Bears

Barber's gaffes bring down offensive grades

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Barber's gaffes bring down offensive grades

The Bears got the kind of game they wanted with the Denver Broncos, close and with chances to win in the closing minutes. Marion Barbers mistakes, however, were again crushing, more significant this time than simply failing to line up properly as he did against the Kansas City Chiefs.

QUARTERBACK C

The simple fact is that Caleb Hanie was unable to create game-winning plays for the third week in a row. He completed 12-of-19 passes for 115 yards with neither an interception nor a TD pass, for a rating of 79.9. Hanie was sacked four times but also did his line no favors with slow reactions to obvious pressure and failed on more than one occasion to get rid of the ball on time. His overthrow of a wide-open Marion Barber on a fourth-quarter third down cost the Bears a golden chance to sustain a drive.

Hanie did have the Bears moving into position for the win in OT with completions to Johnny Knox, Roy Williams and Marion Barber in succession, the last a touch pass over coverage.

RUNNING BACK F

Marion Barber rushed for 108 yards on 27 carries, one for a nine-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. But his errors were catastrophic. Barber failed to pick up a Denver blitz to allow a third-down sack of Hanie in the first quarter. Most significantly, he committed the defining gaffes of the game by stepping out of bounds on the Bears final possession, giving Denver time that would result in a tying field goal. Then he fumbled the ball inside the Denver 35 with the Bears going for the winning field goal in overtime.

Kahlil Bell was solid in relief with 40 yards on nine carries and caught a team-high five passes with a long of 13 yards.

RECEIVERS C-

Johnny Knox caught three passes for 37 total yards, 18 of them on the first play of what should have been the Bears winning drive in overtime. But receivers were consistently failing to gain separation from defensive back in a game that needed quick-release opportunities given the Denver pass rush.

OFFENSIVE LINE C-

Lance Louis and Chris Spencer was flagged for a false starts on third downs in the first half and Louis on another third down on the opening possession of the third quarter. Louis was beaten for a third-quarter sack by Von Miller although his blocking technique suggested that Hanie was supposed to have gotten rid of the ball quickly.

The protection allowed four sacks of Caleb Hanie but not all were the lines fault. And Bears running backs gained 148 yards on 36 carries.

COACHING A-

Hard to fault coaching when the game plan went right at a strong Denver defense and ran the ball reasonably well despite everyone in Colorado knowing what was coming. And no amount of coaching at this point in his career will get Marion Barber to get out of bounds or hold onto the ball.

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

    In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that went for 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

    Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

    Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.