Bears Grades: Lethargic play, too much sloppiness hurts Bears


Bears Grades: Lethargic play, too much sloppiness hurts Bears

A question was put to coach John Fox after Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Washington Redskins, a game marked by lethargic play early and too much sloppiness throughout: Did he feel somehow that he was losing the locker room?

“If (the players) get lost, they get lost,” Fox bristled. “I think right now (coaches are) not losing faith in them, so I don’t perceive that being a problem.”

Something is a problem, however, in the inability of the Bears to translate physical, competitive practices into fire on the field in games. The Bears have either failed to start or to finish too many games through their first 13, inconsistency traceable to individual players not executing assignments, drawing penalties or other issues surfacing.

The Bears matched the Redskins in yardage (Bears 377, Washington 374) and were relatively even throughout, except for a woeful first quarter and start of the second, a stretch that left the Bears down 14-0 and out-gained 141-18.

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Washington had failed to score more than 20 points in any of five previous road games, yet put 24 on the Bears with Kirk Cousins throwing for 300 yards and completing 24 of 31 passes.

The pace of the offense was puzzling in a game where the Bears needed some momentum and something to change the tempo of a game that was solidly in Washington’s hands. Jay Cutler repeatedly had the play clock running down with his linemen in their stances.

The specter of penalties arose on offense, with four of the five offensive linemen accounting for a walkoff, several in costly situations.

“It wasn’t that they had 400 yards or 500 yards or something crazy,” Fox said. “It was just that we shot ourselves in the foot at inopportune times, whether it was a play on defense, an execution on offense, pass blocking, catching the ball or missing a guy. We don’t have a large margin for error, and it’s kind of the same song for too many weeks.”

Moon's Grade: D

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

USA Today

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

During the critical fourth-quarter Oakland Raiders drive for a game-winning touchdown, one former Pro Bowl’er and NFL observer remarked to this writer that he was surprised to see a lot of hands on hips and mouth-breathing by members of the Bears defense – two common signs of being gassed.

Critiquing conditioning – or lack of – is problematic the way judging pain tolerance is. And if the Raiders score were an isolated incident, the question likely doesn’t come up.

But something is amiss. While the Bears defense remains among the NFL’s best, at least statistically, a shadow of concern is falling over the defense and its ability to close out games that it has within its reach.

The Bears held fourth-quarter leads over Denver and Oakland and allowed go-ahead touchdowns. They were rescued by Eddy Piñeiro’s 53-yard field goal in the final second. No such rescue in London.

Fully half of the eight touchdowns scored by Bears opponents in 2019 have come in fourth quarters. (The Bears themselves have not scored a single TD in any fourth quarter this season, but that’s a separate discussion.) By contrast, last season the defense did not allow a fourth-quarter touchdown in any of the final five regular-season games.

The temptation is to look only at the numbers, which are in fact positive. Even with the 24 points the Raiders scored against them in London, the Bears ranked second only to New England in scoring stinginess (13.8 ppg.) and fifth in yardage allowed (312 ypg.).

But the Bears have 17 sacks as a team; only three of those have come in fourth quarters.

Opposing quarterbacks have passed at an 81.3 rating in first halves; they are throwing at a 91.4 clip in second halves.

The defense has allowed 16 first downs in first quarters; 21 in seconds; 20 in thirds.

In 2019 fourth quarters, 34 first downs allowed.

Pulling the camera back for a wider view, extending back to include the disturbing 2018 playoff loss:

Vs. Philadelphia
Eagles drive 60 yards in 12 plays and nearly 4 minutes to score game-winning TD with :56 remaining. Cody Parkey’s double-doink overshadows fact that Bears defense forces Eagles into only two third downs and allows winning score on a fourth down.

Vs. Green Bay
With the Chicago offense sputtering all game and in need of a short field, Packers go on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 6:33 to set up a field goal to go up 10-3 deep in the fourth quarter.

At Denver
Inept Broncos offense scores 11 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 13-3 Bears lead, driving 62 yards in 12 plays, converting two fourth downs and a two-point conversion. Denver’s second-half drives: 41 yards, 56 yards, 84 yards, 62 yards.

Vs. Washington
Bears build 28-0 lead before one of NFL’s worst offenses scores a pair of largely meaningless second-half TD’s.

Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Drive 92 yards in 13 plays for TD before Bears stiffen to stop two-point PAT and next Minnesota possession.

Vs. Oakland (London)
Raiders win game with 92-yard drive that includes fourth-down conversion on punt fake run despite Bears leaving No. 1 defensive unit in, anticipating fake.

Guess which highly-paid NFL kicker is only making 58% of his field goals?

USA Today

Guess which highly-paid NFL kicker is only making 58% of his field goals?

Remember that time when the Bears tried out like 47 kickers and put them through a wide variety of arbitrary tests all while fan favorite Robby Gould was using the team's desperation as leverage to become the NFL's highest-paid kicker? Classic! 

It's been like three months since those totally-sane summer days, and reader, things have not gone so hot for Gould: 

Meanwhile, Eddy P is not only 8/9 on the season, but is already well on his way to becomming a fan favorite. We're already calling him Eddy P! After 5 games! 

That said, we won't truly know if the Bears made the right decision until Piñeiro beats out several Hall of Famers -- including someone credited for literally starting the NFL -- on the path to winning an offseason bracket-style fan vote.