Bears

Bears Grades: Offense produces big numbers but commit errors at worst times in loss to Colts

Bears Grades: Offense produces big numbers but commit errors at worst times in loss to Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – The frustration among offensive players after the Bears 29-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts was palpable, and why not? Quarterback Brian Hoyer had the Bears in position to win a second straight game, running his string of passes without an interception to 140 and the Bears putting up the biggest yardage total (522) since the 1989 team put 542 on the Detroit Lions on Sept. 24 that season.

The Bears have posted 2016 yardage totals, in succession, of 258-284-390-408-522 and have a 1-4 record to show for it. “I don’t know if you are ever pleased with that [yardage] fact,” said coach John Fox. “So that is something we have to work on. I think we did some good things but not quite enough good things.”

That could be said about nearly every position group – outstanding performances, individually and/or collectively, marred by one devastating gaffe.

Quarterback: A-

The big negative was Hoyer failing to see an open Alshon Jeffery in the Indianapolis end zone for what could have been a game-winning throw late in the fourth quarter. That mistake clouds an otherwise solid game, one with some misses, but one that likely secures his role as Bears starting quarterback.

“When you see the picture [afterwards], they disguised the coverage and really, you’re just trying to go through the progression,” Hoyer said. “It’s obviously a play you’d like to have back. I’m sure I’ll watch it tomorrow and really look that one over and hopefully learn from it.”

Hoyer posted 397 passing yards, most of his career, while completing 33 of 43 throws, both career highs as well. He again went without an interception as well as avoiding sacks with good movement within the pocket when the Colts did bring pressure. Hoyer was efficient and sufficiently accurate throughout, giving his receivers chances to make catches even against decent coverage

Whether by design, because of coverage or whatever, Hoyer did not make major use of Jeffery but did have four receivers catch five or more passes. Jeffery was targeted on just six of Hoyer’s 43 throws.

Running back: A

Jordan Howard got his second NFL start and demonstrated his perfect fit with the Bears’ zone-blocking scheme, staying efficient and shoulders squared downfield, a repeated his play of the Lions game with repeated bursts for yards after first contact. He finished with 118 yards on 16 carries (7.4 ypc.) and added three pass receptions (out of three targets), including a 21-yard check-down from Hoyer for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Howard broke a 57-yard run in the second quarter, the longest play of the game.

Ka’Deem Carey got one carry as the Bears again made no effort to employ a “committee” approach to the backfield. Carey contributed one reception, a 15-yard pickup in the first quarter.

Howard set the offense back severely with a first-quarter facemask infraction blocking on a Cameron Meredith play down to the Indianapolis 1-yard line. The Bears eventually were forced to settle for a field goal.

[MORE BEARS GRADES: Defense get Colts QB Andrew Luck down but far from out in loss]

Receivers: B+

Cameron Meredith, moving in to replace injured Kevin White, caught nine of 12 passes passes for 130 yards. He provided a major boost to the offense with a touchdown, but also its death knell, fumbled away a fourth-quarter catch on what was potentially a game-winning drive.

“I put in a lot of hard work, so anytime you can get that type of outcome, I’m definitely going to be proud,” said Meredith, an undrafted free agent out of Illinois State who earned a spot on the roster last season. “I just wish I could get that one mistake back.”

Meredith, in his first NFL start, tallied on a 14-yard TD catch late in the second quarter and finished with 130 receiving yards

Jeffery brought the offense to life with third-quarter catches of 38 and eight yards. But Jeffery appeared to never be in real rhythm with Hoyer, catching five passes but only seeing six for the game.

Tight end Zach Miller had his best game of 2016, with seven catches for 73 yards and breaking tackles for a 17-yard gain late in the fourth quarter that moved the Bears to the Indianapolis 30 for a shot at the win.

Eddie Royal, who’d been unable to practice all week because of injury, caught seven of his nine passes for 43 yards.

