Bears

Bears Grades: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers

Bears Grades: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers

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.

Quarterback: F-    

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.

Receivers: B-

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.

Coaching: C

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.

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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USA Today Sports Images

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”