Bears Grades: Defense shares part of the blame for loss to Texans

Bears Grades: Defense shares part of the blame for loss to Texans

HOUSTON – Much of the focus in the wake of the Bears’ 23-14 loss to the Houston Texans was on what the Chicago offense failed to do. That served to overshadow a potentially more ominous failure by the Bears’ defense, which wasn’t supposed to have the kind of day it did against the kind of offense it faced in Brock Osweiler and the Texans.

Indeed, the fate of the 2016 Bears has been expected to rest heavily in the hands of a massively made-over defense, at least while a revamped offensive line and new coordinator settle in. Instead, a major share of the responsibility for Sunday’s nine-point loss fell squarely on the defense, which was notable through much of this offseason for its swagger and attitude, but was more notable Sunday for its wobble and vulnerability.

A game that saw the defense take some control early with an interception by cornerback Tracy Porter on the Texans seventh play from scrimmage deteriorated into a mishmash in which the Texans converted 60 percent of third downs and a rookie wide receiver (Will Fuller) put 100 yards on the Bears’ secondary in just the second half. The Bears had one takeaway on Houston’s seventh play and none on the next 65.

“It’s time of possession, moves the chains,” coach John Fox said of his defense’s failure to get third-down stops. “Usually it results in points when you move the chains, whether it’s explosive plays or moving the chains on third down. It’s arguably the most important down other than fourth down.”

The defense held Houston, which scored a franchise-record 102 points in preseason, to 13 points through the first 47 minutes. But Houston was converting more than 50 percent of third downs to that point, and any sense of the Bears’ defense controlling the game was somewhat illusory. The Texans were on the field for more than 18 minutes of the first half, and matched that in the second, meaning that the Bears simply did not do a winning job of staying on the field or getting off of it.

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“I feel like we could start faster,” said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. “The ‘pick’ in the beginning was great but there were some things we let slip at the start of the game. Those are things we need to be better at.”

Defensive line: D

Houston set out to scheme the Bears into nickel personnel, meaning two down-linemen, and the Bears could not stanch the bleeding up front as tailback Lamar Miller ran the ball 28 times for 106 yards.

“We started fast with the turnover but just couldn’t stop the ‘leaky’ yardage,” Goldman said. “Whether we’re in nickel or not, we’ve got to stop the run.” Goldman was initially credited with all or part of six tackles and a shared sack with linebacker Leonard Floyd.

Akiem Hicks forced a fumble that escaped the Bears but resulted in a crucial five-yard loss that effectively ended a third-quarter possession. Mitch Unrein was a force early, with a flush and hit of quarterback Brock Osweiler in the first quarter, followed later by drawing a holding penalty that effectively ended Houston’s second possession.

But the line rarely managed to take any sort of control of the line of scrimmage, and pressure on Osweiler was inconsistent when it wasn’t invisible.

Linebacker: D+

The edge rush was nearly invisible, with a Danny Trevathan inside blitz accounting for the only sack in the first half. Jerrell Freeman’s diagnosis and tackle-for-loss on a first-quarter Houston screen pass was a possession-stopper, and Freeman broke up a pass inside the Chicago 5 in the second quarter to force the Texans to settle for a field goal.

Rookie Leonard Floyd was used extensively but was slow to register impact initially, being too often neutralized in runs to his side and getting little pressure on quarterback Brock Osweiler. Floyd, getting the start in his first NFL game, beat Houston left tackle Chris Clark with an outside rush to share a sack with Eddie Goldman and was credited with six sacks in initial post-game stats.

[RELATED: Bears Talk Podcast: Positives and negatives of loss to Texans in season opener]

But Sam Acho, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young were generally non-factors, Houston getting a hit on Osweiler, Acho one tackle and Young failing to register any impact plays of note.

“The way guys are flying around, unwillingness to stay blocked with the big guys up front,” Freeman said by way of identifying positives. “I am telling you, flying around and being relentless. Playing hard, guys knowing what they are supposed to be doing. We are a well-coached team, Vic [Fangio, coordinator] puts us in a lot of positions where we just got to play. We got to make a play when it comes to you.”

