Bears

Matt Barkley endears himself to Bears teammates with gutsy performance

Matt Barkley endears himself to Bears teammates with gutsy performance

Matt Barkley could've been the hero.

In fact, he should've been the hero.

A case of the drops by Bears receivers overshadowed Barkley's career resurgence as the former USC standout rallied his team to the brink in his first career NFL start.

Barkley and the Bears came up just short Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, watching as Deonte Thompson couldn't come up with Barkley's fourth down pass in the back of the endzone.

[RELATED - Bears flip the script with strong second half, but valiant comeback falls short]

Two plays earlier, Barkley hit a wide-open Josh Bellamy in the endzone, but the pass bounced off Bellamy's chest and fell harmlessly to the grass in the endzone for a crucial drop.

That was the fifth recorded drop by Bears receivers in the fourth quarter, but even with that, Barkley still tallied 210 passing yards and two touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the game.

Do the Bears receivers feel like they let him down? 

"Definitely," said Marquess Wilson, who had 125 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, but also dropped an easy TD in the middle of the fourth quarter. "He gave us an opportunity at the end of the game to win. We just gotta make plays."

Barkley never once placed blame on his receivers or threw anyone under the bus. He took the high road again and again in his postgame press conference, pointing to the thumb at himself for mistakes instead of pointing the finger at his teammates.

"I feel like I let him down," Bellamy said. "I feel like I let myself down and my teammates down, but gotta keep going."

After the Bears jumped out to a 7-0 lead behind Barkley's first NFL TD pass, the Titans rattled off 27 unanswered points to set the stage for a nearly-epic comeback.

Barkley had only 106 passing yards in the first three quarters and threw two backbreaking redzone interceptions, including one in the endzone in the middle of the third quarter. Even settling for field goals in that situation could've meant a tie game in the waning minutes instead of the Bears trailing by six with one final drive.

But he flipped a switch in the fourth quarter and had his team just seven short yards away from a victory with under a minute left.

"He's a fighter," Bellamy said. "He will fight to the end and give us everything he's got. He did a great job."

"Matt played his butt off," receiver Cam Meredith said.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Bears saw Barkley's confidence growing as the game progressed, winning over his teammates with his heart and grit at a time when half the team's starters are injured or suspended.

"Everything [was impressive]," Thompson said. "Just to rally back like that, with what our team is going through right now with a lot of guys injured and this and that — for him to come back and our team to come back like that in the second half, it's big."

Barkley missed some opportunities early in the game, showing some inaccuracy and rust, but his poise never wavered in the pocket, with teammates raving about his demeanor.

"That guy was cool, calm and collected in the pocket," tackle Charles Leno Jr. said.

With Jay Cutler possibly lost for the season and Brian Hoyer already done for the year with a broken arm, the 26-year-old Barkley will get a chance to continue to show what he's made of over the final five games of the 2016 campaign.

"I was thinking about that [ESPN] guy [Trent Dilfer] with the 'Dropping Dimes,' and I see Matt droppin' dimes all over the place," defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. "It was awesome to see a young quarterback — well, maybe not too young — getting his opportunity and putting his best foot forward."

Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

Mark Carman, Scott Merkin and Chris Bleck join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester looks to get back on track against the Pirates? Should he still be the Cubs Game 1 starter in the playoffs?  Len Kasper joins Kap to discuss.

 

How much will Mitch Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game? And will Carlos Rodon end up being the White Sox’ best starter?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

How aggressive will the Bears' offense be? 'That's our attitude'

How aggressive will the Bears' offense be? 'That's our attitude'

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Matt Nagy provided a defining quote for his offense when a reporter observed that Mitch Trubisky was continuing to take shots downfield instead of checking down during practice. 

“That's never going to stop,” Nagy said. “Not in this offense.”

For a team that had neither the personnel nor scheme to be successful on offense over the last few years, that one quote felt like a breath of fresh air. Not in this offense would the Bears be conservative, plodding and predictable. What’s never going to stop is the aggressive mentality Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich have worked to instill in this group during the installation phase of preseason practices. 

“That’s our attitude every time we come out on the field, is to be aggressive, to go full speed and it’s to execute all our assignments,” wide receiver Anthony Miller said. 

Just because Trubisky has frequently hucked the ball downfield over the last few weeks of practice doesn’t mean this offense will go from one of the worst to one of the best in the NFL. There’s plenty of work still to be done, a large chunk of which falls on the shoulders of Trubisky. The coaching staff will begin paring things down next week, when a dress rehearsal of gameplanning begins leading up to Aug. 25’s meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs. 

But while that week of gameplanning surely will lend itself to less reflexive aggression, that overall approach isn’t going away. Not when the Bears are confident in Trubisky and the multitude of weapons surrounding their franchise quarterback. In a more narrow scope, Nagy said Trubisky's arrow is pointing up after back-to-back days of quality practice against the Broncos here in Colorado. 

"It wasn't one good day, one bad day. It was two good days," Nagy said. "That's what his expectations are. That's what he knows that we want. He's done that and we're not gonna stop him." 

For some perspective, last year Trubisky only attempted 30 passes of 20 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, 41 percent of Trubisky’s attempted passes traveled 0-10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage; drilling down further, 21 percent of his attempts were 0-10 yards and over the middle, representing most frequent “zone” to which he threw the football. Not all of those were check-downs, of course, but plenty of them were. Only nine percent of Trubisky’s throws traveled 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. 

This was, of course, partly a personnel issue — Josh Bellamy was the most-targeted receiver on deep balls (eight), while guys like Dontrelle Inman (six), Kendall Wright (four), Deonte Thompson (three), Markus Wheaton (three) and Tre McBride (three) weren’t reliable downfield targets, either. But then again, Tarik Cohen was only targeted twice on deep balls — the first one, Cohen had a step on an Atlanta Falcons linebacker, but Mike Glennon’s pass was slightly under thrown an broken up in the end zone; the other was a 70-yard completion from Trubisky against the Carolina Panthers. 

The point being: Not only did the Bears lack the personnel to create mismatches and be aggressive, but the conservative nature of the offense meant there wasn’t much opportunity within it to do so, either. 

The Bears can be aggressive now in part because of the nature of the offense, and in part too because of the personnel they now have. If an opposing team wants to double anyone — Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Cohen, etc. — that’ll open up a mismatch somewhere else on the field, which lends itself to aggressiveness. 

“The biggest thing I’ve learned about this offense (is), just, there’s a lot of answers,” Trubisky said. “We’re not always going to have the perfect play call for the perfect coverage or whatever. But there’s always somewhere to go with the ball, pass to run, run to pass, there’s a lot of kills, options — there’s a lot of things we can do.”

Said Burton, who’s put together a strong preseason to date: “That’s why (Ryan) Pace and Nagy brought all those guys here, to win the one-on-one matchups. I know we’re all looking forward to those whenever it’s our time, we gotta take advantage of it.” 

Exactly how aggressive the Bears’ offense will be will become apparent in the next week and a half. While the Bears will still hold some things back against Kansas City to keep them off tape, the overall tenor of the offense will be more readily apparent on Aug. 25 than in the team’s other preseason contests. 

And if all goes according to plan, not only will this offense be aggressive — it’ll be aesthetically pleasing to everyone watching, too. 

“We’re going to keep taking shots,” Trubisky said. “We’re going to keep being aggressive because it opens up everything else when you can hit those shots. The key is just to be consistent with them, hit them and then it really stretches the field and opens up the run game and opens up the intermediate throws as well. So we’re going to continue to be aggressive, which I love.”