This is the classic one hand in the oven, one hand in the freezer and on average youre comfortable: The Bears allowed zero points on Denvers first 12 possessions, then points on each of the last three.
The defense held Denver without a first down in the third quarter and had the NFLs No. 1 rushing offense generally in check until the final four minutes of the game. Then the group that wants the game in its hands when it matters most gave up 10 points in those final minutes. No help from Marion Barber but the game was there for the defense to win.
Defensive line C-
The line got to Tim Tebow for five sacks, two by rookie Stephen Paea. But pressure was not consistent and all but non-existent in the closing minutes of the game. Julius Peppers dropped Tebow in the second quarter for his ninth sack of the season. Henry Melton led a pocket-collapse against Tebow to get his 7th sack of the season on the first possession. Israel Idonije was guilty of a knee-area hit on Tebow to give Denver a third-and-long conversion but Idonije provided strong work on the edges against the Denver run game and recovered a fourth-quarter Tebow fumble. Paea had a sack in the second quarter and added another in overtime.
Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach were overall strong at maintaining position and area control against the offensive varieties of Tebow. Denver had only two plays longer than 19 yards and Willis McGahee was thoroughly throttled with 34 yards on 17 carries. Denvers ability to march for those scores on the final three possessions was a team meltdown.
Craig Steltz, in his fourth career sack, had a sack that forced a fumble on a safety blitz in the fourth quarter. Charles Tillman thwarted a first-quarter Denver drive with an acrobatic interception of a Tebow pass at the Chicago 24. The Broncos scored their one TD on a breakdown that allowed Demaryious Thomas to be left alone in the fourth quarter.
The decision to soften up the defense in the fourth quarter was and will be intensely debated. The scheme overall was working to stop the Denver offense when it was in a run-or-pass mode and shifting to playing more coverage against a generally inaccurate Tebow late never becomes an issue if Barber stays in bounds.
Bears coach John Fox said doctors do not believe linebacker Leonard Floyd tore his ACL, but stressed the 2016 first-round pick is still being evaluated to determine the exact nature of his knee injury.
Fox, though, admitted Floyd is “going to miss some time” due to the injury, which was suffered when cornerback Kyle Fuller awkwardly fell into Floyd’s leg early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions. Placing Floyd on injured reserve, which would end his season with six games remaining, is an option, per Fox.
“He’s one of our top players,” Fox said. “Obviously disappointing. He was having a heck of a game, he was playing extremely well. It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality.”
With Floyd out, the Bears are down to three healthy outside linebackers in Pernell McPhee, Sam Acho and Isaiah Irving. McPhee is third on the Bears with four sacks and 10 hurries, while Acho has half of a sack and four hurries this year. Irving — an undrafted free agent signed off the practice squad last month — has only played three defensive snaps in six games, and mostly has received special teams snaps.
“I think (Irving’s) kind of caught our eye on some special teams, our fourth down things,” Fox said. “He’s played sparingly as an outside backer but he’s a guy that obviously we’ve had in the system and he’s been working and I think he’ll get more opportunities moving forward.”
The Bears addressed an open wound at the core of their special teams with the waiver of kicker Connor Barth and signing of former Kansas City Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos.
Not to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, but a question still lingers, the kind of inevitable second-guessing that follows any failed personnel decision, because so many of those moves made a lot of sense at the time: What were the Bears thinking when they opted at the end of the 2016 preseason to replace Robbie Gould with Barth?
An easy question to ask at this point, with Barth missing a game-tying field-goal try from 46 yards to leave the final Bears-Lions score at 27-24 on Sunday. It’s also easy to forget that Gould’s exit traced to a missed 36-yarder for a win over San Francisco to reach .500, followed a week later by a 50-yard miss for a tie to reach overtime against Washington. Even though Gould made his final seven field-goal attempts of that season, he missed two PATs during the 2016 preseason, reopening a confidence wound and sealing the deal, because when the head coach loses confidence in a player, that player is gone.
Easiest to forget, particularly right now, is that Barth converted 15 of 16 field-goal attempts in 2014 with the Denver Broncos — coached by John Fox. Barth was successful that year on four of his five attempts from beyond 40 yards, a range at which Sunday’s miss against Detroit left him 6-for-10 as a Bear.
Jettisoning Gould two years into the four-year, $15 million contract he signed in late 2013 wasn’t entirely about money. But it remains head-scratching if only because Gould was successful on 84.6 percent of his field goals in 2015. But in fairness to Fox, general manager Ryan Pace and Bears evaluators, Barth had been successful on 86.5 percent of his field goals (115-for-133) in the five seasons before the Bears signed him.