The main smudge on the receivers’ performance: Logan Paulsen set back the opening drive with a false-start penalty. He drew a second flag on what would have been a Howard TD run, from which the Bears recovered on a TD pass to Meredith. 

Offensive line: A-

Hoyer was hit only five times on 43 dropbacks, never sacked, the Colts managed just one tackle for loss, and Howard averaged 7.4 yards per carry on his way to a second straight 100-yard rushing performance.

The reasons were the offensive line, which took another significant step forward. The group made too many mistakes in the form of penalties early, but the overall play was the main reasons for the offense generating 522 yards.

The line delivered a zone-blocking clinic to pop Howard loose through the right side for his 57-yard gallop in the second quarter. Josh Sitton’s back-side seal cut of pursuit and Kyle Long and Bobby Massie dominated the Colts’ left side.

A holding call on Long deep in the Colts end in the second quarter was a big setback, nullifying a third-down conversion and forcing the offense to settle for the second field goal.

“We’ve got to finish,” Long said. “We battled – no doubt about it. Anybody who watched this game, was part of this game, knows we battled. But sometimes it’s not enough. You’ve got to finish and you’ve got to finish at an elite effort.”

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Coaching: A-

Having four penalties assessed in the span of the first eight minutes, one for too many men on the field and five on the offense in just the first half, pointed to some discipline or mental prep issues and cost the Bears dearly.

The offense executed well overall, save for specific mistakes on penalties and a couple of missed opportunities by Hoyer, and the game plan calling for Hoyer to rely on short, quick passes was key to his and the overall success.

A major play-call question came in the fourth quarter when a pass was thrown to Royal on a third-down fade route, rather than using one of the bigger receivers (Jeffery or Meredith) with a chance to win a one-on-one jump ball.

The offense operated with efficiency and balance, using high-percentage throws by Hoyer as de facto handoffs to a spectrum of receivers, getting the ball out of Hoyer’s hands and keeping him sack-free for the game.

The defense struggled to get to Andrew Luck in the first half but was consistent with effort and finished with five sacks. If there was a problem, it lay in not being able to get good coverage and a good rush at enough of the same times, which isn’t really a coaching problem usually.

Special teams did not allow any returns for scores this week but the Colts’ average starting point was their 31, vs. the Bears at the Chicago 22. With 11 possessions for the game, that’s roughly 100 yards of field position in favor of the Colts.

Postcards from Camp: Bears Matt Nagy understands what coaching interns are going through

Postcards from Camp: Bears Matt Nagy understands what coaching interns are going through

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Dear Stacey –

Well, I wanted to be head coach of the Chicago Bears and here I am, in charge of my first training camp, worrying about everything from Mitch Trubisky’s RPO footwork to whether Kyle Long is going to fall off his bike sometime in the course of camp. Probably don’t need to worry about Kyle – he’s always so safe about everything, and it’s not like he’s had all kinds of surgeries or anyth-- ….oh, wait, nevermind…

Besides all of that, we’ve got six coaches here as part of the Bill Walsh diversity coaching fellowship. They’re seeing how we do things and helping us out, and this is special. Remember back in Philadelphia when Andy Reid brought me into this profession through that program? Now it’s 11 years later and here I am, and this really represents a little pay-it-forward for me – I can understand where these coaches are because that was me once upon a time. Somebody gave each one of us a break that helped us along the way so our staff is more than delighted to have these fellows here.

Everybody was really pleased that some of our top vets – Mitch Trubisky, Allen Robinson, Chase Daniel, others – came down to camp early when the rookies reported. The coaches didn’t order that, and it says something about what you hope is forming inside the locker room. The young guys see the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 1 wide receiver coming in early and it sets both a standard and an example. When your best players are your hardest workers, then you’ve really got some leadership.

The pads’ll be on tomorrow (Saturday) so we’ll start seeing hitting by the fronts on both sides of the football, which takes the speed of everything up a notch. I’m going to pay close attention to how everyone is performing but also to how they’re holding up physically – circumstances set up beautifully for us, with an extra minicamp because I’m a new coach, then an extra practice week to go with the extra game Aug. 2 for the Hall of Fame.

