Bears can change course by playing not to lose

Bears can change course by playing not to lose

“Playing not to lose” is usually a precise recipe for the very thing it is intended to stave off – losing. In the Bears’ case, however, it may in fact be the only way the Bears can turn a slipping season around.

Not becoming conservative; being careful.

Consider: The Chicago offense under Brian Hoyer amassed 522 yards, with Hoyer becoming the first quarterback in franchise history to post three straight games of 300 passing yards, all with zero interceptions. And yet the point totals stay stubbornly low – 23 at Indianapolis – with the 522 ranking as the fifth-highest in team history, yet the only one of the top five with fewer than 47 points scored.

The biggest reason for the Bears’ arrested scoring development lies in the mirror.

In the first half alone at Indianapolis, the Bears committed five penalties and fumbled twice. Touchdown situations were knocked backwards into field goals, and not all of those were made. For the game, the offense was tagged with seven penalties on snaps within the Colts’ end of the field.

The core of the game plan for next Sunday vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars then becomes, first, the avoidance of pain and self-destruction.

“Nobody is going to just go out and beat a team by 21 just on paper and have it happen on the field,” said guard Kyle Long. “So you’ve got to go out and minimize your mistakes and find ways not to lose.

“Essentially you don’t want to play not to lose, you want to play to win. But in order to win you have to limit the things that make you lose and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

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The concern is that the self-destruction is coming from so many players. In last Sunday’s first half, four different offensive players drew penalties (tight end Logan Paulsen had two) and two others put the football on the turf. In the second, Hoyer contributed a delay of game and the offensive line committed holding at the Indianapolis 25 on the final drive, turning a third-and-5 into third-and-15, which the Bears failed to convert.

“There’s different things,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “When you have seven penalties inside the 40-yard line – it wasn’t one play that defined you. It’s those seven to eight plays in a game that you don’t know which one is going to be the difference.”

And those seven to eight plays that define a team. The Bears could have won the game had Hoyer read the Indianapolis coverage and gone to Alshon Jeffery rather than Cameron Meredith. But that play did not cost the Bears the game; seven penalties inside the Colts’ 40-yard line and three fumbles did that.

Applying the descriptor “game manager” to a quarterback is damning with faint praise. It is a quarterback who doesn’t turn the football over and takes the percentage play, operating on the time-honored bromide that “you never go broke taking a profit.”

But it is inaccurately used to categorize the quarterback as someone not really possessed of the talents to win games, only to not lose them. The job is all about risk-reward and that has been a hallmark of Hoyer’s play, with the yardage taking care of itself as long as right decisions are made play by play.

“They’re all calculated,” Hoyer said. “It’s something that as the game goes on, you’re contemplating, you’re thinking about that.”

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

USA Today Sports

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

Laurence Holmes is joined by Olin Kreutz, Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, and Alex Brown to break down the Bears' highly dispiriting 36-25 loss to the Saints at Soldier Field. The guys discuss why the loss was so disappointing and frustrating (2:00), the lack of progress for many players since last year (5:00), the possibility of somebody other than Nagy calling plays (10:00), whether the Bears can save their season and still make the playoffs (14:00), and the massive problems in the run game this season (22:00).

Listen here or via the embedded player below:


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Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Given Sunday’s parallels to the Bears’ 2018 clunker against the Rams, the spotlight on QB Mitch Trubisky may have been even brighter against the Saints than it usually is – which is saying something. 

Four quarters, 250 yards and one blowout loss later, the only thing that’s changed is that the Bears no longer have the luxury of hiding another subpar performance from their franchise quarterback behind a monstrous, game-changing defense. Trubisky’s numbers against New Orleans look better on paper, but the eye test told a much different – or similar, technically – story. 

“It's hard to pinpoint it,” he said after the 36-25 loss. “Just frustrating, ugly. Couldn't swing momentum in our way – couldn't really get going. Just sputtered out. We've just got to find ways to stay on the field, especially after 3rd down and move the chains and get going."

“I want to go back, watch and see like progression-wise [how he did],” Matt Nagy added. “I know there's one there early in the game where we missed a corner route on 3rd down, and Mitch knows -- he knows that he can connect on that. We've connected on it a lot in practice.” 

That specific miss sums up much of what’s plagued Trubisky through his time in Chicago. On 3rd-and-6, with Taylor Gabriel finding separation on a 20-yard corner route, the QB rushes through his throwing motion and misses an easy first down. 

“I'm going to go back and watch it because that's one of my favorite throws,” Trubisky said. “And I hit that every single time this week in practice, so why it didn't translate to the game is really frustrating for me. I felt like that's an easy throw that I make easily, and I just wasn't on the same page and didn't put it in the spot to give my guy a chance.” 

Another miss – this time overthrowing Anthony Miller on a seam route – provided a great example of the communication issues that have plagued the passing game. Miller had a step on two defenders, but according to Nagy and Trubisky, cut in on the route when the play directed that he cut out. 

“That's one of Anthony's really good routes that he runs,” Trubisky said. “And he separates and gets open, and I just felt like I had to get the ball out within that time because they created pressure up front. Someone slipped through, and from what I can remember, he just went inside, so I tried to throw a tight seam and give him a chance. But I was on the ground after that, so I'm going to have to go back on the film and watch it and correct it.” 

“Those are plays that you look at and you just -- you'd like to convert on those and connect.,” added Nagy.

The coach also conceded that Trubisky looked rusty on some throws, but was quick to credit the quarterback for making others (he didn’t specify which). Still, silver linings were little consolation to the Bears on Sunday night, and will continue to mean less and less as the season goes on. For being a team that supposedly has great weeks of practice, plenty of questions remain about where all that goes on Sundays. 

“Why it's not translating, I don't have a theory,” Trubisky added. “All I know is, go back to work and make sure that you put in all that work during the week to make sure it translates.”

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