Bears

What you need to know from Bears-Packers: Mike Glennon can’t get out of his own way, again

What you need to know from Bears-Packers: Mike Glennon can’t get out of his own way, again

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — For the second time this year, Mike Glennon committed three turnovers in a half. And for the second time this year, the Bears were blown out on the road.

Glennon lost two fumbles and was picked off by Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix in the first half, setting the tone for a 35-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in front of a national Thursday night audience. Clay Matthews’ sack-strip of Glennon on the Bears’ first offensive play of the game — Glennon held on to the ball far too long — quickly handed the Packers a 14-0 lead, and miscommunication between Glennon and center Cody Whitehair caused a comical botched snap that Green Bay easily recovered. And on the interception, Glennon seemed to have Markus Wheaton open, but overthrew the speedy wideout.

Yes, Glennon successfully led a scoring drive inside the two-minute warning, finding Kendall Wright for a pretty five-yard touchdown in the back corner of the end zone.

But Glennon is supposed to excel in operating the Bears offense. He didn’t do that well beyond the botched snap — the Bears had to burn a timeout late in the first quarter when the offense couldn’t get lined up correctly. Those are the kind of errors that may be expected if Mitch Trubisky were in the game, not Glennon.

The Bears now have 10 days to evaluate if Glennon should still be their quarterback before welcoming the Minnesota Vikings to Soldier Field for Monday Night Football Oct. 9. The tape isn’t pretty for Glennon. But has Trubisky done enough behind the scenes to warrant supplanting Glennon as the starting quarterback? Or, even if he hasn’t, does the coaching staff pull the rip cord and play him anyway because they can’t trust Glennon anymore and need to win games to keep their jobs?

The Bears are 1-3 and, outside of a fourth quarter spurt in Week 1, haven’t had good quarterback play this year. Will that change when the calendar flips to October, and will it be because Trubisky is the starter?

Stay tuned.

A mixed bag on defense

Green Bay scythed through the Bears’ defense on its first possession, making its 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive look easy. After Glennon’s fumble, the Packers needed two plays to get the three yards necessary to make the score 14-0. But on their next 13 plays, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense only gained 18 yards.

That, seemingly, gave the Bears’ offense an opportunity to get back into the game. It didn’t happen, and then after Glennon and Whitehair botched that snap, Rodgers escaped pressure and fired one of his signature heaves to Jordy Nelson, a 58-yard gain that set up Aaron Jones’ two-yard touchdown.

But facing a Packers offense missing its two starting tackles and, as the game went on, running backs Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams, the Bears defense didn’t do enough. As the game went on, Rodgers was easily able to pick this group apart, leading to such a lopsided scoreline.

And Danny Trevathan’s brutal, unnecessary hit on Davante Adams — leading straight into Adams’ helmet with his helmet — in the third quarter put a stain on the rest of the game. It was surprising Trevathan wasn’t ejected for that hit, and he’ll likely receive a fine (if not more) for it from the league.

As the Bears begin to form an identity, special teams need to catch up

As the Bears begin to form an identity, special teams need to catch up

If you squint, you can start to see the Bears forming an identity. The offense, at its best, will control the game with Jordan Howard and an offensive line that’s improving with cohesion over the last few weeks. The defense will stop the run, rarely blow assignments and — at least last week — force a few turnovers. 

Those can be the makings of a team that's at least competitive on a week-to-week basis. But they also leave out a critical segment of this group: Special teams. And that unit is obscuring whatever vision of an identity that may be coming into focus. 

Jeff Rodgers’ special teams unit ranks 29th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, and is below average in all five categories the advanced statistics site tracks: field goals/extra points, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts and punt returns. 

Had the Bears’ just merely "fine," for lack of a better term, on special teams Sunday, they would’ve controlled a win over the Baltimore Ravens from start to finish. But a 96-yard kickoff return (after the Bears went up 17-3) and a 77-yard punt return (which, after a two-point conversion, tied the game in the fourth quarter) were the Ravens’ only touchdowns of the game; they otherwise managed three field goals. 

Rodgers didn’t find much fault with the way the Bears covered Bobby Rainey’s kickoff return — he would’ve been down at the 23-yard line had the officiating crew ruled that Josh Bellamy got a hand on him as he was tumbling over. But the Bears players on the field (and, it should be said, a number of Ravens) stopped after Rainey hit the turf; he got up and dashed into the end zone for a momentum-shifting score. 

“A lot of our players stopped, all their players stopped,” Rodgers said. “There were players from both teams who came on to the field from the sideline. So there’s a lot of people on that particular play who thought the play was over.”

