DETROIT — Just taking a reading at the six-game mark of the 2015 season.
“View from the Moon” predicted last spring that the Bears would be 2-4 at this point of the season, albeit not precisely as it has come to be. VFTM’s call early in the offseason was that the Bears would upset the Green Bay Packers and lose to Kansas City, so at least in this case of prognostication, two wrongs can make something close to a right.
The point isn’t the prediction, though: It’s what happens now.
The positives and trend lines suggested by those consecutive wins over the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs were abruptly and a little brutally set back (reversed?) in the 37-34 overtime loss to the previously winless Detroit Lions that pushed some nagging questions back into consideration after the Bears had appeared to be hitting some sort of rhythm and finding an identity after an 0-3 start.
What was noteworthy coming out of Sunday’s loss was the blunt candor of the Bears’ self-assessment. Players, particularly the ones on defense, pointed thumbs, not fingers. The Bears might have miscalculated the fire with which the Lions, an 11-5 playoff team that was 7-1 at home last season, played.
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“We started off slow today, and I think it was our worst performance all year,” linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “But they get paid to play offense, did a nice job of scheming, and they came out playing harder than we did.”
The Bears established an identity of themselves as fighters and finishers, and there were elements of those on Sunday: 18 points in the fourth quarter, 21 total in the second half, some defensive stops (on the first two Lions possessions in overtime) after allowing touchdowns on three of Detroit’s first four possessions.
But it wasn’t enough, and they know it.
“The defense has got to pick it up and match (Detroit’s) intensity,” defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins said, clear that the Bears hadn’t. “There were times when we’d have a good (stop), then times when we left some moves out. We’ve got to play solid the whole game. We’ve got come back with a better mentality.”
Questionable clock management
Besides the conservative lean to the offense after catching the Lions at 34-34, late clock management by Bears coaches was puzzling. Head coach John Fox had the option of declining a 10-second clock runoff after Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford was called for intentional grounding. The Lions scored a touchdown; the Bears came back down for a tying field goal with the football at the Detroit 11.
Those 10 seconds plus the four that were on the clock when Robbie Gould kicked the field goal were time for shots at the end zone. Fox also elected not to use two of the Bears’ three timeouts in that closing stretch. More time for shots at a win.
Offensive line status report
For all of the flux the offensive line has gone through since the start of training camp and even the regular season, it might be premature to assume that everything is settled in that group. Center (Hroniss Grasu) and left guard (Matt Slauson) are set, and right tackle (Kyle Long) is set as he and coaches decided, for the time being, as Fox has said.
Intriguing, however, is the situation at left tackle where Charles Leno Jr. started his third straight game in place of Jermon Bushrod. The latter was cleared under the NFL’s concussion protocol and was listed as questionable (50-50) on the final injury report. He then didn’t dress for the Detroit game. Leno and the offensive line held up reasonably well against the Lions pass-blocking (one zero-yard sack) but were less effective run-blocking (2.9-yards per carry, no run longer than 11 yards).
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Prater sinks Bears again
If the name of the kicker (Matt Prater) finishing off the Lions’ overtime win Sunday sounded familiar, it should. It was Prater, then kicking for John Fox, who booted Fox’s Denver Broncos to an overtime victory over the Bears in the Marion Barber Game of 2011.
Prater converted from 59 yards after Barber stepped out of bounds on the preceding Bears possession to save time for the Broncos, and Prater won the game from 51 yards after Barber lost a fumble in overtime.