Bears

Can Tanner Gentry and/or Tre McBride be a diamond in the rough for the Bears?

Can Tanner Gentry and/or Tre McBride be a diamond in the rough for the Bears?

The most obvious change the Bears could make after a 1-3 September was playing Mitchell Trubisky instead of Mike Glennon, but that wasn’t the only performance-based swap available to this coaching staff. Tre McBride played 43 snaps on Monday against the Minnesota Vikings, while Josh Bellamy played only seven offensive snaps after averaging 36.75 in the Bears’ first four games. 

And on Tuesday, Deonte Thompson was released and Tanner Gentry was promoted from the practice squad. With Markus Wheaton (groin) out for at least Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, Gentry should be in line for a bigger opportunity than he had in Week 2, when he received largely garbage time snaps in that blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

“Coach Fox always says this: He says, ’If it’s not broke, don’t mess with it.’ If it’s not going the right way, let’s try something else,’” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “We’re not ecstatic where we’re at right now in the passing game. I know it’s getting better and better each week. It’ll continue to get better as we built some continuity with Mitch and some of these new receivers.” 

The Bears’ receivers need to better help Trubisky, and Gentry and McBride likely can’t be much worse than the rest of a group that’s combined for 45 receptions on 75 targets for 494 yards and two touchdowns (of that total, Kendall Wright has 18 receptions, 23 targets, 200 yards and one touchdown). 

While Gentry and Trubisky showed a strong rapport during training camp, it’d be unfair to expect the undrafted rookie from Wyoming to go from being waived twice (and not picked up by another team) to being a go-to target for the rookie quarterback. Gentry's ball skills and instincts, though, are good assets for Trubisky to have at his disposal. 

“I guess my mindset every day is just give them a reason to keep me around,” Gentry said. “Make a play, whether that’s a block, special teams, a big catch — whatever that is, do something positive so that when they see the film they can see that and basically give them a reason to yeah, keep me around, and that’s it.” 

McBride flashed a bit on Monday night, with an 18-yard reception and what would’ve been a big-time 26-yard catch had Cody Whitehair’s holding penalty not called it back. Prior to the Vikings game, McBride played all of two snaps against the Buccaneers, which were his only offensive snaps since the end of the 2015 season. 

“This game has its obstacles, but that’s what they pay us for,” McBride said. “They pay us to come in and adapt and to make plays happen when they call our name, no questions asked. So that’s what I’m trying to do and that’s what we’re all trying to do.” 

Ideally, the Bears would’ve been able to play Gentry and/or McBride because they forced their way into the mix through continued competition from training camp into the regular season. But injuries to Cameron Meredith, Kevin White and now Wheaton (who only had one catch on nine targets) forced the Bears to get creative with their receiving corps. 

Perhaps the Bears unearth a hidden gem in Gentry and/or McBride. Perhaps they don’t. But it’s certainly worth giving them both a shot at this point in the season. 

After Connor Barth's crunch-time miss, will Bears move on from veteran kicker?

After Connor Barth's crunch-time miss, will Bears move on from veteran kicker?

Sometimes the kick just doesn’t go through the uprights.

But that’s likely not going to be a satisfying conclusion for seething Bears fans.

Connor Barth’s latest bout of inaccuracy was in too high-leverage a moment for anyone to excuse, the Bears’ kicker pushing a game-tying field-goal try wide, wide right in the waning seconds of Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the visiting Detroit Lions.

The miss stung, no doubt about it, especially after Mitch Trubisky led the offense down the field on an impressive two-minute drill that featured the rookie quarterback converting a fourth and 13 with a weaving scramble that is sure to be on No. 10’s highlight reel for years to come. With the youngster putting his team in position to advance to overtime, it was up to the veteran leg — and the veteran leg missed. Bears lose.

Barth, to his credit, had the right attitude after the game, explaining that sometimes you just don’t make the kick. Not everyone can be Adam Vinatieri, right?

“I think I hit the ground a little bit and didn’t make good contact. Tough one,” Barth said. “You never want to miss. I’ve been a positive guy. This one kick’s not going to define me.

“It’s a team game. Everyone makes mistakes. Of course I want that one back, but at the end of the day, it happened. You move on. I’ll take it, it’s on me.”

But here’s the thing. This is far from the first time this has happened.

In his second season with the Bears, Barth has missed 10 field-goal tries in 26 games. He’s 11-for-16 so far in 2017 after going 18-for-23 a year ago.

Add to that the way in which Barth got the job in the first place — benefitting from the ouster of longtime kicker Robbie Gould — and a large number of fans have always seemed ready to run Barth out of town on a rail.

It’s important to note to those sharpening their pitchforks, however, that Gould matched a career worst with six missed kicks in 2015, his last year with the Bears. Since leaving the Bears, Gould has made 29 of his 31 field-goal attempts with the New York Giants (2016) and San Francisco 49ers (2017).