Hope you and the boys are getting all the Chicago arrangements in place. Now, if I can just find my sunblock before practice…

Your coach husband,

Matt

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In search of an empty sick bay

After the obvious workload entailed in installing a new offensive system and coaching regime, Matt Nagy’s No. 1 concern is injury, which has plagued the Bears on an annual basis since the 2012 departure of Lovie Smith. So while Mike Ditka and Dave Wannstedt once made no secret of their approach using epically physical practices as a means of culling the roster, Nagy has laid out a balancing act between physical practices and knowing when to back off.

“The biggest thing that any coach in the NFL will tell you is that you want to come out healthy,” Nagy said. “That’s a big one. So you have to know where you’re at on that one. You have to have some luck involved in that. There’s some unfortunate injuries and there’s some that happen for certain reasons. Health is the biggest concern for us.”

Sadly, some position competitions and lineup decisions are inevitably dictated by injuries. A season-ending leg injury to Kevin White in 2016 opened a starting job for Cameron Meredith, who’d been the No. 5 wideout on the depth chart. Meredith’s own preseason season-ender made Deonte Thompson a starter. Safety Adrian Amos had fallen from two-year starter to backup by this time last year, and only started again because Quintin Demps suffered a fractured forearm in Week 3.

If there is a major health positive right now, it is that three pivotal starters – linebacker Leonard Floyd, guard Kyle Long, wide receiver Allen Robinson – all approach the start of practices fully cleared. Those represent two Pro Bowl players (Long, Robinson) and one the Bears expect to be (Floyd).

“One of the traits we look for in players is durability and availability,” said GM Ryan Pace. “Leonard is a very talented player with a lot of natural pass rush ability. But in order for him to reach that production, he needs to be on the field. I know he’s worked a lot on his body, he’s worked a lot on his techniques, so we just feel that if he can stay healthy, the production’s going to be there.”

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Weather or not….

Matt Nagy’s first practice as Bears coach came under a cloud – literally – as the threat of rain and thunderstorms had the team waiting until the last minute to determine whether the session would be held on an outdoor field as planned or indoors at a gymnasium on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University.

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The outlook for Roquan Smith when he signs….

Training camp has begun without the presence of No. 1 pick Roquan Smith as his agents and the Bears work out contract details. Few expect a protracted impasse and Smith’s development may be delayed but unlikely denied. Smith had been cycled in with the No. 1 defense, as were a number of the top newcomers to the ’18 Bears. That process is expected to resume whenever Smith’s deal is concluded.

Extended holdouts are never positive, for either side, but are not necessarily career-impacting. Quarterback Cade McNown missed the initial 11 days of his first (1999) training camp, eventually started, but whether because of shoulder injuries or talent shortcomings, or both, never played to his status as the 11th-overall pick. Cedric Benson’s rookie season (2005) was dramatically undermined by his 36-day holdout, but he had two more seasons after that and needed a move to Cincinnati where he averaged more than 1,000 yards over four Bengals seasons.

Defensive end Joey Bosa missed the first four weeks of the Chargers’ 2016 camp, then missed four weeks with a hamstring injury, but came off of that to be named defensive rookie of the month for October and finish with 10.5 sacks and defensive rookie of the year honors.

 

Training Camp Daily: Maintaining the balance between physicality and health

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USA TODAY

Training Camp Daily: Maintaining the balance between physicality and health

It is Day 1 of practice in Bourbonnais. Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin and producer Paul Aspan discuss how Matt Nagy's desire for a physical camp reconciles with the No. 1 goal of all training camps: stay healthy.

Plus, why there are only two real questions for the Bears in this camp - and they both involve QBs. And Akiem Hicks is one of the best Chicago free agent signings ever...but let's slow down with the Legion of Boom comparisons in the secondary.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: