Bears

Bears Grades: Players "don't know" what problems are with stagnant offense

Bears Grades: Players "don't know" what problems are with stagnant offense

Two weeks into the 2016 season the Bears’ offense has scored a total of three touchdowns. The actual production, or lack of, would be concerning enough. But adding to the concern is the fact that as far as what’s wrong, “I don’t know, I don’t know,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “But it’s not where it should be. That’s definite.”

Cutler insisted that coaches had in place a good game plan and coordinator Dowell Loggains called a good game, but “we’ve got to figure it out.

“Nothing’s gotten going the way we want it to. A lot of that falls on me; it falls on the rest of the offense. We’ve got to take a look at it and whatever’s bothering us on offense, we’ve got to get it fixed.”

The “it” needing fixing looms larger and larger. An offense that committed to the run netted 10 yards – that’s one-zero, 10 – in the first half while converting just one of five third downs. This against the same Philadelphia defense that was allowing the Cleveland Browns more than 5 yards per carry last week.

The offense lost the football on three of its first four possessions of the second half and had no possession longer than eight plays while the game still mattered.

[RELATED: Check out the grades for the Bears defense]

Quarterback: C-

Jay Cutler performed creditably early with 10-for-13 passing for 145 yards in the first half in the face of pressure from the Philadelphia front. He distributed the ball to six different targets in the first half.

But Cutler also lost the football on a strip-sack that was not entirely his fault as protection faltered early in the second half. “That’s what turned the game, I think,” said Eagles defensive end Connor Barwin.

“I’ve just got to hold onto the ball,” Cutler said. “They did kind of cover [receivers] up okay. I just have to secure the ball there.”

And his careless, back-foot throw toward Alshon Jeffery was intercepted by Philadelphia linebacker Nigel Bradham was devastating, leading to a touchdown that put the Bears down 22-7 after three quarters.

Cutler, suffering from a thumb injury of undisclosed severity, completed 12 of 17 passes for 157 yards, no touchdowns and the interception. Brian Hoyer completed nine of 12 passes for 78 yards in relief of Cutler.

But the turnovers, which Cutler effectively reduced dramatically last year, were deadly.

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Running back: D-

The offense utilized Jeremy Langford starting and Ka’Deem Carey in early and often, and turned to rookie Jordan Howard with good effect in the second half. Langford carried 11 times for 28 yards, Carey twice for three yards, and Howard 22 yards on three runs.

Langford’s fourth-quarter fumble gave the Eagles field position at the Chicago 47 and led to a Philadelphia touchdown. Fullback Paul Lasike provided a perfect seal block on a Langford TD run in the second quarter.

Pass protection was generally poor although exact assignments were difficult to assess right at the time.

Receiver: B

Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal established their presences against struggling Philadelphia defensive backs. Jeffery picked up 22 yards on a first-quarter completion, then 49 when he broke deep behind coverage in the second to set up the Bears’ first touchdown. Royal was exceptional with quick throws to the outside, breaking tackles and turning short completions into long ones with yards after catches.

Jeffery led the Bears with five catches for 96 yards and Royal caught four for 52 total yards.

Kevin White remained a relative non-factor, not what the Bears need from a seventh-overall draft pick. He finished with four receptions, one for 19 yards, but has given the Bears nothing down the field either because of route issues or other factors.

The Bears opened with “12” personnel (one back, two tight ends) and got less than nothing from tight end Logan Paulsen, who let safety Malcolm Jenkins blow in and sack Jay Cutler on the game’s second play and effectively end an important opening possession.

Offensive line: D-

The run game failed again to materialize and Bears quarterbacks took three sacks and six hits on a total of 32 drop-backs. Kyle Long was beaten for a strip-sack in the third quarter by rookie defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao that gave the Eagles field position and momentum after the Bears appeared to be mounting a drive. Josh Sitton was flagged for holding on the second series.

Coaching: F

Maybe the Eagles are simply too stout to run against but the Bears appeared flummoxed early and ran the ball just seven times vs. 15 pass plays in the first half. The offense was able to isolate wide receivers on second-tier corners but calls on third downs were curious.

The defense managed a couple of sacks of Carson Wentz but only three total hits, and Wentz was able to pick apart Bears coverage as the Eagles effectively created some mismatches with linebackers on receivers in space.

Special teams benefitted from a TD return but the return game is puzzling, with the Bears failing to get the ball to the 25-yard line on any of the four kickoffs they elected to bring out.

The overall concern was the lack of fire in the team, which falls on the players. But some component is missing, and sloppy play and ball security points to a problem.

Kings in the North: Bears top Packers, win division for first time since 2010

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AP

Kings in the North: Bears top Packers, win division for first time since 2010

The Bears accomplished Goal No. 1 for 2018 on Sunday, beating the Green Bay Packers 24-17 at Soldier Field to clinch their first NFC North crown — and playoff berth — in eight years. 

In doing so — and in tandem with the Minnesota Vikings’ win over the Miami Dolphins — the Bears also eliminated Aaron Rodgers and the Packers from the playoffs. That’ll only make the biggest “Club Dub” celebration of 2018 even sweeter. 

The Bears showed the kind of improvements that’ve been building all season since blowing a 20-point lead at Lambeau Field in Week 1. This was a team that, with the score tied at 14 in the fourth quarter, made the kind of plays in the final 15 minutes necessary to vanquish a Rodgers-led Packers side. Mitch Trubisky threw a touchdown to a wide-open Trey Burton. Tarik Cohen darted 44 yards on a punt return. Leonard Floyd and Khalil Mack tormented Rodgers to force back-to-back three-and-outs while the offense put up 10 points to take the lead. 

And when Rodgers drove Green Bay into the red zone late in the fourth quarter, Eddie Jackson hauled in a tipped pass for an interception that ended Rodgers’ streak without a pick at 402 passes. Perhaps the only thing that went wrong in the fourth quarter for the Bears was Jackson suffering an injury on that interception and limping into the locker room.  

This was a massively important win for the Bears beyond officially clinching the division, an achievement that seemed inevitable with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Vikings heading into the season’s final three games. The Bears ended an eight-game home losing streak against the Packers, including the 2011 NFC Championship, proving that this division-winning team is opening a new chapter in this storied rivalry. 

The Bears can now turn their focus to finishing the season on a high note with not only a playoff spot locked in, but in all likelihood, the NFC’s No. 3 seed. The next time the Bears will be at Soldier Field, it’ll be for a playoff game. 

And taking a step back: That’s an incredible achievement for Matt Nagy and this franchise, one which has endured so much losing over the last few years. 

The Bears are going to the playoffs, and they confirmed that against the Packers. It’s hard to imagine a sweeter sentence for fans to read.

Khalil Mack is now sacking quarterbacks without using EITHER hand

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@TheCheckdown

Khalil Mack is now sacking quarterbacks without using EITHER hand

Hello! It's Sunday, which means you're due a video of Khalil Mack sacking a quarterback without using any of the things a pash rusher would normally use, like, say, arms:

The one arm routine was getting old, I guess? 

Tune in next week when Mack gets to the QB using like his toes or a deep breath or something.