By Bryan Dietzler
The three win Chicago Bears travelled to Ford Field to take on the eight win Detroit Lions this Sunday. The game put these two division rivals against one another for the second time this season. The Bears won the first game these two teams played back in October but times had changed by the time this game got here. The Bears quarterbacking situation was a near mess and the Lions were on a bit of a hot streak. At least this game appeared as if it could be close.
In the end, these teams played a very close game but the Lions made the fewest mistakes and came out 20-17 winners. The Bears had several issues which we will discuss further but their main issues on this day were penalties, poor play by the secondary and dropped passes by the wide receivers.
This was another sloppy game where, if the Bears would have just tightened a few things up, they could have won it.
The scoring started when the Chicago Bears got close to the end zone but couldn’t quite punch it in (in the first quarter). Chicago settled for a 38 yard Connor Barth field goal to take the early lead. The Lions tied it up after a 29-yard Matt Prater field goal in the second quarter. The score would stay that way until close to the end of the first half. The Lions would add seven after quarterback Matthew Stafford hit wide receiver Anquan Boldin on a 16-yard touchdown pass.
The score was 10-3 Lions at the half.
The Lions would go up 13-3 in the third quarter following a 54-yard Prater field goal. The Bears would move closer though, towards the end of the half after quarterback Matt Barkley hit wide receiver Cameron Meredith for a 31-yard touchdown. The Bears seemed to have new life at that point.
The Bears thwarted a Lions’ scoring drive with an interception by DeMontre Hurst but Chicago could do nothing with the ball and were forced to punt. On the ensuing possession, Stafford tossed and interception to the much maligned Cre’Von LeBlanc who returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. That put the Bears up 17-13.
The Lions would not go down without a fight. On the next drive (following the Bear’s pick six) they would march down the field easily, thanks to some defensive penalties by the Bears, and take a 20-13 lead. This came on a seven-yard run by Stafford. That ended up being the final score of the game.
Overall, Barkley played ok but wasn’t spectacular. He didn’t have help from some of his wide receivers on a few throws and missed some opportunities on his own. He is still young and still learning but for those of you who are calling for him to be the next franchise quarterback, hold on a little while please. He has a ways to go before we hand him the reigns permanently. And who’s to say that will ever happen.
The wide receivers, in particular Joshua Bellamy, continue to show us none of them are number one wide receivers. In Bellamy’s case, he just a special team’s player. Meredith had a good game with his touchdown catch but that was just about all that he did. Marquess Wilson continues to be injured and missed this game (groin). Deonte Thompson sometimes makes people wonder what it takes to make a football team because he doesn’t have a lot of skill yet he still plays in Chicago. And he starts.
Yes, this group is missing its number one receiver, Alshon Jeffery and it’s intended starter Kevin White but the depth here is less than adequate. The Bears need to do some work here in the offseason to improve this group and give it more depth and punch. Right now, the depth here is costing this team victories.
Jordan Howard had another solid performance but the mystery of how he is used continues. When he is hot, he gets pulled from the game or the Bears don’t run the ball anymore, at least for a while. He could have had a lot more yards if the coaching staff (Dowell Loggains) would have run him more. In fact, the Bears might have won the game had they run him more. But as we have seen time and again this season, when he’s hot, the coaching staff stops the momentum and he has to “restart”. Back in the 80’s and 90’s you never backed off using a running back that was “hot”. You kept on going with him.
As near as this writer can tell, Howard may be getting “punished” for a bad play (dropping the ball as he did last week or misunderstanding a read perhaps) or they just may want to supplant him in certain situations. Whatever the case may be, the coaching staff is not making the right call. It’s only serving to prove the lack of common sense that this coaching staff has in certain facets of the game.
Run Howard, win the game. It’s that simple.
Tight end Daniel Brown has filled in nicely for Zach Miller and is a very reliable receiver. He’s not a number one tight end by any means but he is getting the job done. The remaining guys are good blockers that have excelled at both pass and run blocking. Not too bad for a patchwork group.
