Bears

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.

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Positive press about the Chicago Bears' offseason is having a strong impact on the jersey sales for the team's highest-profile player, Mitch Trubisky.

According to Dick's Sporting Goods, Trubisky's No. 10 is the fifth-most popular jersey among offensive players over the last 30 days. He's No. 6 among all players, regardless of position.

The Bears' offseason has been full of superlatives since their aggressive approach to free agency. The signings of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel put the spotlight on Trubisky and the potentially surging passing game. The second-round selection of Anthony Miller and word of Kevin White's offseason emergence has turned positive momentum into higher-than-anticipated expectations for Trubisky this season.

For Chicago to have any chance at meeting those expectations, Trubisky, who's entering his first full season as a starter with a new head coach and offensive system, has to thrive. Fans must be confident that he will, considering the investment they're making in his jersey.

Trubisky ended his rookie season with four wins in 12 starts, throwing for 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He completed 59.4 percent of his passes. He should have a much more productive season in 2018 with his new arsenal of skill players and an innovative coaching staff, led by coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.

These four Bears will be featured on 'Meet the Rookies' series

These four Bears will be featured on 'Meet the Rookies' series

The Chicago Bears will kick off the fourth season of "Meet the Rookies" on June 25, a series that profiles four of the team's 2018 draft picks for a behind-the-scenes look at their journey to the NFL.

The four-episode series will air on ChicagoBears.com at 7:00 p.m from June 25 - 28 and will feature one rookie per night. 

Monday's episode will cover the Bears' first-round pick, Roquan Smith. Selected with the eighth-overall pick, Smith is expected to become an instant-impact player on defense. He's expected to make an impact off the field, too, as a high-character leader. Smith's linebacker-mate Joel Iyiegbuniwe is the focus of Tuesday's episode, with Anthony Miller (Wednesday) and James Daniels (Thursday) rounding out Season 4.

For a deeper dive into what's in store in "Meet the Rookies," check out this description.