Bears

Blown chances in OT loss to 49ers put Bears on brink of being finished

12-6-jay-cutler-bears-49ers.png

Blown chances in OT loss to 49ers put Bears on brink of being finished

A team that not all that long ago prided itself on forming an identity as fighters and finishers now finds itself fighting to avoid succumbing to a feeling that their season is finished.

Indeed, the toughest part of Sunday’s 26-20 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers (4-8) was “probably not finishing the game, letting them stay around, stay in the game, not finishing,” said linebacker Lamarr Houston. “We didn’t finish quite the way we wanted to but we’re going to be all right. We’re headed in the right direction; we’ll get it together.”

Maybe not this season, however.

The loss, coming after the Bears had won three of their last four, two of them on short weeks, dropped the Bears to 5-7. As concerning, it marked the third time in the span of just seven games that they have failed to deliver a win that would have brought them to the break-even point in a season that started 0-3. This one came with their allowing leads of 6-0, 13-6 and 20-13 to ebb away.

That is not the stuff of “finishers.”

[MORE: Bears shoot themselves in the foot in OT loss to 49ers]

The ignominy was all-encompassing and absolute. “I know we’re not going to like watching the film [Monday],” said quarterback Jay Cutler.

Said coach John Fox: “Like any close loss like today – and we’ve had our share – it comes down to us making plays in every area of the team. We just didn’t make enough.”

The game ended on a breakdown in deep coverage on which San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw 71 yards to wide receiver Torrey Smith for the winning score in the overtime, the second OT game (Detroit) that the Bears lost to drop back two games below .500.

“We just had miscommunication,” said safety Adrian Amos, who had Smith off the line but left him to drop into zone coverage, “just miscommunicated.”

The game should have ended on a 36-yard field goal by historically accurate Robbie Gould, who inexplicably yanked the kick wide left for his second miss of the game.

“I didn’t get the job done today,” Gould said. “This falls on me, on my shoulders.

The game could have effectively ended many times before either of those plays, or before Gabbert’s 44-yard scramble through nearly every Bear on the field with 1:50 to play. The misses and breakdowns will be the most remembered but the game never should have gotten to either of those points.

Eight of 12 Bears possessions in regulation ended in the San Francisco end of the field. But only two of those ended in touchdowns, two ended in settling for field goals, and two ended in field goals that weren’t, Gould missing from 40 and 36 yards.

“We had good field position for most of the day,” said quarterback Jay Cutler, who struggled with accuracy and put up his poorest passing game (64.2 rating, 18-for-3 passing, 202 yards, 0 TD’s, 1 INT, returned for a touchdown). “I thought our defense did a heck of a job for us. We’ve got play better offensively. That starts with me.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

In overtime, after the defense delivered a three-and-out and the Bears could have won the game with any kind of score on their possession, the offense went three-and-out.

The Bears had at least one penalty on six of their final nine possessions. They scored on none of the six.

The loss comes after a franchise-lifting win over the Green Bay Packers and after extra time off that comes after a Thursday night game.

Suddenly, the talk of “playoffs” the past several weeks rings hollow. The defeat doesn’t eliminate them from playoff hope, "we just need a little help,” said linebacker Pernell McPhee.

“We have to handle our business. We just gotta win out. If we win these next four games and we're gonna get whatever help we get."

When it came to handling their business and helping themselves, however, the finishers didn’t.

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

tb-bro.jpg
USA TODAY

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

truuub.jpg
USA TODAY

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games.