That return touchdown could be chalked up to an officiating-aided fluke, but Michael Campanaro’s punt return score was inexcusable given the situation of the game (up eight with just under two minutes left). The Bears checked into a max protect formation, and no players were able to wriggle free and get downfield toward Campanaro (Cre’von LeBlanc, who replaced an injured Sherrick McManis, was knocked to the turf). Rodgers said O’Donnell’s booming punt wasn’t the issue — it didn’t need to be directed out of bounds, he said — and instead pointed to a lack of execution by the other 10 players on the field. And not having McManis isn’t an excuse here. 

“We expect everybody to play at the standard at which that position plays,” Rodgers said. “I don’t put that touchdown on one guy getting hurt, but you’d always like to have your best players on the field.”

In isolation, the special teams mistakes the Bears have made this year can be explained — beyond these two returns, Marcus Cooper slowing up before the end zone was baffling, yet sort of fluky. But while the Bears’ arrow is pointing up on defense and, at the least, isn’t pointing down on offense, these special teams mistakes collective form a bad narrative. 

“We take those players, we practice it, and like all mistakes, you admit them and then you fix them,” coach John Fox said, “and then hope to God you don’t do it again.”

Even in a controlled gameplan, Mitchell Trubisky's playmaking ability shines through

Even in a controlled gameplan, Mitchell Trubisky's playmaking ability shines through

While the Bears praised Mitchell Trubisky’s operation of a controlled gameplan in his second NFL start, they’re not losing sight of the special kind of athleticism and playmaking ability the rookie quarterback possesses. Two plays in particular stand out — plays that led to anywhere from a five-to-10 point swing in the game. 

Trubisky’s 18-yard third down completion to Kendall Wright in overtime seems to looks better every time you watch it on film. Trubisky was pressured by two Baltimore Ravens pass rushers, but managed to wriggle free and slide to his right, only to find linebacker C.J. Mosley waiting in front of him. The blend of athleticism and aggressiveness Trubisky displayed in firing high over the middle toward Wright — who made a specular play of his own — is one of the many reasons why the Bears are so excited about him. 

“To be able to throw that ball with both hands in the air and changing your arm angle – that’s why you draft a kid second,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Because of things like that.”

But there was another instinctual, athletic play Trubisky made that was just as impressive, and just as important. Cody Whitehair’s snapping issues cropped up at the Bears’ 13-yard line, with the center sailing a snap over Trubisky’s head and toward the end zone. 

If Baltimore recovered that ball, it would’ve tied the game; had Trubisky simply fell on the ball, it very well could’ve led to a safety that would’ve brought the Ravens within five points about a minute after the Bears took a 17-3 lead. Instead, Trubisky picked up the ball, scrambled to his right and threw the ball away — one of six throwaways he had on Sunday. 

“(That) was a critical, critical play at that time,” Loggains said. 

This isn't to say that two plays — only one of which gained yards — are enough to say the Bears' offense is in a good place. It's still a group that necessitates a controlled gameplan, similar to the one they used with Mike Glennon. But the difference: Trubisky can make plays. 

Briefly, on Whitehair

Since we’re on the subject of another poor snap by Whitehair, here’s what Loggains had to say on that topic: 

“He’s gotten better. We still had one too many. The thing and point I want to make with Cody Whitehair is, obviously wants to talk about the snap, but you’re talking about two weeks in a row of completely dominating. We’re an outside zone team that ran 25 snaps of inside zone because of what they were playing. It changed our game plan and Cody’s a big part of that. The last two weeks we’ve been able to move those guys inside. He’s a really good football player. 

“We’re going to battle through these snap issues. We’re cutting them down. He’s more accurate. He did have the one that obviously is unacceptable and no one owns that more than Cody Whitehair does. But he is a really good football player and let’s not lose sight of the 79 snaps where he really helped the team run the football and you can’t do that without a Cody Whitehair at center.”

Loggains has a point here — if Whitehair were struggling in the run game, against the defensive looks the Ravens were showing, the Bears wouldn’t have been able to run the ball 50 times with the kind of success they had. But the poor snaps nonetheless are ugly and have to be eliminated — imagine the uproar over them if Trubisky didn’t make that play in Baltimore. The Bears' offense won't always be good enough to overcome those kind of self-inflicted mistakes. 

Loggains and coach John Fox have praised Whitehair’s attention to the problem, and as long as Hroniss Grasu is still limited with a hand injury, Whitehair will have some time to work through these issues. One final thought: Who would’ve expected, back in May, that Whitehair would have the problems with snaps, and not Trubisky?