Bears fall short (again) in 'learning process' loss to Lions

Bears fall short (again) in 'learning process' loss to Lions

DETROIT – In the aftermath of Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, Bears coach John Fox made his way through a crowded locker room to seek out offensive linemen Ted Larsen and Charles Leno Jr., whose holding penalties on consecutive plays had nullified long pass completions that had put the Bears within scoring range in the final minute of this game.

What was said between coach and players remained private, but it was perhaps a snapshot of the inner workings of a team that fell to 3-10 and officially out of the playoffs, but has almost mysteriously held together week after frustrating week.

“We were trying to go down and either tie or win the game,” Fox said. “Those are parts of the game, things we have to clean up, get better and learn from hopefully. You don’t see those types of things until you look at the tape, but we’ll evaluate that, correct it and move forward.”

“Things” obviously extended beyond just some issues on an offensive line that had taken generally excellent care of quarterback Matt Barkley through three starts, and of running back Jordan Howard, on track for a 1,200-yard rookie season.

Maybe it means something that the winner were the Lions (9-4), the team that perennially squandered talent and opportunities but now hasn’t given up more than 20 points in seven straight games and has come from behind in eight of their nine victories. They’ve been where the Bears are. Where once they privately expected something to go wrong, now “when we’re in those situations,” said linebacker DeAndre Levy, “we expect to win. It’s not as much hesitation as it once was.”

Maybe this is just what happens to a team beset by youth as much as anything else. In the critical red-zone possession by the Lions just before halftime, the Bears were facing Matthew Stafford with six rookies on the field (linebacker Leonard Floyd, defensive end Jonathan Bullard, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, cornerbacks Deiondre Hall and Cre’Von LeBlanc and safety Deon Bush) plus cornerback Bryce Callahan and safety Harold Jones-Quartey, in their second years, and not including second-year nose tackle Eddie Goldman, not in when the Bears go nickel personnel.

The Lions did score a go-ahead touchdown on a throw from Stafford to ageless (36) Anquan Boldin when Jones-Quartey fell down in coverage. But the Bears also recovered to be in position to win in the fourth quarter behind a quarterback (Matt Barkley) making his third NFL snap, throwing to a second-year undrafted receiver (Cam Meredith) after taking the snap from a rookie center (Cody Whitehair).

“There’s always going to be a learning process,” said defensive end Akiem Hicks, “whether you’re going from scheme to scheme, or whether you have young guys that haven’t had a lot of snaps in the league.”

This time the loss came less because they weren’t good enough, but because they had again beaten themselves. For the fourth time this season, the Bears had a fourth-quarter lead and lost.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Which is part of how teams produce 3-10 records, and frustration. Frustration because for a brief time Sunday afternoon in Ford Field, the Bears played like a good football team. Trailing 13-3 with 6 minutes to play in the third quarter, they responded, on successive possessions, by:

- scoring on a 31-yard pass from Barkley to Meredith late in the third quarter. 13-10, Lions.

- Intercepting Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford in the end zone;

- Driving before punting and putting the Lions at the Detroit 9;

- Intercepting Stafford again, this time scoring on the Cre’Von LeBlanc interception and 24-yard return; 17-13 Bears, 7 minutes to play.

From that point on, the blizzard outside Ford Field was matched by one of Bears gaffes inside. The Lions drove down the field, aided by a 15-yard facemask penalty on defensive end Cornelius Washington and a 13-yard pass-interference flag on cornerback Bryce Callahan, scoring on a 9-yard run by Stafford through the middle of missed tackles and bad angles for the clinching score.

“This one hurts,” said linebacker Pernell McPhee. “The offense gave us a good chance to win. [We] just didn’t finish it.”

The offense self-destructed on its own, with the holding penalties that negated a total of 50 passing yards and had taken the Bears to the Detroit 16 and then the 30, only to have it moved farther back. When the final pass bounced off the shoulder pads of receiver Josh Bellamy, with a timeout and time for a tying field goal, little was left to be said.

