Calling any game a “must win” is a bit disingenuous. Almost no game, save an elimination situation, is truly a must win game. And at some point calling a game a “must win” loses meaning. Some deemed the Colts a “must win”, but the Bears lost. Does that make the Jaguars a “must-er win”? “Extra-must win”? It also detracts from all other games. Is the team not trying to win the other games? Especially as football isn’t like baseball or football or hockey. Football isn’t 162 games or 82 games. Football is 16 games. Anything less than 10 wins virtually assures you of missing the playoffs. Even 10 does not guarantee a spot. That may be why coming into a winnable game against a less-than-impressive opponent having already lost 4 games this game may not have been “must win” but it certainly came close.
And what you want from the Bears is to win the winnable games. That’s always the goal for any team, win the games you should, or barring that win the games you can win. These games against the Colts and now the Jaguars were “must win” partially because they were winnable. It’s clear the Bears are not a good team, but taking those winnable games might move them towards mediocre. Without those two winnable games counted in the win column the Bears are just bad. With games versus the Packers and the Vikings coming up, two formidable, divisional foes, understandable losses in those games moves the Bears from bad to potentially 1-7 and a lost season. Take the winnable games. 3-5 looks much better than 1-7, even f it is a bit hollow. Three wins is something of which to build. One win the first half of the season is something about which to be severely concerned about the direction the this franchise.
So, how did the Bears do? Not good.
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.
- Cameron Meredith has taken over Kevin White’s role as the outside complement to Alshon Jeffrey. And it may be fair to say he’s doing a better job of it than Kevin White. Meredith is not what the Bears promised from White, quick, explosive, able to get deep at will, but so far this season neither was White. Brian Hoyer looked Meredith’s way often, targeting him 15 times, resulting in 11 receptions for 113 yards. This from a player who looked to be on the roster bubble heading into the regular season. The Bears coaching staff must be given credit for bringing along the former college QB and having him ready when he got his chance.
- For the second game in a row Willie Young got to the QB. 2 sacks versus Blake Bortles. One criticism of Young has been that his sacks are empty. He comes up big against bad competition. This seems a bit disingenuous as Young sacked the QB against some good teams towards the end of last season. Plus, if Young isn’t getting to the QB nobody is at this point. With Pernell McPhee still out, Leonard Floyd out for his second game and still learning how to play in the NFL, and Lamarr Houston out for the year, Young is the only Bears linebacker who looks capable of generating a pass rush.
- The offensive line continues to look better as the season progresses. With three new starters and a line reshuffling less than a week before Week 1 this was always the hope, but early returns seemed to dash any potential for improvement. But the line has continuously gotten better, keeping a relatively clean pocket versus the Colts and the Jaguars, only allowing 1 sack combined in those two games.
- The Bears finally worked Alshon Jeffrey into the game plan. 13 targets. Versus a rookie corner and only resulting in 7 catches for 93 yards, but it’s a step in the right direction.
- The offensive line needs to do a better job blocking the run, however. Against a more stout Jaguars defensive line the Bears failed to open holes for Jordan Howard and Ka’Deem Carey. The failure of the running game does not fall solely on the line as the RBs missed some holes, the offense continues to be too pass-heavy and the Bears insistence on an almost exclusively medium-to-short passing game leaves too many defenders around the line of scrimmage. But without a running game little else on offense can be counted on performing well. That starts with the offensive line. Promises of a devastating run-blocking duo on the right side and signature running plays have yet to materialize.
- As mentioned above, where is the pass rush? Two sacks and three QB hits on a QB who likes to hold the ball? Virtually all by Willie Young. Against an offensive line which was missing a starting guard and has been fairly porous all season.
- The secondary is only here because of some late game breakdowns, most notably by Tracy Porter on the game-winning TD. It’s not necessarily the fault of the secondary as a lack of pass rush made the secondary have to cover Jaguars receivers way too long on some possessions, but this also highlights the problem of the secondary. There is no one in the Bears secondary you can count on to cover that extra second or two. The secondary is not the most dire group on the Bears but it needs an upgrade.
- Special teams has been better this year, with Pat O’Donnell showing marked improvement and Eddie Royal the best PR the Bears have had in years, but coverage needs improvement. Every game it seems there is at least one return where the Bears miss a tackle or someone veers out of their lane and the opposition gains a big return. In close games this simply cannot happen.
- Penalties. Stupid, bad penalties in every game.
What the @&#!?:
- Do Bears coaches not realize what type of team they have? If this team is going to win games it’s going to be close, yet mistakes preclude those types of wins. John Fox has never been known as a good game-day coach. That continues to be true. But Monday-Saturday he’s supposed to be one of the best in the NFL. Then why don’t the Bears seem ready to play every Sunday? Why the continued stupid penalties? Why aren’t Bears receivers running to the marker on 3rd down? Why did the Bears run almost twice as many pass plays as run plays in a close game with Brian Hoyer as your starting QB, again? Not all of this falls on John Fox, there are other coaches, but it’s Fox’s responsibility. When Adam Gase left it was made very clear that the successful of the Bears last season wasn’t with Gase’s offense, it was Fox’s offense. And he obviously has a tremsndous amount of control over personnel decisions. This is Fox’s offense, this is Fox’s team, he needs to get them pointed in the right direction.
- Why is Logan Paulsen still on the team?
The difficulty in providing grades or analysis or attempting to discern what is good and what is bad about Bears games this season is that everything is relative. Alshon Jeffrey had a good game but only relative to his prior performance this season. The offensive line looked pretty good but in relation to early season performances it was All-Pro worthy. Cameron Meredith looks good, but is he really a #2 WR? The secondary is notable when no mistakes are made. People want Brian Hoyer to continue to be the starting QB even when Jay Cutler comes back? Why, because he doesn’t turn the ball over? He also doesn’t score points or win games.
The season started off on a curve. The Bears lost so many close games last season. John Fox has historically been good in his second year in charge of a team. The team finally looked to have some talent on both offense and defense. Nobody really expected the team to be good, but better. 8-8 might have been considered a successful season. 9-7, a good season. Now the Bears are 1-5 with two likely losses coming the next two weeks. 1-7 is bad, no curve.
Some other takes from the game:
- Chicago Tribune
- Chicago Sun-Times
- Chicago Daily Herald
- ESPN Chicago
- CSN Chicago
- CBS Chicago
- Pro Football Weekly
- NWI Times
- Windy City Gridiron
- Bears Wire