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.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

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

Bears not on initial list of teams attending Colin Kaepernick workout

Bears not on initial list of teams attending Colin Kaepernick workout

The Bears are considered one of the NFL's most quarterback-needy teams after Mitch Trubisky's uninspiring play through the first half of the 2019 season, but that doesn't mean they're searching for his replacement just yet. 

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will conduct a workout on Saturday in Atlanta and the Bears were considered to be one of the most likely landing spots for the one-time dual-threat. But according to Thursday's announcement by the league, Chicago isn't one of the 11 teams who have confirmed their attendance.

The clubs who will have a representative on-site are Arizona, Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New England, NY Giants, NY Jets, Tampa Bay and Washington.

It's possible the Bears could confirm their attendance over the next few days, but at this point, it doesn't appear like there's much interest.

We'll continue to update the Kaepernick story as news breaks.

The Bears' issues with run defense start with Akiem Hicks, but that's not where it ends

The Bears' issues with run defense start with Akiem Hicks, but that's not where it ends

The Bears' defense didn't allow a rushing touchdown through the first three games of 2019. Over that stretch, teams (Green Bay, Denver, Washington) averaged 3.06 yards per carry against them, and the Bears held all three under 100 yards rushing. It looked like this: 

Sharp Stats

Those numbers represent how much success Green Bay, Denver, and Washington had running the ball in certain directions. That's a lot of red (and one weird green?) on the interior, where Akiem Hicks was lined up for 147 snaps. It's a small sample size, but the Pro Bowl defensive tackles influence is noticeable. It's even more noticeable, though, in the same chart for the following seven weeks: 

Teams were averaging 3.4 yards per carry (YPC) in Hicks' direction through the first three games. After that, Hicks played eight more snaps before being put on IR, and that YPC has shot up to 4.1. Since then, the Bears have also allowed eight rushing touchdowns, with at least one in every game except for last week's Detroit win. Over the last six weeks, they've given up 169 yards (OAK), 151 (Saints) and 146 (Eagles) on the ground. So is that just because Hicks isn't there?

"We’ve kind of opened up a can of worms, and until you put that fire out, you’re going to continue to get the same type of schemes," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. 

"So it’s just a matter of being consistent. I thought our guys did a nice job for the most part, except for a few of those. It’s really those scramble yards that get you."

Pagano mentioned that, somewhat ironically, the Rams' offense wasn't the only historically-great unit that got exposed during that Sunday night game last December. It falls on him, he said, to put players in better schemes – especially now that teams can afford to throw more attention at Khalil Mack in Hicks' absence. Much of that falls in the hands of Nick Williams and Nick Kwiatkoski, who both have been unexpected bright spots this season. Pagano praised 'Kwik' using all the normal buzzwords (grit! toughness!) and mentioned how pleased he was with Williams' steady, incremental performance. 

"[Williams] is a big talented guy," he said. "He’s learning on the run and he’s getting some more burn like you said. I think he played his best game to date this last one. He’s really disruptive and he did get the one sack. He’s doing a nice job and he’s playing better against the run.”

Based on when he was put on IR, Hicks would be elligble to return for the final three games of the Bears season, starting Dec. 15 in Green Bay. Until then, he's taken on a bit of a de facto assistant coach role. 

"He’s a guy who’s in our meeting room," said defensive line coach Jay Rodgers. "He can speak the same language as me. We’ve been around together for 4 seasons now. He has great insight in terms of understand what offensive lines are trying to do to particular defensive setups.

"He’s an alpha personality and people gravitate towards him. When he speaks, he’s not just blowing hot air. What he says, he means it. And that’s valuable to the team."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.