Bears fail 'test of character' in loss to Redskins


Bears fail 'test of character' in loss to Redskins

After the Bears lost to the San Francisco 49ers and fell to 5-7, Jarvis Jenkins termed the final four games of this season a “test of character.” If Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins was a test of character, then the 24-21 loss speaks volumes about something in the makeup of a Bears team that has gone from resembling a good team with fits of bad, to a bad team with spurts of good — from a team that had won three of its last four leaving Green Bay, to a team that now has lost three out of its last four.

John Fox specifically noted the importance of the last quarter of the season in evaluations of players. A second straight loss with playoff implications at stake, at home, against two teams that hadn’t previously won on the road all year, will be a very, very poor start for more than a few evaluations.

And few answers were forthcoming, even to the obvious question of what a team does to pull out of the freefall.

“You know, I don’t know if you do,” Fox acknowledged. "All I know is you have to work harder and get better. It’s not a lack of effort; it’s not a lack of want-to.”

[MORE BEARS: John Fox on Robbie Gould: 'We're not going to lose faith']

Or was it?

A lack of urgency was almost palpable in Soldier Field when a team that prided itself on being fighters and finishers was neither, twice now, with the season on the line. That perhaps was the most disturbing aspect of the Washington game, and really the San Francisco game as well. That the Bears weren’t “starters,” effectively spotting mediocre opponents advantages and then and only then deciding they’d better get going.

“The bottom line is that we have to come out and match their intensity,” said rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman, one of the few Bears who played anything close to a consistently solid game. “Usually we do that. In practice we do that. I can’t pinpoint exactly what was wrong, but we’ve got to start fast and finish.”

The Bears knew the stakes, even had extra time to prepare for the 49ers, and played like a team with its playoff status already determined. Which now it is, in a manner almost hard to fathom after the spark that was present at Green Bay in what is now relegated to the status of “fluke.”

The defense that held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to 13 points on Thanksgiving allowed a below-average Washington offense 14 in less than the first 16 minutes, then allowed four drives 50 yards or longer in the second half. The finger of blame will again point toward kicker Robbie Gould for his wide-right attempt from 50 yards in the closing minutes Sunday. But, like the San Francisco game, it should never have reached that point but for an offense that managed just one score on three second-quarter possessions on which the Bears drove the ball into Washington territory.

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Three times in the span of eight weeks the Bears have been in positions to win games and ascend to .500. Three times they failed, with bad games against Detroit, Denver and San Francisco. Two of those losses were to teams (Detroit, San Francisco) with losing records, as was Sunday’s to Washington (6-7).

And the Denver, San Francisco and Washington losses were all in Soldier Field, where the Bears now stand a woeful 1-6.

What was concerning, too, is that the Bears seem bewildered by their own lack of urgency that has seen opponents more than double their point total in 2015 first quarters. Including Sunday, the Bears have scored 41 first-quarter points, to opponents’ 89. The Bears were shut out for the first 15 minutes Sunday.

“I don’t have any idea or reason why it was,” wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said of another poor start to a winnable game.

Maybe that is the most ominous assessment of all.

Bears not on initial list of teams attending Colin Kaepernick workout

Bears not on initial list of teams attending Colin Kaepernick workout

The Bears are considered one of the NFL's most quarterback-needy teams after Mitch Trubisky's uninspiring play through the first half of the 2019 season, but that doesn't mean they're searching for his replacement just yet. 

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will conduct a workout on Saturday in Atlanta and the Bears were considered to be one of the most likely landing spots for the one-time dual-threat. But according to Thursday's announcement by the league, Chicago isn't one of the 11 teams who have confirmed their attendance.

The clubs who will have a representative on-site are Arizona, Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New England, NY Giants, NY Jets, Tampa Bay and Washington.

It's possible the Bears could confirm their attendance over the next few days, but at this point, it doesn't appear like there's much interest.

We'll continue to update the Kaepernick story as news breaks.

The Bears' issues with run defense start with Akiem Hicks, but that's not where it ends

The Bears' issues with run defense start with Akiem Hicks, but that's not where it ends

The Bears' defense didn't allow a rushing touchdown through the first three games of 2019. Over that stretch, teams (Green Bay, Denver, Washington) averaged 3.06 yards per carry against them, and the Bears held all three under 100 yards rushing. It looked like this: 

Sharp Stats

Those numbers represent how much success Green Bay, Denver, and Washington had running the ball in certain directions. That's a lot of red (and one weird green?) on the interior, where Akiem Hicks was lined up for 147 snaps. It's a small sample size, but the Pro Bowl defensive tackles influence is noticeable. It's even more noticeable, though, in the same chart for the following seven weeks: 

Teams were averaging 3.4 yards per carry (YPC) in Hicks' direction through the first three games. After that, Hicks played eight more snaps before being put on IR, and that YPC has shot up to 4.1. Since then, the Bears have also allowed eight rushing touchdowns, with at least one in every game except for last week's Detroit win. Over the last six weeks, they've given up 169 yards (OAK), 151 (Saints) and 146 (Eagles) on the ground. So is that just because Hicks isn't there?

"We’ve kind of opened up a can of worms, and until you put that fire out, you’re going to continue to get the same type of schemes," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. 

"So it’s just a matter of being consistent. I thought our guys did a nice job for the most part, except for a few of those. It’s really those scramble yards that get you."

Pagano mentioned that, somewhat ironically, the Rams' offense wasn't the only historically-great unit that got exposed during that Sunday night game last December. It falls on him, he said, to put players in better schemes – especially now that teams can afford to throw more attention at Khalil Mack in Hicks' absence. Much of that falls in the hands of Nick Williams and Nick Kwiatkoski, who both have been unexpected bright spots this season. Pagano praised 'Kwik' using all the normal buzzwords (grit! toughness!) and mentioned how pleased he was with Williams' steady, incremental performance. 

"[Williams] is a big talented guy," he said. "He’s learning on the run and he’s getting some more burn like you said. I think he played his best game to date this last one. He’s really disruptive and he did get the one sack. He’s doing a nice job and he’s playing better against the run.”

Based on when he was put on IR, Hicks would be elligble to return for the final three games of the Bears season, starting Dec. 15 in Green Bay. Until then, he's taken on a bit of a de facto assistant coach role. 

"He’s a guy who’s in our meeting room," said defensive line coach Jay Rodgers. "He can speak the same language as me. We’ve been around together for 4 seasons now. He has great insight in terms of understand what offensive lines are trying to do to particular defensive setups.

"He’s an alpha personality and people gravitate towards him. When he speaks, he’s not just blowing hot air. What he says, he means it. And that’s valuable to the team."

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