Bears

Bears' playoff hopes on the brink after loss

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Bears' playoff hopes on the brink after loss

This time there was no Marion Barber, no Roy Williams to blame. The offense gave as many points as it scored. The defense did about the same. And the Bears playoff hopes moved so close to the brink that, with a trip to Green Bay coming up next Sunday, any scenarios by which the Bears could make the playoffs didnt seem worth figuring out anymore.

The 38-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks (7-7), in which Seattle scored 31 unanswered points in the second half, allowed yet another team to slip by the Bears, who were 7-3 this time a month ago and wondering who besides themselves would be in the wild-card round.

Until someone tells us were eliminated or something like that, said coach Lovie Smith, well continue to play, but theres disappointment right now.

Uphill run

But no Bears team has ever lost four straight games and made the postseason that year. And the suspicion after Sundays death spiral in the second half is that the Bears are not done losing this season.

The Bears have lost in stunning overtime fashion in Denver and to Kansas City by way of a Hail Mary heave at the end of halftime. This week, they were blown out in the second half as the defense allowed 202 yards and appeared rocked into submission by lack of help from the offense or special teams.

Its been a tough way to lose, said defensive end Israel Idonije, who scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone in the first quarter. All of these losses have been extremely tough to swallow.

The Bears can still qualify for the playoffs if they win at Green Bay and Minnesota, and the Detroit Lions lose the rest of their games. But the Bears have not won in a month and there is little reason to suspect they will start now, even against a Packers team that finally lost and has little to play for now beyond late-playoff seeding.

Hanie disastrous

Caleb Hanie completed just 7-of-15 passes through three quarters for 92 yards. He had a 25-yard TD pass but also had a crushing interception returned for a touchdown by a Seattle defensive lineman.

Hanie finished with 10-for-23 passing for 111 yards and three interceptions, the last returned 42 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Brandon Browner late in the fourth quarter.

Hes had his ups and downs. Its just something hell learn from, said wide receiver Roy Williams, who may given the best indicator for Hanies future.

Best of luck to him the rest of the way.

No. 2 quarterback Josh McCown came on with five minutes to play and was unable to make any difference. It will be an NFL-grade surprise if McCown is not under center with the No. 1 offense this week after the Bears futility reached 0-4 under Hanie.

The defense put points of its own on the board but was pushed around in a listless second half, 137 yards in the third quarter, and appeared to be simply going through the motions as Seattle rolled off 31 unanswered points in the second half, albeit with huge help from Hanie.

Hurtin Bears unravel

This defeat was marked by several scary injury moments. Wide receiver Johnny Knox had to be carted off the field after suffering a back injury following his fumble in the first quarter. Safety Chris Conte was lost to a foot injury in the second quarter.

After going in with their first halftime lead in four games, the Bears came unhinged.

The defense allowed Seattle only 40 yards in the first quarter and 44 in the second. The Seahawks virtually matched those two plays on their opening drive of the third quarter, with Marshawn Lynch finishing an 80-yard drive with a three-yard scrum into the end zone.

The drive included Tarvaris Jackson completions covering 33 and 43 yards, the longest plays other than the Kansas City Hail Mary in the past three games.

That was followed by a nightmare dj vu for Hanie as he responded to a blitz in his face by linebacker K.J. Wright and unloaded a pass right into the midsection of 323-pound defensive end Red Bryant.

Bryant did exactly what Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji did with a similar Hanie gaffe in the NFC Championship game: returned it for a touchdown, covering 20 yards and putting Seattle ahead 21-14.

The disasters gave the Seahawks 14 points in the span of 50 seconds.

Finally

The Chicago offense got into Seattles end of the field three times in the first half. The third time was the charm, ending with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Hanie to Kahlil Bell.

That throw gave Hanie a brief stay of job execution after an otherwise punchless offensive first half in which the Bears totaled 168 yards of offense.

