Bears

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

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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.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.