GREEN BAY, Wisc. – The Bears could scarcely have started off any worse Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers, with exactly one positive play in the entire first quarter.
And then things got bad.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer, having his worst outing since succeeding Jay Cutler, sustained a broken left forearm when he was hit by Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers after releasing a second-quarter pass. Matt Barkley replaced Hoyer, but the focus now centers on Jay Cutler returning from a thumb injury suffered in game two vs. Philadelphia, and Cutler starting a week from Monday in Soldier Field against the currently undefeated Minnesota Vikings.
“When [Cutler’s return] is going to be,” said coach John Fox, “I can’t say.”
Regardless of the quarterback, the offense showed none of the efficiency exhibited in the last four games under Hoyer. The Packers were good enough to encroach before the first snap; after the gratis five yards, the Bears netted exactly zero on three snaps before punting. The Bears failed to gain a yard on eight of their first nine plays
By the end of the first half the Bears were without both starting guards and their starting quarterback, with left guard Josh Sitton inactive due to an ankle injury and Kyle Long sidelined in the second quarter.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The offensive finished with 189 total yards, the lowest Bears total since game three of the 2015 season, in Seattle against the Seahawks (146).
“It was just a weird night,” said tight end Zach Miller.
Brian Hoyer was uncharacteristically inaccurate in the first half, missing on five of his first six passes and finished with 4-for-11 passing for 49 yards and a 50.9 rating. Worst of all, he overthrew a wide open Josh Bellamy on a seam route in the second quarter with Bellamy well behind the defense.
Matt Barkley, who last threw passes (three, all incomplete) for the Philadelphia Eagles in November 2014, fared poorly, not unexpectedly. Barkley completed six of 15 throws, was sacked once and threw two interceptions.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen the next couple weeks,” said Barkley, alluding to the uncertain status of Cutler. “I know I can do the job. ... I know I’m better than that.”
Running back: D+
With Hoyer gone, the Packers clamped down on the Bears’ rushing plans. But Ka’Deem Carey did an excellent job of gaining yards after contact, both on rushes and pass receptions. Carey finished with 48 rushing yards on 10 carries and caught his only pass target for nine.
Jordan Howard was completely shut down in the first quarter but recovered somewhat with an 11-yard carry and another for nine.
Quarterback issues and glaring inaccuracies rendered receivers as largely non-factors. Josh Bellamy gave the Bears their only positive play in the first quarter, with a 25-yard catch for a third-down conversion.
But while Alshon Jeffery was targeted 11 times, he finished with only three receptions. Zach Miller caught two of five. “You have to dial it back a little bit,” Miller said, “but we tried to stick to the game plan.”
Offensive line: D
The line was without Josh Sitton (inactive because of an ankle injury). Eric Kush started at left guard, his second NFL start since coming into the league in 2013.
Protection was about as good as could be expected overall, with Barkley taking one sack and Hoyer taking the huge hit on which he suffered his broken arm. But the Packers managed just five total hits on Bears quarterbacks and the run game averaged 3.8 yards per carry.
What coaches could have done differently with the personnel available is difficult to analyze. Eventually the defense caved in because of the offense being unable to generate any continuity.