Bears grades: How much of Sunday's loss to San Francisco is on the coaching staff?

Bears grades: How much of Sunday's loss to San Francisco is on the coaching staff?


Mitchell Trubisky’s 117.2 rating was a career high, and he showed good timing and accuracy when he threw the ball, especially on slants. But he only attempted 15 passes and threw for 102 yards, and fumbled twice in the span of three snaps. His longest pass traveling about 15 yards past the line of scrimmage — which was his eight-yard touchdown to Dontrelle Inman in the back of the end zone. Perhaps this was a function more of an ultra-conservative gameplan and less on his decision-making, but when presented with a free play due to an offsides 49ers defender, Trubisky didn’t suck the ball downfield and take a shot at the end zone. 


Jordan Howard, with 38 yards on 13 carries, struggled to make an impact against a 49ers defense that entered Sunday allowing 123.9 rushing yards per game. Only 30 percent of Howard’s runs came against a loaded box, though, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. The Bears needed Howard to carry the offensive load on Sunday, and he wasn’t able to do that. Saving this grade from an F, though, is Tarik Cohen, who caught all four of his targets for 39 yards but still was under-utilized, only playing 43.2 percent of the Bears’ offensive snaps (which is still his third-highest percentage of the 2017 season). 


Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright each caught both of their targets, combining for 46 yards and a touchdown, but the lack of production from this group was once again noticeable. 


Dion Sims struggled as a run blocker — had he executed his block on a Cohen run in the first quarter, it very well could’ve led to a 56-yard touchdown; instead, it was a one-yard gain. Sims also dropped one of the two passes thrown his way. Adam Shaheen played nine snaps (24.9 percent) and has combined to be on the field for 26 offensive plays after turning in his most productive game as a pro Nov. 19 against the Detroit Lions. 


Trubisky was largely kept upright and unbothered by the Bears’ offensive line, with the 49ers managing two sacks and two pressures on 19 drop-backs. But the Bears’ run blocking was uneven and didn’t do many favors for Howard, and Charles Leno’s holding penalty negated what would’ve been a 25-yard pass to Cohen that would’ve given the Bears the ball at midfield early in the second quarter. 


Akiem Hicks had two pressures and was solid against the run, as usual. But this group didn’t contribute to the meager pressure put on Jimmy Garoppolo (five hurries, two sacks), who was able to pick apart the Bears’ defense from a largely clean pocket. Roy Robertson-Harris’ unnecessary roughness penalty, when he hit Garoppolo going out of bounds, could’ve hurt more had the 49ers not settled for one of their five field goals a few plays later in the first quarter. 


Danny Trevathan’s return not only brought 11 tackles and one TFL, but it elevated the play of Christian Jones, who had a productive day with 13 tackles, one sack, one hurry and two TFLs. Nick Kwiatkoski dropped Carlos Hyde for a loss of seven, and Lamarr Houston returned to Chicago with a sack, hurry and TFL. But the lack of a consistent edge rushing presence from this group continues to hurt the Bears’ defense, and the lack of pressure on Garoppolo falls even more on this unit’s shoulders than the defensive line’s.


This grade is not indicative of the play of Kyle Fuller, who had an excellent game with six tackles, one TFL, two pass break-ups and his first interception since 2015, which came when he ripped the ball away from 49ers wide receiver Louis Murphy. The rest of the Bears’ secondary struggled, though, with Garoppolo finding it easy to attack the middle of the field against first-time safety pairing Eddie Jackson and Chris Prosinski (Adrian Amos, out with a hamstring injury, was missed). 


Tarik Cohen’s 61-yard punt return touchdown — on which he ran 127 yards, according to the CBS television broadcast — was the most exciting play by a Bears player in a long time. That it came against a 49ers punt coverage team that had allowed only 2.5 yards per return entering Sunday makes his twisting, winding run even more impressive. Cohen nearly broke another explosive return in the fourth quarter, but his 67 yard return was called back due to an illegal block above the waist penalty on Ben Braunecker. 


John Fox’s conservative approach to Sunday’s game wasn’t surprising, but should be highlighted for a three-win team with, seemingly, nothing to lose. The Bears had a fourth-and-1 at their own 34-yard line early in the second quarter and punted; what would’ve been the harm in seeing if Trubisky and the offense could convert that? Granted, the offense didn’t show a whole lot to instill confidence outside of one drive, but the gameplan for it seemed conservative, too. Fox’s reasoning for not allowing the 49ers to score with about 100 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter won’t instill much confidence in the Bears’ offense, either: Fox said he felt good about the team’s ability to block Robbie Gould’s game-winning chip-shot. Following that logic, Fox felt better about his team’s ability to block a field goal — which they’ve done once in 54 field goal/PAT attempts this year — than Trubisky’s ability to drive for a chance to win the game. Also worth questioning: Why was Shaheen only on the field for nine of 37 offensive snaps, and why did Prosinski play over the recently-activated Deiondre’ Hall at safety?

Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?


Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?

Not all that long ago, back in the seemingly promising Dave Wannstedt days, something of an annual narrative began around the Bears. All too frequently since then it has been the refrain of more offseasons than not, including last year’s. And if there is a cause for very, very sobering realism in the wake of the heady wave of free-agency signings in the first days of the new league year, it lies in what has so often transpired to put the lie to that optimism.

The mantra then, and now, has been various iterations of, “If these three (or four, or six, or 12) things work out, the Bears are gonna be good this year.” Because the reality is that all those what-ifs seldom, if ever, all come to pass, whether because of injury, mis-evaluated abilities or whatever.

Look no further than this time last offseason, just considering the offense:

If Kevin White can come back from (another) injury, if Markus Wheaton flashes his Pittsburgh speed, if Dion Sims takes that next step from a promising Miami stint, if Kyle Long is back from his lower-body issues, if Cameron Meredith comes close to those 66 catches again, if Mike Glennon has the upside that led the GM to guarantee him $18.5 million, and hey, Victor Cruz, too, if… and so on.

And exactly zero of those “if’s” came to pass, with the result that John Fox and Dowell Loggains became idiots.

The point is not to a picker of nit or sayer of nay. But the fact is that a lot of the offseason moves and player development ALL need to come down in the plus-column for the Bears to be even as good as they were back in, say, 2015, when the offense had Martellus Bennett at tight end, Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver, Eddie Royal coming in at slot receiver (with 37 catches in an injury-shortened season), Kyle Long at his Pro-Bowl best, and Jay Cutler about to have the best full season of his career. And a new (proven) head coach and defensive coordinator, and an offensive coordinator with head-coaching talent.

All those things “worked” for a team that would wobble to a 6-10 year.

Now consider 2018:

The current top two wide receivers are both – both – coming off season-ending ACL injuries;

The incoming slot receiver has never had a season as reception-productive as the one (Kendall Wright) he is replacing (59) or as many as Royal had in just nine 2015 games (37);

The new tight end has never been a starter and has fewer career catches (63) than Bennett averaged (69) in three supremely disappointing Bears seasons;

The best offensive lineman (Long) is coming off missing essentially half of each of the past two seasons with injuries, and the co-best (Sitton) is gone from an offensive line that was middle of the pack last year and has high hopes for two linemen (Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kush) who’ve been largely backups, and a third (Jordan Morgan) who missed his rookie season with an injury;

And the quarterback (Trubisky) upon whom the franchise rests, who needs to overcome any so-called sophomore jinx and improve from a rookie level (77.8 passer rating) that was barely better than Cutler’s worst NFL season (76.8).

All of which sounds negative, but it really isn’t, just a perspective. Offseasons are about hope, but realism isn’t all bad, either.

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

USA Today

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

When the Bears signed Trey Burton to a four-year contract worth a reported $32 million (with $18 million of it guaranteed), the natural thought was this: So long, Dion Sims. But the Bears are all but certainly going to hang on to the 27-year-old tight end after his $4 million roster bonus became fully guaranteed on Friday, barring a trade. 

“We like Dion Sims, a well-rounded tight end,” general manager Ryan Pace said on Thursday. “We’re excited we got him.”

Cynically — or, perhaps, fairly — Pace’s comments could’ve been interpreted as part of a play to trade Sims, who signed a three-year contract in 2017. The Bears saw Sims as a strong run blocker with pass-catching upside, but still gave themselves an out after one year that would’ve netted $5.666 million in cap savings. 

Sims didn’t show any of that receiving upside last year, though, catching 15 of 29 targets (51 percent) for 180 yards with one touchdown. Crucially, the Bears have the cap space to keep Sims, even with the flurry of signings they’ve announced this week -- and Kyle Fuller's reported four-year, $56 million extension -- and contract extensions looming for Eddie Goldman and possibly Adrian Amos, too. 

So hanging on to Sims means the Bears value his contributions as a run blocker and are willing to shoulder a $6.3 million cap hit for him to primarily be used in that role. The Bears expect Shaheen to be their primary in-line tight end, with Burton and Daniel Brown, who signed a one-year contract Friday, the more pass-catching-oriented “move” guys in Matt Nagy’s offense. But Sims will still have a role as the Bears look to maximize their production from the tight end position. 

“I think we can use all our tight ends,” Pace said. “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”