Bears

Bears Grades: Defense gets Colts QB Andrew Luck down but far from out in loss

Bears Grades: Defense gets Colts QB Andrew Luck down but far from out in loss

INDIANAPOLIS – Sacking Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck five times was supposed to be the starting point for a win over the Colts. It wasn’t. And when the Bears needed to stop him at pivotal points, they couldn’t, which is the stuff of which losses in which a team allows 29 points are made.

The Colts scored the first four times they had the football, and it didn’t really ultimately matter that three of those four times they were forced to settle for field goals. None of those possessions lasted fewer than six plays and the Colts netted 396 yards – the third time in five games that the Bears (1-4) have allowed 340 or more yards, and the fourth time in five games that they Bears have allowed 23 or more points.

Including last season, the Bears have allowed nine of their last 10 opponents to score 21 or more points.

“We just have to keep plugging away,” said linebacker Willie Young.

Defensive line: D

Against an Indianapolis offensive line that has struggled this season, the lack of pass rush was glaring in the first half but got a little pickup when Akiem Hicks collapsed the pocket for a takedown of Luck in the third quarter. But no one was anywhere near Luck a play later when he converted a third down with a 19-yard pitch-and-catch.

And while Mitch Unrein contributed four tackles, no defensive lineman was consistently a factor stopping the Colts, who averaged 4.7 yards on 21 rushing attempts.

Hicks had a tackle for loss among his three tackles. Jonathan Bullard produced his first NFL sack on an ensuing third down to force a fourth Indianapolis field goal. Pressure on Luck improved dramatically in the second half but the Bears were unable to finish plays with wins up front.

[MORE BEARS GRADES: Offense produces big numbers but commit errors at worst times in loss to Colts]

Linebacker: C

Young gave the defense a first-quarter sack in a series with the Bears sorely needing a stop, and added a second in the second half to force the Colts to settle for a field goal. Young finished with three sacks, the first three-sack day of his career.

Sam Acho and Christian Jones worked on the edges in nickel packages. Ex-Colt Jerrell Freeman, credited with seven tackles in initial statistics, hit and pressured Luck into a throwaway that was short of the line of scrimmage for a grounding penalty.

Danny Trevathan returned from thumb surgery wearing a plastic cast on his hand and totaled six tackles.

Secondary: D-

The Bears were beaten for a deciding touchdown in the fourth quarter when safety Chris Prosinski appeared to leave the deep middle open with no help for cornerback Jacoby Glenn on T.Y. Hilton’s 35-yard TD that broke the Bears back. But the Colts had schemed to draw Prosinski away and Glenn allowed Hilton an inside break that was virtually impossible to defend.

“[The Colts] drained the safety [Prosinski] with the ‘out’ route and left the corner singled up, and the quarterback made a great throw,” said coach John Fox.

Coverage was generally pretty good against a good Colts passing game but that was wasted because of absent pass rush. When the rush started getting to Luck in the second half, coverage had too many windows of Colts opportunity.

Prosinski was substituted in for Harold Jones-Quartey in nickel packages. “That was just on third down,” Fox said, “but it was performance-based.”

Prosinski finished with eight tackles. Cornerback Bryce Callahan was credited with six stops before leaving with a hamstring strain. Cre’Von LeBlanc was credited with two pass breakups.

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Special teams: D

Connor Barth was wide left from 49 yards, a crucial third-quarter kick when the Bears needed points to answer a Colts score, and he remains a significant concern with (2-4) field goals for a team that will be in close games all year. The miss left the Bears in the position of needing a touchdown at the end of the game rather than being able to get close enough for try at a tying field goal and getting into overtime.

Roy Robertson-Harris was flagged for running into the punter but the Bears were spared because the play still left them in fourth down. Deonte Thompson gave an early boost with a 32-yard runback of the opening kickoff to set up a possession that ended with Connor Barth’s 35-yard field goal.

