Bears Grades: Secondary has disastrous breakdown in OT


Bears Grades: Secondary has disastrous breakdown in OT

In a slogging, quirky game that bordered on tedious much of the time (each team had just three plays longer than 16 yards), the Bears were undone ultimately by a disastrous breakdown in a secondary and coverage that had broken up six Blaine Gabbert passes, limited Anquan Boldin to catching just five of the 13 passes thrown to him (two of seven in the second half), and adjusted generally well to an unsung quarterback on a career resurgence.

The unraveling came on a 71-yard Gabbert-to-Torrey Smith touchdown pass in overtime. The exact coverage is irrelevant except for the fact that not all Bears defensive backs appeared to be playing the same one, eerily similar to the breakdown against the Green Bay Packers in game 16 of 2013, when safety Chris Conte was on one page, other DB’s on another, and Randall Cobb was in the end zone.

[MORE GRADES: Cutler has worst game of season in loss to 49ers]

Safety Adrian Amos was lined up on Smith in the slot under what one Bear ID’d as a Cover-3 zone. Safety Chris Prosinski was alone in the deep middle (“a form of single-high coverage,”) according to another Bear. Smith breaking deep and knowing what he had as he drew abreast of Amos, who dropped off into an area of zone responsibility.

“We were just reading [Amos],” Smith said. “I kind of saw him settling and the saying is, ‘If you’re even, you’re leavin’,'” Smith said. We were about even so I knew I was going to be wide open.”

Said Amos: "It was a miscommunication. We gotta look at the film." Prosinski declined getting into specifics or finger-pointing.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Ironically, coverage on the 49ers’ previous scoring play had been good to the point of Gabbert being forced to hold the football and scramble away from pressure. The problem was that he scrambled 44 yards through the Bears for a tying touchdown run that included several missed tackles.

“Without going too much into our scheme, there were ‘man’ elements to it,” said coach John Fox. “It was a good play on Gabbert’s part. We didn’t execute as well as we needed to.”

Gabbert finished with 18-for-32 passing for 196 yards, the TD pass, zero interceptions and a rating of 84.9. Bryce Callahan was excellent in holding down Boldin, finishing with two passes deflected and four solo tackles, matched by cornerback Kyle Fuller, who also broke up a pass.

Moon's Grade: C-

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

USA Today

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

During the critical fourth-quarter Oakland Raiders drive for a game-winning touchdown, one former Pro Bowl’er and NFL observer remarked to this writer that he was surprised to see a lot of hands on hips and mouth-breathing by members of the Bears defense – two common signs of being gassed.

Critiquing conditioning – or lack of – is problematic the way judging pain tolerance is. And if the Raiders score were an isolated incident, the question likely doesn’t come up.

But something is amiss. While the Bears defense remains among the NFL’s best, at least statistically, a shadow of concern is falling over the defense and its ability to close out games that it has within its reach.

The Bears held fourth-quarter leads over Denver and Oakland and allowed go-ahead touchdowns. They were rescued by Eddy Piñeiro’s 53-yard field goal in the final second. No such rescue in London.

Fully half of the eight touchdowns scored by Bears opponents in 2019 have come in fourth quarters. (The Bears themselves have not scored a single TD in any fourth quarter this season, but that’s a separate discussion.) By contrast, last season the defense did not allow a fourth-quarter touchdown in any of the final five regular-season games.

The temptation is to look only at the numbers, which are in fact positive. Even with the 24 points the Raiders scored against them in London, the Bears ranked second only to New England in scoring stinginess (13.8 ppg.) and fifth in yardage allowed (312 ypg.).

But the Bears have 17 sacks as a team; only three of those have come in fourth quarters.

Opposing quarterbacks have passed at an 81.3 rating in first halves; they are throwing at a 91.4 clip in second halves.

The defense has allowed 16 first downs in first quarters; 21 in seconds; 20 in thirds.

In 2019 fourth quarters, 34 first downs allowed.

Pulling the camera back for a wider view, extending back to include the disturbing 2018 playoff loss:

Vs. Philadelphia
Eagles drive 60 yards in 12 plays and nearly 4 minutes to score game-winning TD with :56 remaining. Cody Parkey’s double-doink overshadows fact that Bears defense forces Eagles into only two third downs and allows winning score on a fourth down.

Vs. Green Bay
With the Chicago offense sputtering all game and in need of a short field, Packers go on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 6:33 to set up a field goal to go up 10-3 deep in the fourth quarter.

At Denver
Inept Broncos offense scores 11 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 13-3 Bears lead, driving 62 yards in 12 plays, converting two fourth downs and a two-point conversion. Denver’s second-half drives: 41 yards, 56 yards, 84 yards, 62 yards.

Vs. Washington
Bears build 28-0 lead before one of NFL’s worst offenses scores a pair of largely meaningless second-half TD’s.

Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Drive 92 yards in 13 plays for TD before Bears stiffen to stop two-point PAT and next Minnesota possession.

Vs. Oakland (London)
Raiders win game with 92-yard drive that includes fourth-down conversion on punt fake run despite Bears leaving No. 1 defensive unit in, anticipating fake.

Guess which highly-paid NFL kicker is only making 58% of his field goals?

USA Today

Guess which highly-paid NFL kicker is only making 58% of his field goals?

Remember that time when the Bears tried out like 47 kickers and put them through a wide variety of arbitrary tests all while fan favorite Robby Gould was using the team's desperation as leverage to become the NFL's highest-paid kicker? Classic! 

It's been like three months since those totally-sane summer days, and reader, things have not gone so hot for Gould: 

Meanwhile, Eddy P is not only 8/9 on the season, but is already well on his way to becomming a fan favorite. We're already calling him Eddy P! After 5 games! 

That said, we won't truly know if the Bears made the right decision until Piñeiro beats out several Hall of Famers -- including someone credited for literally starting the NFL -- on the path to winning an offseason bracket-style fan vote.