The Bears indeed had no one, certainly not the officials, to blame for this one but themselves. With a first down at the Detroit 11 on their opening drive, the Bears took consecutive pre-snap penalties, on Larsen for a false start and Barkley for delay of game, and were forced to settle for 3 points instead of 7 in a game that was lost by… 3 points.

The Bears were penalized a total of 139 yards, nearly all with direct impact on the outcome. The Lions on their first touchdown drive picked up 43 yards on two coverage infractions by cornerback Tracy Porter. The Callahan and Washingon flags came on the second Detroit scoring drive.

“I think our margin for error right now is very minimal,” Fox said in something of an understatement.

Hall of Fame writers rank Jay Cutler behind Brandon Marshall on all-time Bears list


Hall of Fame writers rank Jay Cutler behind Brandon Marshall on all-time Bears list

The summer days of the offseason are prime ranking season, and the Bears official website is entering the mix as part of the team’s 100th season celebration.

Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson ranked the top 100 players in franchise history for their upcoming centennial scrapbook, and Monday the team released the first 25 names on the list.

The biggest standout was quarterback Jay Cutler, who ranked 85th.

Plenty of Hall of Famers should rank above the Bears’ all-time leading passer, but 84 is quite a few.

It’s hard to compare a modern quarterback to players from previous decades, like 82nd-ranked George Blanda, but Cutler even came in behind the likes of wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, neither of whom spent more than five years in Chicago.

Third-year safety Eddie Jackson also made an appearance at 96 on the list, and beloved former long snapper Patrick Mannelly started off the list at 100.

Taking a post draft, rookie-minicamp look at the Bears 2019 opponents: Weeks 11-17

Taking a post draft, rookie-minicamp look at the Bears 2019 opponents: Weeks 11-17

A lot has changed since the NFL released the 2019 schedule. Teams have added through the draft and free agency, and learned more about their rosters with rookie minicamps. Now with all that behind us, let’s take another look at which opposing rookies could make an impact in 2019. We’ll go over the first five opponents on Wednesday, the next four on Thursday and the last four on Friday.

Week 11 at Rams

If LA doesn’t re-sign Ndamukong Suh they’ll have a major vacancy on their defensive line: enter fourth-rounder Greg Gaines. The Rams traded back into the fourth round to snag Gaines, so clearly they think highly of the first team All-Pac-12 DL who had 56 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season at Washington.

Week 12 vs. Giants

The Giants made the biggest splash of the draft by selecting Daniel Jones No. 6 overall. Reactions to the picks in the media and on social media were very similar to when the Bears traded up to pick Mitchell Trubisky No. 2 overall in 2017, and Trubisky has already publicly given Jones advice for how to deal with the negative attention. Will Jones follow in Trubisky’s footsteps and have replaced Eli Manning under center by the time the Giants visit Chicago?

Week 13 at Lions

See Thursday’s preview of Bears’ opponents. 

Week 14 vs. Cowboys

Fourth-round pick Tony Pollard is the lesser-heralded running back from Memphis rather than Darrell Henderson, but he can run and catch. Over his last two seasons, he put up 782 rushing yards, 994 receiving yards and 15 total touchdowns. He also adds much needed depth to the Dallas running back room, as the leading rusher behind Ezekiel Elliott last season was Dak Prescott with 75 attempts for 305 yards. After that, it was Rod Smith with 44 attempts for 127 yards.

Week 15 at Packers

See Wednesday’s preview of Bears’ opponents.

Week 16 vs. Chiefs

If Tyreek Hill doesn’t play this year due to domestic violence allegations, second-round pick Mecole Hardman could get a lot of snaps at WR in his stead. Hardman can blow by defenders, like Hill, and ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine. That number was good for fifth-best among all participants this year. On the field for Georgia, he caught 35 balls for 543 yards and seven touchdowns. He added a punt return touchdown, as well.

Week 17 at Vikings

See Wednesday’s preview of Bears’ opponents.