Bears

Offensive concerns exist at season's end

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Offensive concerns exist at season's end

DETROIT The Bears had five possessions reach at least the Detroit 30-yard line in the first half alone and netted just one TD, that with help from a third-down pass interference call against the Lions. The 20-10 halftime margin should have been double.

No better measure of the 2012 woes of the Bears offense needs to be found than the first possession on Sunday when the first possession opened with a 55-yard pass from Jay Cutler to rookie Alshon Jeffery. Then, with the ball at the Detroit 27, the Bears netted just two yards on a first-down pass to Evan Rodriguez, nothing on a second-down run by Matt Forte, and less than nothing when Cutler ran around and eventually dropped the ball, leaving the Bears out of field-goal range.

Throw in a timeout needed to avoid a delay of game flag and a false start on tackle Jonathan Scott and you have the 2012 Chicago offense.

Add to that a fumble recovery at the Detroit 24 on a subsequent kickoff return in the quarter, and the offense getting just nine yards on a three-and-out to settle for a field goal. The result, plus a missed field goal, was the Chicago offense getting exactly three points from three early possessions inside the Detroit 25-yard line.

QUARTERBACK C

Jay Cutlers 55-yarder to Alshon Jeffery to open the game was a perfect throw; his handling of matters immediately after that was something of a mess. But his use of Earl Bennett on a swing pass was good for a 60-yard touchdown, although he too frequently was just treading water waiting for someone to get open and did not get the ball out of his hands quickly enough.

Cutlers decision-making with the game on the line was pivotal. With a third-and-4 he opted for a deep sideline throw toward Brandon Marshall that was incomplete.

Cutler was 4-of-5 in the first quarter; 4-of-10 in the second; 7-of-9 in the third; and 3-of-7 in the fourth. His passer rating of 95.8 was very respectable but misleading. His execution on third downs was poor with the Bears converting just four of 15 opportunities.

RUNNING BACKS A-

Matt Forte showed no ill effects from his ankle injury of last week, rushing for 43 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Forte finished with 103 rushing yards, just the third time this season he has run for 100-plus this season.

Forte also punched in a one-yard run for a second-quarter touchdown and picked up tough yards with 24 total carries in a game where the Detroit front needed to be made to pay attention to the run. Forte also caught both passes thrown to him for 21 total yards, giving him 26 touches for a net 124 yards.

Kahlil Bell provided some light relief with three carries for 12 total yards and was serviceable in pass protection with limited recent experience there.

RECEIVERS A-

Wide receivers turned in two of the Bears three longest plays for 2012 in less than half the first quarter. Alshon Jefferys 55 yards on the games first play should have resulted in points. (It did not.) Earl Bennett went 60 yards with a swing pass on the second possession, showing outstanding speed. Key to the TD: Brandon Marshalls block on two Detroit DBs.

Bennett finished with 109 yards and his long touchdown catch-and-run.

OFFENSIVE LINE B-

Jonathan Scotts false-start penalty on the first possession cost the Bears a scoring shot. Jay Cutler was sacked twice and hit five other times but the O-linemen did not feel their protection was good enough. However, the run game produced some results throughout the game even with too many small breakdowns that cost yards.

COACHING B

Play selection remains a question at times but the commitment to the run was consistent and survived some shaky execution in multiple areas.

Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Just when it appeared like Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky was entering his final half-season as the team's unquestioned starting quarterback, the last month happened.

Trubisky's play has steadily improved over the last five games and reached what may have been his watermark moment in Week 14 against the Cowboys. He completed 74% of his passes for 244 yards and three passing touchdowns while adding a season-high 63 rushing yards and a score on the ground. It marked the second week in a row that Trubisky's completed over 74% of his passes; he connected on 76% of his throws a week earlier against the Lions.

Trubisky's recent success is a far cry from the mentally broken player he was after the first month of the season. He has his confidence back. In fact, he's playing with more confidence than he's ever shown as a pro. His recent success is a direct and obvious result of his evolution between the ears.

The Bears were circled as a team that was likely to be in the quarterback market this offseason because of how terrible Trubisky looked early in 2019. And there's still a chance that GM Ryan Pace will look to add some healthy competition to the roster, but if Trubisky continues to play well, that competition will be for the backup job. 