Secondary: D

The pass defense allowed just one completion of longer than 12 yards in the first half, setting something of a tone against a receiving group that has been explosive. But rookie Will Fuller, the Texans’ first-round pick out of Notre Dame, eventually rolled up 107 yards on just five catches, while Pro Bowl wideout DeAndre Hopkins had a quiet 54 yards on five catches, but also scored on a 23-yard pass from Brock Osweiler.

Tracy Porter’s interception against Hopkins was textbook, both for coverage and winning the 1-on-1 for the football. Porter also drew a pass-interference flag on Hopkins in the end zone.

“[But] it’s a game of halves and a game of quarters, so you have to play for four full quarters, and you have to play for two halves,” Porter said. “And you don’t do that, you only play for one half, then the other team has the ability to come back, much like what happened today.”

Rookie cornerback Deiondre Hall was pressed into service in the second half and managed two pass breakups in the end zone. But the Bears generally were unable to neutralize Fuller, who had 100 of his yards in the second half.

Special teams: B+

Eddie Royal, pressed into service as a punt returner, broke a 31-yard return in the first quarter, although the offense failed to exploit the plus-territory field position.

Punter Pat O’Donnell launched seven punts for an average of 42.3 yards, including two inside the Houston 20. Deonte Thompson, rebounding from injuries during preseason, brought back five kickoffs an average of 20.5 yards – unspectacular but solid.

Kick coverage was spotty. The Texans returned three kickoffs an average of 24.3 yards with a long of 28 yards.

Connor Barth was not called on for any field-goal attempts.

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

NBC Sports Chicago

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

The news that came out Thursday, that Chet Coppock had died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident earlier this month in Florida, was sad on so many levels. That you didn’t have a chance to say “good-bye,” that you didn’t have a chance to say “thank you,” that you won’t have more of “those” kinds of Chet moments.

But one of my favorite movie moments is at the end of “The Last Samurai” when Tom Cruise, the wounded ex-U.S. soldier who’d fought with the Samurai, is asked by the young Japanese emperor about the death of Ken Watanabe’s Samurai character Katsumoto, “Tell me how he died.” To which Cruise says, “I will tell you, how he lived.”

Somehow that’s the feeling thinking about Chet – little fun snapshots of how he lived.

Snapshots like listening to Coppock on Sports, and appreciating that Chet deserves a spot in the pantheon of those who created a genre.

Like how we in the media laughed imitating Chet’s questions, which routinely went on long enough for you to run out for a sandwich and be back before he was finished. But the chuckle was how Chet wouldn’t directly ask a guest, “So why did you make THAT idiotic play?” No, Chester had this tack of, “So, what would you say to those who would say, ‘You’re an idiot?’” Of course, it would take a minimum of two minutes for him to wend his way through the question, but the results were always worth waiting for.

Like “Your dime, your dance floor.” 

Like grabbing lunches with Chet while I was working on the ’85 Bears book, but in particular while I was writing “100 Greatest Chicago Sports Arguments.” The specific in the latter told me a lot about Chet, far beyond just the information he was sharing.

The “argument” was over who was the greatest Chicago play-by-play broadcaster. Now, Chet of course suggested tongue-in-cheek that he belonged in the discussion; after all, as he pointed out, a high school kid at New Trier games, sitting by himself in the stands, doing play-by-play into a “microphone” that was one of those cardboard rollers from bathroom tissue, oughta be worth something.

Chet’s nomination for the actual No. 1 was Jack Brickhouse, the WGN legend who Chet noted had done play-by for every conceivable sport.

But the reason for Chet’s vote for Brickhouse wasn’t about any of that. It was, Chet said, because Brickhouse beginning back in the mid-‘50s, when the Cubs were integrating with Gene Baker and Ernie Banks, had very intentionally made it clear with his broadcasting and behavior that Baker and Banks were “Cubs,” not “black Cubs.” Brickhouse’s principles had left an impression on a then-young Chet.

