay penalties or time outs because plays were slow coming in; Jeffery was pushing off over and over; or the line was committing penalties and mistakes that had coaches scrambling for answers.

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

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USA TODAY

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

I’ve always placed great stock in the drama tenet, “Action is character.” What an actor/person does in significant part defines their character, or lack of same.

Conversely, in some situations, what someone doesn’t do can be equally defining or revealing. A couple of those involving the Bears are worth noting, because they suggest things about John Fox and and his staff, and perhaps a bit of what players think of them.

Nothing stunning, just a case of when you pull the camera back for a little wider angle, a broader picture forms out of seemingly separate or isolated incidents. Fox has never lost his teams through three generally miserable seasons, those teams consistently played hard through bad times. A handful of specific situations offer some insight into perhaps why:

The Cohen conundrum

Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains came in for scalding criticism for their recent seeming under-utilization of running back Tarik Cohen. The closest either came to laying out the real reason was a reference to concerns about the rookie’s pass-protection capabilities, no small issue against Green Bay and coordinator Dom Capers’ blitz proclivities; coaches want to see Mitch Trubisky wearing a Bears uniform, not Clay Matthews.

Cohen may be the Bears’ leading receiver, but if a back can’t present the viable option of pass protection, the offense is limited even more than it already is anyway with a rookie quarterback.

Come forward a week: Overlooked in the aftermath of the loss to Detroit, in which Cohen was not part of the hurry-up offense driving for a winning or tying score, was the fact that Cohen simply didn’t know the plays well enough in that situation. Fox didn’t say so. Neither did Loggains.

Cohen did.

Asked afterwards what he wasn’t solid with, Cohen owned it: "Probably the hurry-up plays at those positions. I know certain plays at those positions, but to open up the whole playbook with me, I’ll have to learn all of those plays.”

Should he have been up to a faster speed in week 10? That’s another discussion. But like it or not, his coaches were not going to be the ones to out him.

The Howard hassle

Jordan Howard finished 2016 second to only Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott in rushing yardage. He began the year inactive for game one and lightly used in games two and three. The reason Loggains gave from the podium was that coaches didn’t really know what they had in Howard.

Yes. They did. But Loggains didn’t cite Howard for not being in shape to carry the load the offense needed. Neither did Fox.

Howard did.

“I should’ve been in better shape,” Howard said at the outset of training camp last July. “I should’ve been playing earlier if I would’ve handled what I had to do.”

Some very effective coaches have used public embarrassment for motivation; Mike Ditka assessed that he wasn’t sure Donnell Woolford could cover anybody, and Buddy Ryan summarized that “No. 55 [Otis Wilson] killed us,” for instance.

Fox and his staff don’t do that and they’ve have taken the heat for their players, which does frustrate those tasked with accurately reporting sometimes hard information.

Medical restraint

Fox’s tenure has been awash in major injuries to pivotal players. He has made points in his locker room by shielding those players and their issues whether outsiders like it or not.

That started back with Kevin White and the infamous stress fracture that Fox was accused of knowing about and lying that he didn’t. The real situation was that medical opinions (and the Bears had gotten a bunch) were divided to the point where the Bears opted against surgery until it was conclusive that the shadow on an x-ray was indeed a fracture. Fox refused to call the injury a stress fracture with the doctors so divided, and he was pilloried for it. But not in his locker room.

The organization very much needed Pro Bowl lineman Kyle Long this season for an offense that certainly wasn’t going to live on the arm of Mike Glennon. Long was testy and combative during training camp, and “honestly I’ve been champing at the bit to get back,” he conceded, “but they’ve done a good job of pulling the reins a little bit and making sure that I understand that it’s a long season.”

Small things, not necessarily connected, but as Fox’s third season winds down, what his team shows will factor into decisions on his future. The Bears right now, after the Green Bay and Detroit losses effectively ended the “hope” part of their season, are entering that dreary phase of a year when effort will be critiqued as critically as performance.

The on-field results now will say something about character, Fox’s own and the collective one he has worked to instill since January 2015.

How to watch and/or stream the IHSA football state finals this weekend

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How to watch and/or stream the IHSA football state finals this weekend

It's Thanksgiving weekend, which among other things, means the IHSA football state finals are taking place.

NBC Sports Chicago has live coverage of the finals of all eight classes and is streaming every telecast, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, to be made available to authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app.

Check out the action taking place in Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday with the Class 1A final and concluding Saturday night with the Class 8A final and a special recap edition of High School Lites following the final game. Highlights from each of the games will be available on our website throughout the weekend.

The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago is also available on numerous digital streaming services including DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, fuboTV, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV.  For a full list of carriers and more information about NBC Sports Chicago’s live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit nbcsportschicago.com/live-faq.

Here is the full schedule for the weekend's games and broadcast coverage:

Friday, November 24

LIVE NOW: Class 1A: LENA-WINSLOW (Lena) [13-0] vs. TUSCOLA [13-0]

1:00 PM – Class 2A: GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY (Gibson City) [13-0] vs. MAROA-FORSYTH (Maroa) [12-1]

4:00 PM – Class 3A: IC CATHOLIC (Elmhurst) [12-1] vs. PLEASANT PLAINS [10-3]

7:00 PM – Class 4A: MORRIS [11-2] vs. ROCHESTER [13-0] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

Saturday, November 25

10:00 AM – Class 5A: PHILLIPS (Chicago) [13-0] vs. DUNLAP [13-0]

1:00 PM – Class 6A: PRAIRIE RIDGE (Crystal Lake) [13-0] vs. NAZARETH ACADEMY (LaGrange Park) [12-1]

4:00 PM – Class 7A: BATAVIA [12-1] vs. LAKE ZURICH [13-0] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

7:00 PM – Class 8A: LINCOLN-WAY East (Frankfort) [13-0] vs. LOYOLA ACADEMY (Wilmette) [12-1] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

Further information is available at this link. Edgy Tim previewed each of the eight games here and has players to watch for the weekend.