Coming off their first win of the season, playing their second game of what should be a winnable stretch, there was expectation surrounding the Chicago Bears. Maybe expectation isn’t quite the right word. Cautious optimism. It was always expected the Bears would be better this year. So many close defeats last season. Another year of John Fox and Ryan Pace rebuilding the roster. Free agent upgrades at key positions. And John Fox always improves the team in his second year at a franchise. And the Bears lost.
It was close, 29-23. The Bears were in it the whole game. But they couldn’t quite make up that difference which separates average teams from mediocre teams. Good teams find ways to win close games. Bad teams lose. The Bears lost.
You can say it may be a bit unfair to say the Bears area bad team. That they could have won the game if not for so many injuries, so many missing players. Except they were playing a Colts team with a similar 1-3 record, injuries and question marks of their own. It’s not like the Bears’ injuries were unknown prior to the start of the game. Yet numerous analysts and football pundits picked the Bears to win mainly because the Colts had been such a mess early in the season. And it’s not like their fortunes serendipitously reversed against the Bears. The Colts were still pretty bad. Despite some signs of hope, the Bears were just mediocre.
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.
- Jeremy Langford lost his starting job. Given another opportunity to start because of Langford’s injury, Jordan Howard once again looked good. He does not have breakaway speed as witnessed getting caught from behind on his 58-yard run in the first half, but he is quick, explosive and decisive in the hole. And he does not go down on first contact. He has also shown an ability to contribute in the passing game.
- If Bryce Callahan’s play on the outside continues it will be interesting to see if the Bears decide to bench Tracy Porter or Kyle Fuller once Fuller returns from IR. Or will they return Callahan to the nickel? Through two starts on the outside Callahan has shown he deserves a longer look. The Bears know what they have in Porter and Fuller has been unimpressive thus far in his career. As of now Callahan should have one of those starting CB spots.
- The Bears finally found a pass rush. 5 sacks and 7 hits on Andrew Luck by the Bears defense. Perhaps most importantly, Willie Young had 3 sacks. The Bears must generate a pass rush from their linebackers if they want to be successful and this game was really the first indication of that happening.
- The offensive line continues to improve. While still a bit shaky at times they gave up 0 sacks and only 5 hits on Brian Hoyer. And for the most part kept a clean pocket.
- Brian Hoyer was once again efficient, even pretty good, if unspectacular. He made very few mistakes and did not turn the ball over, which is probably the most the Bears want from him.
- Someone needed to step up at WR with Kevin White out for at least the next 8 weeks. Actually someone needed to step up before White got hurt. Cameron Meredith did that in this game. 9 receptions for 130 yards and a TD. He did have a couple fumbles, which is concerning in his first extended playing time at WR, but otherwise was fairly impressive.
- Connor Barth made 3 FGs in the game but missed another one. He is now 5 out of 8 on the season. If games aren’t going to be close as in the first 3 weeks of the season a bad kicker really isn’t that big of a deal. But if the Bears are going to be in close games every point counts. That means your kicker must be reliable and you must be able to trust him when needed. How do you trust Connor Barth?
- The Bears continue to be beset by bad penalties. It’s not really the total number so much as the circumstance. The Bears potentially cost themselves 2 TDs in the first half because of penalties. And they’re bad holding penalties, or even worse, pre-snap penalites. Again, if playing in close games there is no margin for error. Penalties are another reason how the Bears play themselves out of such games.
- Andrew Luck as 6 completed passes of 20+ yards in the first half. T.Y. Hilton had 10 catches for 171 yards in the game. The Bears secondary, minus Bryce Callahan the past 2 games, has been bad. Too often receivers are running wide open in the secondary, especially over the middle. There almost always seems to be a gaping chasm behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties. I don’t know if this is a system problem or a player problem, or both, but it needs to be fixed.
What the @&#!?:
- The Bears wanted to be a running team, right? In Jordan Howard the Bears seem like they have a competent RB, right? The Bears have been in close games against teams whose greatest and most potent asset is their QB, right? Offenses you want to stay off the field? Defenses who are bad at stopping the run? Why did Brian Hoyer pass the ball 43 times and the Bears only ran it 19 times? Howard averaged 7.4 yards per carry. He only got 16 carries. Why?
- Why is Logan Paulsen still on the team?
It is important to remember that the Colts are a bad football team. Would Jordan Howard look as good against a good defense? Would Brian Hoyer? Would the OL look as good against a team with a pass rush? Would the Bears pass rush look as potent against a team with a good OL? On all accounts, probably not. So some of the supposed improvements seen this week, as well as last week against a bad Lions team, may not manifest against good football teams. Expectations for continued improvement and team success should probably be muted.
That’s not to say there shouldn’t be some excitement. There are signs of improvement. Objective improvement. The Bears had 522 yards of total offense. That the Bears can have standout performances from individuals and position groups against bad football teams is reason for hope. Good players should look good against bad teams. It’s when they don’t there should be real concern. Yes, the Bears lost to a bad team. But the Bears are a bad team, I think that much should be clear by now. Those 522 yards of offense equated to only 23 points. What is needed is tangible signs of improvement. Signs that what Fox and Pace have been building is actually working, on some level. Did we see that against the Colts? Optimistically, maybe.
Some other takes from the game:
- Chicago Tribune
- Chicago Sun-Times
- Chicago Daily Herald
- ESPN Chicago
- Pro Football Weekly
- WGN Chicago
- CBS Chicago
- CSN Chicago
- Windy City Gridiron
- Bears Wire