Coverage allowed a 39-yard Colts kickoff return in the second quarter allowed a punt return of 20 yards. Colts kickoff returns averaged 24.3 yards.

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

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Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Before Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey met with the media on Wednesday, Allen Robinson was curious what his position coach would say about him in public. 

“I just told him, I don’t know you,” Furrey quipped. “Who’s Allen Robinson?”

Furrey, of course, knows who Robinson is. But the point behind that joke is that Furrey, the Bears’ court wide receivers coach in four years, is still getting to know all of his receivers — let alone the one who hasn’t participated in a practice yet. For all the positivity that's easy to find around Halas Hall these days, the Bears' biggest offseason acquisition hasn't taken a rep yet. 

The good news for the Bears, of course, is that Robinson’s past play speaks for itself. He combined for 153 catches, 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, and has been adamant he’ll return to that high level of play when he’s cleared to practice. The Bears were confident enough in Robinson’s medicals to guarantee him a little over $25 million in March, per Spotrac, about a month before they let Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints largely over medical concerns (Meredith’s torn ACL was viewed as more serious than Robinson’s, in short). 

So the getting-to-know-you phase for Furrey and Robinson is largely taking place off the field in the meeting rooms of Halas Hall. 

“What a great young man,” Furrey said. “He’s come in here, obviously, rehabbing and doing all those things. But he’s alert, he comes to meetings, he’s ready to go. Really, really smart, you can tell that from the beginning and he’s a professional.”

What Furrey, in particular, likes about Robinson is that he’s an “alpha,” but is far more than all talk and no action. 

“And a lot of times that alpha talks a lot and they don’t really put it out there,” Furrey said. “He kind of has that alpha quietness to him. He understands what’s going on, you can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level. Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.”

The expectation all along has been for Robinson to be cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. So while coach Matt Nagy said last week Robinson is “ahead of the game,” that may not mean he takes part in the final round of OTAs next week or veteran minicamp the first week of June. 

But while Robinson can’t prove himself to his new coaches on the field yet, he’s doing the right things off the field to make a positive first impression. 

“He knows you gotta come in early, he knows you gotta be the last one to leave, he knows you gotta study,” Furrey said. “It doesn’t matter five years in, six years in, you gotta take notes. It doesn’t matter if you hear it 10 times, you just gotta keep taking notes. He’s been really good at that, and I’ve been really impressed with that. I’ve been able to get on the field with him a little bit, just kind of throwing some balls to him, and I didn’t know he was that big. But obviously we’re excited for it to happen out there.” 

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Mitch Trubisky has been set up for a huge season in 2018 with all the firepower the Chicago Bears added on offense. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will give the second-year quarterback a variety of explosive targets to generate points in bunches.

None of the headline-grabbing moves will matter, however, if the offensive line doesn't do its job. 

According to Numberfire.com, the Bears' starting five could be the offense's Achilles heel. They were ranked 21st in the NFL and described as poor in pass protection.

Last year, the Bears ranked 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate. These issues were especially apparent after Trubisky took over. In the games that [Kyle] Long played, their sack rate was 8.2%. It was actually 7.2% in the games that he missed. They struggled even when Long was healthy.

The Bears added Iowa's James Daniels in the second round of April's draft and he's expected to start at guard alongside Long. Cody Whitehair will resume his role as the starting center, with Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie at offensive tackle.

If Long comes back healthy and Daniels lives up to his draft cost, they should be a good run-blocking team from the jump. But Long has played just 18 games the past two years and is entering his age-30 season, so that's far from a lock. On top of that, the pass blocking was suspect last year and remains a mystery entering 2018.

The biggest addition to the offensive line is Harry Hiestand, the accomplished position coach who returns to Chicago after once serving in the same role under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. He most recently coached at Notre Dame and helped develop multiple first-round picks. He's going to have a huge impact.

The good news for the Bears is they weren't the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFC North. The Vikings came in at No. 25. The Packers checked-in at No. 13, while the Lions were 16th.