But fans pining for a return to those Gould-en days aren’t the only ones who have put the heat on Barth in recent weeks. Andy Phillips, a kicker the Bears had in training camp, sent out a eye-popping tweet after Barth missed a field-goal try in last month’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.

So now more than ever — with Barth’s his field-goal percentage dropping lower thanks to a critical missed kick — the question looms: Is this it for Barth in a Bears uniform?

Head coach John Fox didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement of his kicker following Sunday’s defeat.

“It’s like everything. We are a production-based business. That’s what we get paid to do, whether it is winning games as a head coach or whether it’s making kicks as a kicker. We will evaluate it,” Fox said. “Like I said, every time we go out there, we will do everything we can to put the best team we can out there.”

Of course, it’s easy to rush to judgments when an athlete screws up with the game on the line. The situation magnifies the mistake, whether it be a closer blowing a save, a free-throw shooter coming up empty at the foul line or a kicker missing a potential game-tying field goal with eight seconds left on the clock.

But for Barth, the more worrying part of this whole thing is the trend. Ten missed kicks in 26 games.

Missing might be part of the job, and fans should understand that. But miss a lot, and there might be no more job at all.

“That’s just the way it is. I signed up for this,” Barth said. “You’re going to make some, going to miss some. That’s the way it goes.”

Promising start turns ugly as Bears drop another one to an NFC North rival

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USA TODAY

Promising start turns ugly as Bears drop another one to an NFC North rival

Oh, it all started so promising.

The Bears looked like a well-oiled machine early Sunday, looking like the kind of team bouncing back from a gut-wrenching loss to the Green Bay Packers a week prior. But with another NFC North rival in town, this time the Detroit Lions, things turned ugly in a hurry — and the result ended up the same.

The Bears lost for the seventh time in 10 games this season, falling to the Lions by a 27-24 score on the shores of Lake Michigan.

An offense that has struggled to put points on the board much of the year — and couldn’t match a Packers offense led by backup quarterback Brett Hundley last weekend — started strong, with three scoring drives in its first four possessions. Mitch Trubisky led scoring drives of 70, 55 and 73 yards, producing 17 points and had the Bears ahead by 10 midway through the second quarter.

The lone Lions points came after a rare miscue by the offense in the opening 20-plus minutes when Trubisky fumbled a snap, only for D.J. Hayden to run it back 27 yards for a touchdown. But still, the Bears looked the superior team on both sides of the ball.

It was then, though, that Matt Stafford flipped a switch and started picking apart the Bears’ defense. Backed up at his own nine-yard line after an offensive pass-interference penalty, Stafford marched the Lions down the field, rattling off completions of 17, 40 and 28 yards, the last a touchdown pass that took advantage of a badly burned Marcus Cooper.

Stafford then led a 73-yard touchdown drive, once again picking apart the Bears’ secondary and giving his Lions a lead right before the half, a sudden turn of events considering the Bears had a double-digit lead not long before.

After an uneventful third quarter, the Bears tied the game with five minutes remaining on a stellar touchdown run by Tarik Cohen. But Stafford marched the Lions right down the field immediately afterward, and the Lions cashed in with a 52-yard go-ahead field goal.

Trubisky led the Bears downfield and put them in position for a game-tying field goal, but Connor Barth’s attempt was way off the mark, sending the Bears to another upsetting defeat.

Tarik Cohen gets back in the game

After earning much social-media scorn the last few weeks, the Bears’ coaching staff brought Tarik Cohen back with a vengeance.

The rookie running back proved himself a dangerous offensive weapon early in the season, but he had been largely absent for weeks, combining for just five rushing attempts and three receptions in the previous three games against the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and aforementioned Packers.

Well, the Bears’ coaches must have heard all that criticism and heavily involved Cohen, who finished with nine rushes for 44 yards and four catches for 15 yards. He was targeted a total of six times.

And Cohen came up with a huge play late in the game, taking a shovel pitch from Trubisky, running to the pylon and flipping his way into the end zone, extending the ball in midair to make sure it was a touchdown. That score tied the game at 24 with five minutes left.

Banged-up Bears

The Bears’ defense — already well bothered with injuries — added a couple more to the list Sunday.

None seemed more significant than the one to Leonard Floyd, who was taken off the field on a cart in the fourth quarter after Kyle Fuller crashed into Floyd’s right knee. Floyd spent a good deal of time on the ground before the cart came out.

Fuller suffered a wrist injury on the same play, with TV cameras catching the sight of an awful lot of blood.

At various points, defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman left the field with members of the training staff. And on the offensive side, wide receiver Josh Bellamy was announced as being in the concussion protocol after a play in the third quarter.