Coming into Week 4 against the Lions there really wasn’t much about which to get excited. The offense had been terrible with few signs of improvement. And Jay Cutler was missing his second game in a row while Jeremy Langford was now out for 4-6 weeks with a sprained ankle. The top-10 WR certainly has not been performing like one. Alshon Jeffrey has been impressive but once opponents figure out how to take him away the Bears become hopeless. Sure, Eddie Royal has looked good receiving and returning and Zach Miller finally had a good game last week, but how far will they carry the offense? And that’s not to mention the offensive line which has been horrific despite the play of Josh Sitton and Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair emerging as a solid addition at Center.
But on top of all that the offense couldn’t even be considered the primary concern. To call the defense porous would be complimentary. Everything you would say that is needed in order to have a good defense, or even an acceptable defense, the Bears have not had. No pass rush. Can’t stop the run. Can’t cover in the secondary. Individual players such as Jerrell Freeman and Eddie Goldman have been impressive but that doesn’t translate into a cohesive defensive unit. And now Eddie Goldman is out for at least a month. Danny Trevathan is out for at least a month. Kyle Fuller hasn’t played a game. Lamarr Houston is out for the season. Pernell McPhee is on the PUP list and who knows when/if he’ll be ready to return?
Where was the hope? The team seemingly stood on the precipice of closing out the first quarter of the season winless and having to play for the future. While that may be prudent given the state of the team but it’s not a welcoming proposal. But then the Bears won. Not by a lot. Not really impressively. But they won. This was really the type of performance everyone was looking for against the Eagles. This was the type of performance the team looked capable of last season only to fall short any number of times. It’s hope.
Below the Bears preseason performance is broken down into 3 categories: The Good, The Bad and the What the @&#!? I think these categories are fairly self-explanatory.
- The Bears won their first game of the season, 17-14.
- Eddie Royal continues to be a reliable player for the Bears. Actually, more than reliable. Sunday was maybe Royal’s best game as a Bear. A 64-yard reception. A touchdown. 7 receptions for 111 yards. When Royal was acquired it was thought he would provide the Bears with a reliable slot receiver, and he has been when healthy. Just hope he can stay healthy for the entirety of this season because he has been a weapon thus far.
- Kevin White looks to be finally settling in at WR in the NFL. It’s only his fourth game but following his improvement last week against the Cowboys he looked even better this week. Whether White is simply becoming more comfortable with the Bears offense and/or the Bears are growing more confident in White as an NFL WR, the difference showed. He was not limited to simple bubble screens or short, quick hitters. His route tree has diversified and he made plays in a variety of positions on the field. He was also able to make several contested catches. His stat line does not look impressive but his play provided a glimpse at why the Bears drafted him so high.
- This was by far the best the secondary has looked all season. Maybe in two seasons. While it would still be nice if the Bears safeties were more playmakers rather than just consistent tacklers, consistency is nice. But the real story was the corners. They were not consistently beaten by the Lions WRs. They did not commit stupid penalties. Jacoby Glenn even got an interception on a QB-WR miscommunication. And particularly Bryce Callahan looked very good. He is another player who, if he can stay healthy, looks like a good player for the Bears.
- The OL is still not good, but they’re better. To say the Lions only got two sacks and were not in the Bears backfield every play is refershing, even if they were absent their best pass rusher in Ezekial Ansah.
- Jordan Howard looked quick and sudden at the line of scrimmage. 111 yards on 23 carries. He sees and hits the whole very hard. And he does not go down on first contact. In the Bears one-cut system and when the line in front of him is questionable, Howard appears to be just the kind of RB the Bears need. Jeremy Langford can still be a quality RB for the Bears, but it increasingly looks like he will be spelling Howard and providing the change of pace rather than the other way round.
- Finally, Brian Hoyer was efficient, if unspectacular. But that’s what you want from a backup QB. There is no QB controversy in Chicago. Watching the game you can see how the play-calling is limited by what Hoyer cannot do, but he can keep the team in the game. And that’s really more than you could say in the first three games.
- The Bears did a nice job stopping the run against a depleted Lions backfield, but the pass rush is still lacking. In a way it’s encouraging that the two Bears sacks came from the DL (Hicks and Washington), but in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme the pressure is supposed to be generated by the linebackers. That position group is down McPhee and Lamarr Houston, two players counted on for their pass rush ability, but no sacks and basically no pressure from that group is still unacceptable. Without a consistent pass rush this team is not going very far.
- The OL remains a work in progress, especially the tackles. Too often the pocket collapses too quickly and the holes are not there in the running game. if everything starts up front then despite recent improvements this could turn into a long season on offense.
- Wasn’t part of the purpose of drafting Kevin White and having Alshon Jeffrey to throw the ball deep? White wasn’t really able to do very much within the offense the first couple of game and Brian Hoyer’s arm limits what throws are available, but take a shot. It doesn’t take a sophisticated knowledge of an NFL to simply run downfield. And Hoyer can take a shot. Maybe not 50 yards, but longer than 20. Or at least more deep crossing routes. It worked with Eddie Royal, why not White and Jeffrey?
What the @&#!?:
- If the Bears wanted to cut Robbie Gould, whether because of money or ineffectiveness or some other reason, that’s fine. But for Connor Barth? There’s nobody better? He could never hit anything longer than 45 yards on a consistent basis and now he’s 2/4 on the year. On this team the kicker doesn’t really matter, but do better.
- This was Bobby Massie’s best game as a Bear. And that’s sad. He wasn’t that bad against the Lions, but he wasn’t that good either. He looked awkward blocking most of the game, again. He was beat for a sack, again. He had a pre-snap penalty, again. Players go through bad stretches but his has to end. He wasn’t rated very highly last season and he has done nothing this season to show why the Bears signed him.
To be clear, the Lions are not a good team. Even full strength, which they were not for this game, they have shown this season to not be very good. It’s not like the Bears had to play very well to beat them, and that was the case. The Bears did enough to win. But at this point in the season after a woeful start and with the injuries the team has suffered you just want them to do enough.
Coming into the game being competitive throughout a full game seemed beyond this team’s capabilities. It’s not something which they had demonstrated. Now they have. With seemingly winnable games coming up against the Colts and the Jaguars this is what the Bears have to continue to show. Will they win both games, probably not. Could they win both? If they play as they did against the Lions, maybe. In all likelihood this is what this team will continue to be, competent enough to be competitive, not competent enough to be good.
Some other takes from the game:
- Chicago Tribune
- Chicago Sun-Times
- Chicago Daily Herald
- Pro Football Weekly
- ESPN Chicago
- CSN Chicago
- CBS Chicago
- Windy City Gridiron
- Bears Wire