Bears defense bends, breaks, then fights back in loss to Green Bay Packers

Bears defense bends, breaks, then fights back in loss to Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. — In a bend-but-don’t-break season, the Bears' defense played a bend-but-don’t-break game in the team’s last contest of significance — a 21-13 road loss to the Green Bay Packers.

The Bears' first half energy was palpable. And how could it not be? On Sunday afternoon, the front seven, the defense and the team, en masse, regained one of its preeminent talents and preeminent leaders in Akiem Hicks.

“It was everything,” Hicks said, of being able to return. “My defensive linemates saw the energy and they were excited for me to be able to go back out there, because they know how much I miss it.”

“It was huge, man,” Eddie Jackson said of Hicks’ impact. “He gets us fired up.”

For a time, that was enough. At the half, the Packers led 7-3, but had only 129 total yards (29 rushing on 3.2 ypc) of total offense, had punted twice and turned the ball over on downs twice. Their only score came as a culmination of a four-play, 35-yard drive on a field shortened by a questionably-called kick-catch interference penalty on Cordarrelle Patterson.

But signs of the Packers’ eventual offensive breakout were abundant. On the first play of the game, Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropped a would-be 70-yard touchdown after roasting Prince Amukamara in coverage. Davante Adams burned a sagging Buster Skrine for a score on a 4th-and-6 play later in the first quarter. Even only 11-of-21 with 100 yards at the break, Aaron Rodgers faced little pressure in the game’s first 30 minutes.  

There’s the bend.

The break came fast and hard on the Packers’ opening two drives of the second half. On the first, Rodgers gashed the Bears twice — once through the air on a 34-yard dart to Adams, then on the ground with a 17-yard scramble. Aaron Jones finished the job with a 21-yard touchdown run from there. Then, after a Bears’ three-and-out, Green Bay snapped off a five-play, 66 yard touchdown drive that featured a 49-yard Josh Kumerow catch-and-run. 

Coverage breakdowns and missed tackles abounded. The Packers led 21-3.

“Nobody anticipated coming out of the half and having them rally that way,” Hicks said. “So we just kept fighting.”

As the Bears’ offense gradually came to life over the game’s last quarter-and-a-half — eventually cutting the deficit to 21-13 — the defense held tough. Eddy Pineiro opened the fourth quarter with a 27-yard field goal. From that point on, the Packers didn’t get a first down.

“Guys stepped up. You could see the fire in guys’ eyes, because we felt that,” Hicks said. “We stayed in the game. It’s impossible not to have a good deal of respect for these guys because there’s no quitters.”

But that last, over-the-hump moment eluded the Bears. After drawing within eight points, the offense failed to push the ball deep into Packers territory until the last play. On the drive directly after an Anthony Miller touchdown made the score 21-13, the defense nearly flipped the game’s script with what appeared to be a forced fumble on Rodgers at the Packers’ 20-yard line. After replay review, officials ruled Rodgers’ elbow down.

Last season, a play like that might have swung the Bears’ way (the Packers did, with a Dean Lowry pick of Trubisky late in the fourth). But not tonight — a night when, it should be noted, the defense sacked Rodgers only once and didn’t force a turnover. The D was solid, but the big plays were lacking, as they have been all year.

“We always wanna get [big play turnovers], but right now they’re not there. That’s something you feel as a player,” Jackson said. “You know, a lot of stuff changed from last year to this year, just with the type of play calls and everything. But that’s expected. Everybody’s still getting used to everything, finding your finesses, your disguises, things like that.”

Of course, the offense will be decried for not putting up more than 13 points in a must-win game. And the defense, playing without multiple starters for the majority of this season, will be criticized for the lack of takeaways. There's ample criticism and explaining away to go around. Ultimately, the Bears’ locker room was ripe with disappointment over the result of this game and this season, but the confidence in each other and the emphasis on finishing the final three games on a high note remained.

“Just finish man. Just finish. You just lay it all on the line. That’s it,” Jackson said. “You gonna see who gonna stand up, you gonna see who gonna lay down.”

Should the Bears trade for this Ryan Pace player?

Should the Bears trade for this Ryan Pace player?

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks wants out of L.A. It's no secret the Rams are trying to trade him, and he expressed his desire to be traded on Twitter on Friday.

The Bears have a need in their offense for a speed wide receiver, and Cooks has been one of the most explosive weapons at the position throughout his career.

Prior to last season's offensive meltdown in Los Angeles, Cooks recorded four-straight 1,000-yard seasons and averaged more than 15 yards per catch in three of those years. He's still only 26 years old and has plenty of juice left in his legs to offer his next team a similar level of production; he would be a dynamic complement to Allen Robinson and would round out Chicago's wide receiver corps.

And here's the thing: we know Ryan Pace loves his former Saints. He just rewarded Jimmy Graham with a two-year, $16 million contract despite a market that likely wouldn't have valued his services anywhere near that amount.

But Graham was one of Pace's guys from his days in New Orleans, and so is Cooks.

The Saints traded a first- and third-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft to move up for Cooks (they moved from No. 27 to No. 20 to select him). Pace was New Orleans' Director of Player Personnel at the time; his voice was a powerful one in the decision to acquire Cooks.

The biggest impediment to making a move for Cooks is his contract. He signed a five-year, $81 million deal with the Rams in 2018 and has a $16.8 million cap hit in 2020. With Robinson looking to break the bank on a contract extension in the coming weeks, it's highly unlikely the Bears will commit that much money to the wide receiver position. Any trade will have to include some kind of restructured contract or an agreement that the Rams carry a significant portion of Cooks' cap hit.

There's also the issue of compensation that the Bears could send to Los Angeles for a player as dynamic as Cooks. A trade would require at least one of Chicago's second-round picks. Maybe that's all it will take, but the Rams would be justified asking for more.

The dollars have to make sense and the compensation has to be appealing enough to get a deal done. But there's no doubt Pace is at least researching his options.

Cooks, unlike Graham, would be one of Pace's guys who Bears fans would welcome with open arms.

Bears land two potential starters in latest mock draft

Bears land two potential starters in latest mock draft

The 2020 NFL draft is less than four weeks away and now that the first wave of free agency is over, team needs have begun to crystallize.

For the Chicago Bears, that means youth at tight end and a starting-quality safety will be high on their draft wish list. According to Chad Reuter's latest 2020 mock draft, the Bears check both boxes with potential starters in the second round.

At pick No. 43, Chicago adds LSU safety Grant Delpit, who prior to the 2019 college football season was considered by most draft analysts to be the most gifted defensive player not named Chase Young.

Delpit's final season with the Tigers wasn't the best for his draft stock. He lacked the splash plays that made him a household name last season, but he still displayed the kind of aggressive and fearless style that would make him a strong complement next to Eddie Jackson, who the Bears want to get back to playing centerfield. Delpit will slide to the second round because he's an inconsistent finisher, but he'd offer great value for a Bears defense that needs an aggressive run defender on its third level.

At No. 50, the Bears snag a potential starter at tight end in Purdue's Brycen Hopkins

Hopkins is a wide receiver in a tight end's body; he's everything Chicago's offense has been missing. Regardless of who wins the team's quarterback competition this summer, a player like Hopkins has the kind of playmaking ability to instantly become one of the early reads in the offense's passing game. 

With veterans Jimmy Graham and Trey Burton already on the roster, a player like Hopkins could be eased into the lineup with the expectation that he'd eventually become the primary receiving option at the position by the end of his rookie season.

Not a bad second-round haul. It's critically important that Ryan Pace hits on his second-rounders, too. The Bears' next pick doesn't occur until the fifth round, which is usually when special teams players and practice squad candidates are added.