Cutler's efforts not enough as Bears close season with home loss to Lions


Cutler's efforts not enough as Bears close season with home loss to Lions

It's clear what one of the Bears' top goals will be next season: Win at home.

The Bears finished the 2015 regular season with a 24-20 loss to the Detroit Lions, ensuring a 1-7 finish at Soldier Field in John Fox's first year as head coach.

The Bears (6-10) were playing catch-up all day as Matthew Stafford and the Lions (7-9) marched downfield on the game's opening drive for a touchdown.

Slow starts have plagued the Bears all season and Week 17 was no different. They did not get on the scoreboard until the middle of the third quarter, when Robbie Gould connected on a 49-yard field goal.

The Bears looked as if they were going to have a chance to pick up a score on their first drive of the game, too, but Jay Cutler's pass in the endzone tipped off Cameron Meredith's hands and into the waiting arms of Lions safety James Ihedigbo.

Cutler also threw an interception right before halftime when his arm was hit, setting up a 59-yard field goal from Lions kicker Matt Prater as time expired in the first half.

The Bears' hopes were dashed on Cutler's final interception on the first play out of the two-minute warning when he was hit by Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and the ball floated into the hands of Detroit safety Glover Quin.

The Lions picked up a first down on the ensuing drive before settling into victory formation and winding down the clock.

Working without his top five receiving options (Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, Marquess Wilson, Zach Miller and Martellus Bennett), Cutler played some inspired football despite the three interceptions, executing the gameplan rather well in what may be offensive coordinator Adam Gase's last game in Chicago.

Cutler worked with Marc Mariani (6 catches, 80 yards), Josh Bellamy (3 rec, 49 yds, TD), Deonte Thompson (1 rec, 45 yds) and third-string tight end Rob Housler (2 rec, 18 yds) while also utilizing Matt Forte out of the backfield.

Forte scored on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Cutler, making for a nice moment in what is likely the star running back's final game with the Bears. Forte shared a touching minute with the Soldier Field faithful, who gave the veteran a standing ovation after crossing the goal line.

Forte also finished with 76 yards rushing on 17 carries plus 34 yards on three catches.

Cutler ended his day with 245 passing yards to go with the two touchdowns and three interceptions and a rating of 97.5.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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,'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.