I hadn’t known any of that. But Chet did, and that he had taken a lasting impression from what he’d heard growing up said something about Chet as well as Jack. That impressed me, and frankly has always been my favorite Chet story.

So losing an institution like Chet is sad; Chet did say that, no, he wasn’t an institution, but rather that he belonged IN one. But at least he came our way.

Behind Enemy Lines: Looking at where the Bears fall in their opponents’ schedules


Behind Enemy Lines: Looking at where the Bears fall in their opponents’ schedules

Week 1: Packers at Bears (TNF / NFL Season Opener)

It’s NFL Opening Night. Really not much else to say here. The Packers do host the Vikings in Week 2, so there’s that.

**10 days off**

Week 2: Bears at Broncos

No shortage of juice for the Broncos here. On top of Vic Fangio getting the opportunity to take down his former team, it’s the Broncos home opener. There’s also some ridiculous stat out there about the Broncos being something like 75-2 in Week 2 at home or something (*Not the actual stat, it’s buried in TweetDeck somewhere), so this one will be tough.

Week 3: Bears at Washington (MNF)


Washington’s schedule

Week 1 at Eagles

Week 2 vs Cowboys

Week 3 vs Bears MNF

Week 4 vs Giants

Week 5 vs Patriots

So Washington hosts the Bears in the midst of facing all three of their divisional opponents in the first four weeks of the season. I don’t know what it means, I just know I found it interesting. Worst case scenario for the Bears is that Washington is (more than likely) 0-2 and needs to throw the kitchen sink at the Bears to “save” their season on Monday Night Football. But then there’s this: Washington is 2-14 on Monday Night Football since November of 2008.

Week 4 Vikings vs Bears


Vikings Schedule

Week 3 vs Raiders

Week 4 at Bears

Week 5 at Giants

Week 6 vs Eagles

Divisional games aren’t typically let down or look ahead spots and that certainly holds true for both teams here. I’d watch out for that Giants game in New York sandwiched between the Bears and Eagles if I were a Vikings fan though.

Week 5 vs Raiders in London


Raiders Schedule

Week 2 vs Chiefs

Week 3 at Vikings

Week 4 at Colts

Week 5 vs Bears in London

Week 6 BYE

All bets are off for these London games. The Khalil Mack trade revenge game certainly should be a Bears win, and after facing a murderers row of the Chiefs, Vikings and Colts, the Raiders could be limping across the pond.

Week 6  BYE

Week 7  Saints vs Bears


Saints Schedule

Week 6 at Jaguars

Week 7 at Bears

Week 8 vs Cardinals

As JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis and I talked about on the Under Center podcast I actually think it’s a good thing the Bears are facing a likely Super Bowl contender coming out of the bye week. Last season, they faced the Dolphins and Giants coming out of the Bye, and the extended post-Thanksgiving break respectively and they lost against bad teams. No excuse for not getting up for this game. And as you can see, there’s nothing to distract the Saints from the defending NFC North champs.

Week 8   Chargers vs Bears


Chargers Schedule

Week 6 vs Steelers

Week 7 at Titans

Week 8 at Bears

Week 9 vs Packers

So the Chargers were 7-1 on the road last season, but I think their road success and their 12-4 record come back to earth in 2019. Last season was their first season winning 10+ games since 2009. And we saw the real Chargers (not) show up against the Patriots when it mattered most in the AFC Divisional Round. Give me a healthy dose of Philip Rivers throwing a temper tantrum after Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks combine for the Bears fourth sack of the day.

Week 9 at Eagles


Eagles Schedule

Week 7 at Cowboys (SNF)

Week 8  at Bills

Week 9 vs Bears

Week 10 BYE

Week 11 vs Patriots

The already tall task of avenging last season’s double doink playoff heartbreak gets even tougher with the way the schedule falls for Jordan Howard’s new team. Having the Patriots looming could have been advantageous for the Bears, but this being the Eagles’ last game before the bye nixes any chance Doug Pederson’s team will be looking past the Bears and ahead to a Super Bowl LII rematch. Big game at a big point of the season for both teams.

