Bears

Bears not alone with 0-3 woes, but loss to Seahawks offers one key upside

john-fox-bears-0927.png

Bears not alone with 0-3 woes, but loss to Seahawks offers one key upside

SEATTLE — Sometimes the absence of pain can be taken as pleasure, and a loss that could have been a humiliation somehow looks better because it wasn’t completely embarrassing. But Sunday’s 26-0 loss felt at times like a fourth preseason game, with a backup quarterback throwing to wide receivers who would start only in a fourth preseason game (Eddie Royal excepted).

Maybe some overall perspective first:

If you’re a Bears fan needing something to feel upbeat about, how do you think folks in Detroit feel about their Lions, projected to be pretty good, who are also 0-3 and that’s with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and most of the players that matter? What do the Lions have to look forward to? The Baltimore Ravens are 0-3 and they have Joe Flacco (and Marc Trestman as their offensive coordinator). The New Orleans Saints are 0-3 and they (mostly) have Drew Brees.

Injuries aren’t an excuse but in the Bears’ case, they certainly are a reason. “As I said last week, ‘We’re 0-2,’” head coach John Fox said. “We’ll get better. We will get some guys back hopefully at some point. We will be a little bit more whole. There are enough guys in there that we can generate enough good football to win games.”

One reality is that the Bears might even have played fairly well over their first three games and been 0-3. But ultimately they did not, and the loss to the Seattle Seahawks left unanswered what kind of team the Bears really are.

Or maybe it did answer that without Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery, Jeremiah Ratliff and maybe Kevin White, the Bears cannot compete in the 2015 NFL with anybody much good.

[MORE BEARS: Linebackers strong but worn out thanks to offense]

All things considered

If there were nothing constructive in the loss at Seattle, the situation would be far, far more dire. But one of the treats on game days is standing by to do my segment of our Postgame Live show that features Lance Briggs, Dan Jiggetts and Jim Miller. And when three former NFL players with long histories of straight talk are talking about positives that they observed in Sunday’s game, then it’s a pretty sure thing that something had transpired on the plus side.

The main one Sunday night was the arrival of a pass rush without coordinator Vic Fangio needing to go into a panic mode, which he abhors anyway. Pernell McPhee played like the franchise linchpin he was signed to be (two sacks, two tackles for loss, four quarterback hits), and Jarvis Jenkins (two sacks, 10 tackles, two for losses and two quarterback hits) was the kind of impact down-lineman (for a game, at least) that Fangio had in San Francisco with Justin Smith.

“It starts with the interior. If the inside gets rush, that opens up the outside. We got good rushes in the first half and that’s when (Seattle) had to start clamping down. That’s 3-4 defense," Jenkins told CSNChicago.com. "You could see that with Vic Fangio in San Francisco with Justin Smith and those guys. It’s got to start with the D-line.”

And the D-line gets Ratliff back from suspension this week. Fox might not go in for candid public critiques of his players but neither does he usually say something is when it isn’t, and “I think we’re making headway,” he said. “I think we made headway in some phases of our defense. But we still have a long way to go.”

Not that it necessarily counts for anything, but the attitude is right. Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson followed Jenkins’ first sack with a bit of trash-yelling and 12th-man baiting of the Seattle fans in the south end zone.

“Hey, that’s what it’s all about,” McPhee said. “We gotta make up our minds that we are a defense people are going to be scared of. That’s how we have to play the rest of the year.”

[MORE BEARS: Jimmy Clausen can't trigger offense in shutout loss]

But over on offense

The results with Jimmy Clausen were about what should have been expected, maybe a little bit worse, but better quarterbacks than Clausen have struggled against the Seahawks in Seattle, and getting Oakland in Soldier Field is potentially a more manageable assignment than Sunday’s.

But the Bears cannot entertain thoughts of progress when they have 10 possessions and punt 10 times (if you want a positive, at least they went through a game without a turnover for the first time this season).

And even a bad team should be able to do better than five second-half possessions with four ending as three-and-out’s and the fifth a four-play possession. The last time the Bears were shut out was a 15-0 blanking by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the Bears also rolling out a backup quarterback — Henry Burris — who threw four interceptions among his 19 attempts. Clausen wasn’t that bad, at least.

Special teams were, however. The Bears are using starters on coverage (including linebacker Sam Acho, safety Antrel Rolle) and gave up three 60-plus-yard returns in the span of barely six quarters, including the kickoff-return touchdown Sunday in a play that clinched the outcome, given the obvious limitations and shortcomings of the Clausen-led offense.

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

matt-nagy-washington-redskins.jpg
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?

usatsi_13364483.jpg
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.