The score gave the Bears their first halftime lead at 14-7 with Hanie as their quarterback. The difference was that the offense converted all three third-down opportunities on a 57-yard drive, the Bears longest under Hanie since the fourth quarter of the Oakland game.

Horrible beginnings

A team desperately needing a fast start suffered anything but. Hanie was nearly intercepted by defensive end Chris Clemons dropping into coverage on Hanies first attempt. Then Hanie completely overthrew a wide-open Bell on a third-down attempt inside the Seattle 40.

Far worse, Knox caught a third-down pass on the previous possession, had the first down but then fumbled. The ball was recovered by Seattle but that was secondary to a frightening injury to Knox, who was bent backwards by defensive end Anthony Hargrove.

Knox was carted off the field, done for the game, but fortunately able to move his extremities sometime later.

The fumble was turned into points despite the Bears throwing the Seahawks for losses on three straight plays starting at the Chicago 1. But on a short field-goal attempt, Corey Graham used teammates to gain additional height trying to block the kick.

The leverage personal-foul call gave Seattle a break that became 7 points when Marshawn Lynch powered in for a touchdown.

Explosive answer

The defense picked up both the offense and special teams as Peppers slipped down on his pass rush, got back to his feet and arrived with second-effort in time to knock the ball out of Jacksons hand before the Seattle quarterback could start his arm forward.

The resulting sack-fumble, in the end zone, was recovered by Idonije to give the Bears their first first-half touchdown under Hanie since the Oakland game.

How the Bears' offseason plan will be defined by NFL's CBA negotiations

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USA Today

How the Bears' offseason plan will be defined by NFL's CBA negotiations

The Bears’ offseason will be defined by what happens in the next few days with — and sorry if this seems boring — labor negotiations. Trust us, though: It’s anything but boring. 

You’ve probably seen some of the items included in the collective bargaining agreement the league’s 32 owners ratified this week: Expanded playoffs, a 17th game, no franchise/transition tag, a new structure for fifth-year options, and — most importantly — more money for everyone (even if the owners, who do not play football nor suffer the aftereffects of playing football, have no interest in a 50/50 split of league revenue). 

But here’s where the intrigue lies: The owners want the NFLPA to either ratify or reject their current proposal by “next week,” a vague term clearly referencing the NFL combine. While the 2020 league year does not begin until March 18, the combine is where groundwork gets laid for deals and trades with agents, coaches and front office types all mingling for a few days in downtown Indianapolis (which, by the way, is a lot nicer a place than you may think!). 

And without a clear direction — either moving forward with a new CBA or continuing with the old agreement for one more year — how are football bigwigs supposed to spill secrets when the shrimp cocktails at St. Elmos are traded for real cocktails and then Bud Lights…and more Bud Lights?

(Also, Jerry Jones probably wants to know if he can or cannot use both the franchise and transition tags on Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.)

If the NFLPA ratifies the owners’ proposal, the Bears could get an immediate injection of cap space — the Athletic estimated an extra $5 million — that’d be a significant aid to Ryan Pace’s offseason strategy. 

It’d be interesting to know if the new CBA would affect Mitch Trubisky’s fifth-year option, which right now needs to be picked up or declined by May 2 and is guaranteed for injury only. If the new CBA were applied to Trubisky’s fifth-year option, it would be fully guaranteed, meaning the Bears would be on the hook to pay Trubisky no matter what in 2021 if they were to pick it up. But: the amount they’d pay him would certainly be less than the $24 million-ish he’d be due in the old agreement, because it’d be based on performance and, well, you know. 

But the real chaos — and downside for the Bears — could hit if the NFLPA does not ratify the owners’ proposal. Mike Florio at PFT ran down the impact of this, even if there seems to be a growing perception among some of the league's biggest voices that it's an awful deal for players. 

But playing out one more year under the current CBA, with no guarantee of labor peace and a 17th game, could mean free agents (or those due for extensions, like Allen Robinson) may not be interested in longer-term contracts given the uncertainty of A) the money available to players in the future and B) the 17th game, and what that means for the next round of TV contracts with ludicrous payouts. 