Week 10 vs Lions


Lions Schedule

Week 9 at Raiders

Week 10 at Bears

Week 11 vs Cowboys

Week 12 at Washington

Week 13 vs Bears  (Thanksgiving)

Nothing jumps out from the Lions perspective here. Should be a ‘get right game’ for the Bears coming off IMO their toughest stretch of the season. There is some letdown potential with the lowly Lions dropped into this otherwise murderer’s row 5 game stretch.

Week 11 at Rams (SNF)


Rams schedule

Week 10 at Steelers

Week 11 vs Bears  (SNF)

Week 12 vs Ravens (MNF)

Super Bowl hangover anyone?? The Bears laid the defensive blueprint for how to beat the Rams – and the thing I can’t still get over: it’s great that a mic’d up Sean McVay realized the Patriots were using the Bears scheme early in the Super Bowl. But how did he not have a counter for it at that point? A team beat you this exact way? The Bears finish what they started a season ago by sending the Rams into a tailspin while Mitch cements himself as a household name.

Week 12 vs Giants


Giants Schedule

Week 11  BYE

Week 12  at Bears

Week 13 vs Packers

We’re doing this again are we? Huge letdown spot for the Bears against what should be a really bad team coming off their bye week and the Bears have a short Thanksgiving week looming. I don’t like it. Not even a little bit.

Week 13 at Lions (Thanksgiving)


Lions Schedule

Week 12 at Washington

Week 13 vs Bears  (Thanksgiving)

Week 14 at Vikings

We saw the Bears handle a brutal 85-hour turnaround from Sunday Night Football to Thanksgiving last season – so they’ve been here. Last year’s Thanksgiving game did actually come down to Kyle Fuller making a game-saving INT in the end zone at the end of the game. Definitely edge Bears but anything can happen on Turkey day.

**update! I found the Broncos stat!  51-8-2 in weeks 1-2 at home.  Carry on.****

Week 14 vs Cowboys (TNF)


Cowboys schedule

Week 12 at Patriots

Week 13 vs Bills

Week 14 at Bears (TNF)

Week 15 vs Rams

Getting funky with back to back Thursdays. The Bears did do this in 2014, losing against the Lions and Cowboys in that order as the Trestman era was coming to its Real Football Coaches of Chicago (in)glorious ending. For my money, I have this as the most pivotal game of the season. With 10 days off afterward, a win could propel the Bears into their crucial home stretch (and the playoffs) in the driver’s seat.

**10 days off**

Week 15  at Packers


Packers Schedule

Week 13 at Giants

Week 14 vs Washington

Week 15 vs Bears

Week 16 at Vikings

Week 17 at Lions

Well here’s some fun with schedules. The Packers finish with three straight against the NFC North. And they get to warm up for it with back to back games against the NFC East’s least. Does the Matt Nagy era come full circle from Lambeau heartbreak in the 2018 opener to cementing his second straight divisional crown in enemy territory?

Week 16 vs Chiefs (SNF)


Chiefs Schedule

Week 14 at Patriots

Week 15 vs Broncos

Week 16 at Bears (SNF)

Week 17 vs Chargers

Definitely a roll of the dice by the schedule makers to have the Andy Reid – Matt Nagy, mentor vs pupil, reigning MVP vs reigning top defense this late in the season. This game very well could mean nothing to either or both teams. But for everyone’s sake, let’s hope we all get the primetime early Christmas present of watching Patrick Mahomes vs the Bears defense with everything on the line.

Week 17 at Vikings


Vikings Schedule

Week 14 vs Lions

Week 15 at Chargers (SNF)

Week 16 vs Packers (MNF)

Week 17 vs Bears

Another fun schedule wrinkle where another NFC North opponents close with a division heavy final stretch. Normally I would have a problem with the Vikings getting to end the season with all three of their NFC North home games in the final month. But we saw what the Vikings did at home with their season on the line against the Bears in the final week last season, so I have my doubts as to whether they’ll even still be alive at this point.

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