It's also worth noting that one of the more appealing quarterback targets this offseason probably won't make it to the open market. Titans starter Ryan Tannehill continues to enjoy a remarkable comeback season and appears destined to sign a long-term extension with Tennessee sooner than later. After Tannehill, the discount quarterback rack includes names like Andy Dalton and Marcus Mariota, players who a month ago would've been viewed as marked upgrades over Trubisky.

It doesn't feel like that's the case anymore.

Barring a massive regression from Trubisky over the next three games, it's starting to feel like he's winning back Chicago's confidence one game at a time. 

With all that in mind, here's the updated Bears QB Big Board entering Week 15:

Bears QB Big Board (Dec. 12, 2019)

1. Mitch Trubisky (Bears)
previous: 2 (Dec. 3)

2. Andy Dalton (Bengals)
previous: 1 (Dec. 3)

3. Ryan Tannehill (Titans)
previous: 3  (Dec. 3)

4. Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma)
previous: 4 (Dec. 3)

5. Marcus Mariota (Titans)
previous: 5 (Dec. 3)

6. Teddy Bridgewater (Saints)
previous: 6 (Dec. 3)

Outside looking in (list cut down to three)...

-Jake Fromm (Georgia)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

-Jameis Winston (Buccaneers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

- Cam Newton (Panthers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

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It's a big week for HaHa Clinton-Dix to reflect – both on the past and the future

It's a big week for HaHa Clinton-Dix to reflect – both on the past and the future

As media members congregated (see: aggressively ran) towards Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s corner locker, the Bears’ locker room burst to life. Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson, only a few feet away, started laughing and giving the safety a hard time for talking with so many cameras. Fellow safety Eddie Jackson stood just behind the scrum, jumping up and down to try to distract him. Tarik Cohen – and about 20 unidentified others – could be heard yelling “HaHa” as Clinton-Dix started fielding the first questions. 

“The vibe in this locker room is great,” he said with a grin. “The guys in here are pumped up, man. We’re just excited about the game coming up this week.”

It’s Packers Week for everyone, but the lead up to Sunday’s game is probably a little bit different for Clinton-Dix – whether he’ll admit it publicly or not. He was drafted by Green Bay back in 2014 and played there for four-and-a-half seasons. It’s where he was given Charles Woodson’s number, and where he made his only Pro Bowl (2016) so far. Sunday will be the first time he’s back, and “homecomings” always mean a little extra, right?

“Not a damn thing,” Clinton-Dix said, keeping a half-convincing poker face. It didn’t last long. 

“I’m just kidding, man,” he added. “It means a lot to be able to go back and play against guys that I’ve been with for the past five years. Getting to compete against your friends makes things more fun and more competitive.” 

“I'm sure he'll be fired up,” Matt Nagy added. 

It’ll be the first time he’s played Green Bay since being traded, but Clinton-Dix has already shown a knack for getting revenge on old teams. In the Bears’ Week 3 win over Washington, he had a touchdown, two interceptions, and two passes deflected. If that sort of performance comes against a team he played nine games for, imagine what he could do against a team he played for eight times as long. 

“If [Aaron Rodgers] decides to bless me and throw me the ball twice, I’ll be happy as hell,” he said. “Unfortunately [he] doesn’t work that way. He’s the best quarterback in the game, and we just have to go execute and make big plays.” 

Clinton-Dix swears he harbors no ill-will towards Green Bay, and says he’s under no illusions about the business side of professional football. According to him, he’s merely happy to have already suited up for two of the league’s flagship organizations. 

“Green Bay and Chicago are two of the most prestigious organizations in the business” he said. “High, top-quality places to play at. I’m blessed to be able to play for both.” 

There’s another business decision rapidly headed his way, though one he’s a bit more in control of. Clinton-Dix will be a free agent at the end of the season, and has clearly played well enough to earn more than the one-year, $3 million contract that the Bears’ signed him to as a prove-it deal. Even if some of the advanced metrics would disagree with his improved-season narrative, he’s put enough good plays on tape to warrant a longer-term deal. The Bears aren’t swimming in cap space and have the other star safety from Alabama to take care of, so the odds of running it back in 2020 don’t look great. But, as Clinton-Dix was quick to remind the eager media scrum, that’s a bridge to cross after Packers Week, and Chiefs Week, and Vikings Week. 

“Only thing I can reflect on is these next three games,” he said. “I’m going to give you the media answer, but I’m excited about this game – I can’t express it anymore. Like I said, I’ve got to finish this game strong. The next three games are important to me, and this one’s next on the list.” 

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