So no new CBA could mean more short-term deals with a high average annual value — the kind of thing a team with about $14 million in cap space can’t afford. The Bears’ best bet in free agency is to backloading three/four/five-year contracts for top players, allowing them to add talent while staying under the cap in 2020. 

To put it less abstractly: What if the Bears trade for Derek Carr (the Instagram post meant something!) but can't sign him to the extension they want, getting his $21.5 million cap hit down in 2020 while locking him up for a few more years after? It'd mean they'd probably have to cut a player or two they were hoping to keep

The coming hours and days are going to be massive in figuring out what direction the Bears can take this offseason. It may not be as interesting as TOM BRADY’S TOUR STOPS AT HALAS HALL but these negotiations will have a profound impact on what sort of roster the Bears field when the 2020 season begins in September. 

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NFL free agency: Making sense of Derek Carr's Instagram of Khalil Mack

NFL free agency: Making sense of Derek Carr's Instagram of Khalil Mack

There's smoke here, and Derek Carr is coming to the Bears, right?

You might want to believe that if you, the Bears fan who’s given up on Mitch Trubisky, reads into Carr's caption-free Thursday Instagram post. The photo was of Carr, who’s still employed by the Raiders, with his good friend Khalil Mack. 

Couple Carr’s confusingly-similar-named brother, David, posting a hashtag (#megaPowers) on it, and the inference is crystal-clear, right? This can only mean one thing: Carr will quarterback the Bears in 2020.

That’s the good stuff. 

Welcome to the silliness of NFL free agency, where Stefon Diggs deleting photos of him in a Minnesota Vikings uniform means the moody receiver definitely wants to be traded (that happened with Jordan Howard two years ago and…Howard was not traded in 2018’s offseason).

Know how to interpret a single emoji in a tweet from an impending free agent or disgruntled star? Congrats! You're qualified to be an NFL insider.

Now: Carr posting a photo with one of his closest buddies means he very well could want a reunion with Mack in Chicago. 

Nevermind the minor details of Carr 1) Still being on a Raiders team that doesn’t currently have his replacement on the roster, and won’t until mid-March at the earliest, 2) carrying a $21.5 million cap hit in 2020, about $7 million more than the Bears’ available salary cap and 3) not having any control over where he’d go if the Raiders were to trade him.

Maybe Carr found a picture of him and his best friend and posted it for no other reason than it was a good photo, as those of us on Instagram often do. 

More important: The Bears look unlikely to make a splash move at quarterback if you follow the money. Carr is too expensive to trade for while also successfully filling red-line needs at tight end, right guard, inside linebacker and safety. 

Or maybe there is smoke here, and the Raiders have made it clear to Carr they’re going to explore the quarterback market — maybe with Cam Newton, maybe with Tom Brady — and he’s starting to agitate for a trade to Chicago. Maybe the Bears are back-channeling some discussions to make sure they’re at the front of Mike Mayock’s mind when he tries to find a landing spot for Carr in the event he and Jon Gruden lure Brady to Las Vegas. The Bears, theoretically, could trade for Carr and sign him to an extension that makes his 2020 cap hit more palatable. 

You can see why the Bears might want Carr, who's had success in the past, is cheap relative to other starting quarterbacks and could be viewed as this franchise's version of Alex Smith. But that’s a long way off.  

And it’s not unprecedented for a vague Instagram post to portend the future. Remember when Allen Robinson posted a photo of him in a Cubs jersey a month before signing in Chicago?

Or, another possibility, and this tracks the most: Maybe Carr is just messing with everyone, knowing his name has been mentioned by the media as a potential trade target. 

As Instagram user angel.et.03 so elegantly put it in a comment on the post: “Carr just f***ing with us at this point.”

Good on Carr if he is, since he certainly succeeded.

Then again: Of the 70,000+ likes the photo has, one of them is from the user “fiftydeuce,” — Mack himself.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.