Bears

Leonard Floyd's 'fairly serious knee injury' further bangs up Bears defense, stalls rising star's growth

Leonard Floyd's 'fairly serious knee injury' further bangs up Bears defense, stalls rising star's growth

You couldn’t really tell watching it live, but the replay told the story: Kyle Fuller’s shoulder pads plowed right into Leonard Floyd’s right knee.

And that’s why last year’s first-round pick was down on the turf at Soldier Field. That’s why the cart came out from the southwest tunnel. That’s why the thousands of fans in the stands watched in silence.

After the game, head coach John Fox said what could have been guessed by most who watched that replay and watched Floyd leave the field on the cart.

“Leonard Floyd left with what looks like a fairly serious knee injury,” Fox said, a somewhat unusual admittance of severity from the oft-secretive coach in an oft-secretive industry.

“I hate to speculate,” he continued, “but usually when you get taken out on a cart, it’s not great. We’ll evaluate it. I’ll talk to our docs more today and tonight, and we will continue to evaluate tomorrow.”

For the Bears and their fans, this kind of news has become all too familiar. The linebacking corps alone has seen injuries to four of its best players: Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan, Willie Young and now Floyd. Then there are the season-ending injuries to safety Quintin Demps, tight end Zach Miller and wide receivers Kevin White and Cameron Meredith.

And it’s not just the Bears. This is the new normal in the NFL, as the absences of stars like J.J. Watt, Aaron Rodgers and Richard Sherman have illustrated.

But for the Bears in particular, this is a really tough one to see.

Floyd has been a force for the defense this season, the kind of quarterback’s nightmare that Ryan Pace & Co. envisioned he’d be when they took Floyd with the No. 9 pick in last year’s draft. He entered Sunday’s action with the second-most sacks on the team, and only 29 players in the league had more than his 4.5 sacks.

After missing games and battling concussion issues as a rookie last season — and still recording seven sacks — this was supposed to be the full season from Floyd that would show how much of a monster he could be. Instead, though, it sounds like that season will be cut short, a building block on that side of the ball stalled.

The football implications, though, did not seem top of mind for many Bears players, who offered their well wishes for their teammate. Remember, too, that this is a team that has already been through Miller’s ordeal, the tight end confined to a Louisiana hospital as he recovered from almost losing his leg in last month’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.

“I told him I love him and I’m going to lay it on the line for him,” fellow linebacker Pernell McPhee said when asked what he said to Floyd as the second-year Georgia product was leaving the field.

And that wasn’t all.

As the media was leaving McPhee’s locker, he told everybody to “say a prayer for my boy.”

Bears regress to their 2017 mean in uninspiring loss to Lions

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USA TODAY

Bears regress to their 2017 mean in uninspiring loss to Lions

DETROIT — Whatever positive vibes the Bears generated in their blowout win last weekend were quickly snuffed out by a conservative gameplan and sloppy, undisciplined play in a 20-10 loss to the Detroit Lions on Saturday at Ford Field.

For the Bears, Saturday was rife with penalties (13 for 97 yards), minimal running gains, short throws and missed opportunities. It was a return to the kind of football this team had all too consistently played since the bye week, and is why the Bears are 4-10 — with an 0-5 record against the NFC North. Whereas last week’s 26-point win over the Cincinnati Bengals provided, perhaps, a flicker of hope for John Fox to save his job, yet another dismal loss lacking any semblance of “progress” likely extinguished that.

The Bears entered halftime down by only 10 points despite a dismal showing in the first half, punctuated by Fox’s decision to punt on fourth-and-one from his team’s 45-yard line. With the Bears’ defense looking gassed, the Lions executed a 10-play, 97-yard touchdown drive highlighted by Marvin Jones beating Eddie Jackson on a third-and-18 heave for a 58-yard gain.

While the Bears struggled to move the ball in the first half — only picking up five total first downs and averaging 2.1 yards per run — the second half turned into something a little more sinister.

Mitchell Trubisky was picked off on the second play of the third quarter, when he rolled to his left and overthrew Kendall Wright into the hands of cornerback Darius Slay. He threw a worse interception on third-and-goal from the five-yard line in the fourth quarter, with Quandre Diggs picking that one off. There will be teaching points from those interceptions, of course, and a lack of execution around Trubisky certainly didn’t help his case.

Trubisky did rebound to make some quality throws in the second half, like a 22-yarder to Markus Wheaton and a 19-yarder to Wright. Managing to lead a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter on a drive on which the Bears committed five penalties was a decent accomplishment for him, though not necessarily his teammates.

But this game felt like a step backward for Trubisky and the rest of a team that played so well just six days ago. But maybe instead of a step backward, it’s more accurate to view this as a regression to the mean — and that’s the level of play for a team that, for the fourth consecutive season, will finish with 10 or more losses.

Prediction: Can the Bears carry over what they did in Cincinnati to Detroit?

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USA Today

Prediction: Can the Bears carry over what they did in Cincinnati to Detroit?

The question was posed to Mitchell Trubisky at Paul Brown Stadium following the Bears’ 33-7 destruction of the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend: Was the offensive more aggressive today?

“Sure, it’s fair to say,” Trubisky said with a confident, wry grin. “Everyone’s got opinions.”

The follow-up: Is it accurate to say that?

“It’s accurate,” Trubisky said. 

Trubisky completed 25 of 32 passes for 271 yards with both a passing and rushing touchdown in Cincinnati, but more importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over while operating a more aggressive and expansive gameplan. The effectiveness of the Bears’ ground game — led by Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and, as heading an excellent showing by the offensive line, Cody Whitehair — helped make sure the passing game was going to open up against a depleted and downtrodden Bengals defense. 

The Detroit Lions have a lot more to play for on Saturday at Ford Field than the Bengals did last weekend: At 7-6, they’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive NFC. Detroit didn’t have standout defensive end Ziggy Ansah for its 27-24 win over the Bears at Soldier Field in November; Ansah is officially questionable for Saturday but seems likely to play. 

As my colleague John ‘Moon’ Mullin pointed out, though, the biggest key for the Bears on Saturday will be not turning the ball over: The Lions have been losers in three of the four games in which their defense didn’t generate a takeaway. But since squeaking by the Bears in Week 11, the Lions lost by seven at home to the Minnesota Vikings, were blown out by the Baltimore Ravens and — despite forcing five turnovers — beat the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers by only three points last week. 

So even though the Lions have something to play for, this is a team that’s beatable. Expect another close game; if the Bears play close to as well as they did against Cincinnati, they very well could leave Michigan with their fifth win of the season. 

Prediction: Bears 24, Lions 23