The offensive line had a good day but towards the end of the game, when it mattered most, penalties got the best of them and these penalties killed a lot of the Bears’ chances to win the game. Looking at the game as a whole, the line allowed just one sack and did well blocking for the run. As mentioned, the penalties this group generated were critical and can be called “win killers”. This reflects how the coaching staff prepares this group for games and you can see that they don’t do a very good job of preparing them. Some changes in the coaching staff clearly need to be made this offseason.
The defense played a good game from the line to the linebackers but the secondary had one of their worst games of the season. The usual stars, Eddie Goldman, Akeem Hicks and Leonard Floyd stepped up and played very well. Had they had some help from the secondary and had the defense not committed so many penalties, they could have been a big factor in a victory this Sunday.
Continuing on from his NFC Player of the Week performance the previous week, Akeem Hicks had another strong outing. He had one sack but did get a lot of pressure on Stafford. He did draw a critical penalty but in this game however but almost everyone had a penalty. His counterpart, Mitch Unrein, had a sack and showed some good pursuit on the quarterback at times. Unrein is clearly underrated.
Goldman flashed but the unfortunate thing is that he went out of the game with another injury to his already sore ankle. It is not known if he will miss anytime. Goldman has been a bright flash for the Bears but injuries have kept him restricted. If he could every get a full season under his belt, he could easily become a Pro Bowler.
The linebackers played an excellent game despite the fact the outside guys didn’t generate any sacks. Floyd had a lot of pressure on Stafford, you could see that on several plays. Pernell McPhee got close but just couldn’t seal it up. We could talk about McPhee all day but he is not turning out to be the player the Bears had hoped he would be when they signed him last offseason. His knee injury appears to be holding him back and he can’t seem to overcome that.
The inside guys, John Timu and Nick Kwiatkowski had a decent game. Kwiatkowski continues to get better all the time and has proved himself to be a good draft pick. Timu still struggles but he’s just about the best the Bears have to fill in right now. Chicago’s linebackers helped stuff the Lions running game and made it a non-factor. If they just could have shut Stafford out of the end zone on his touchdown run, they would have won the game.
The secondary had probably its worst game of the year minus LeBlanc’s pick-six. Penalties, missed opportunities and poor coverage ruled the day here. One of the most interesting things to happen was the breakdown of Tracy Porter. He had some significant penalties early in the game then was seen trotting off the field towards the locker room. Apparently, he was sick or something? Something had to be wrong with him because, as he is normally the best player in the secondary, he was its worst this Sunday. His performance summed up the overall performance of this group against the Lions.
LeBlanc had his usual one time or more a game breakdown but did get off the “naughty list” with his pick six. The safety play was strong against the run but weak against the passing game and they missed some opportunities to make big plays. You had the long heave down the field (from Stafford to Marvin Jones) which was a nail in the Bear’s coffin. Then there were some pass interference calls on long pass plays.
This unit could do nothing right on Sunday and was a huge contributor to the loss.
The special teams’ units played average and didn’t make too many mistakes which was nice. This unit needs a lot of work especially in the return game. Eddie Royal missed the game with an injury, again and maybe should be considered expendable at the end of this season. Kicking might need an upgrade as well. Perhaps a coaching change here would do some good?
Chicago’s coaching staff was back to its old tricks with Howard and we talked about that. What is interesting is that an expert on the NFL Network said, on Friday morning it was, that Loggains should be a serious NFL head coaching candidate. That’s hard to believe. His performance calling plays on Sunday proved that he doesn’t even belong as the Bears’ play caller much less a head coach.
What this coaching staff has done is put a fighting spirit in this team that has caused them to not give up in the last three games. Maybe they fear for their jobs? Whatever it is, this spirit was missing from the Bears earlier this season and they did not win many games because of it. Had they played like this in the first few games of the year, they would have one more often. This despite the injuries.
Yes, both sides of the ball, offense and defense, contributed to the defeat at Ford Field this Sunday. The defeat proved that the Bears have a long way to go resolve anything of their issues. They need new talent in many places, possibly new coaches and a new philosophy. What they have put together from last year is not working. Something needs to happen to get this team on the correct path.
Next week, Chicago will face the Green Bay Packers, at home for the second game between their arch rivals this year. The Packers played the Seattle Seahawks and they won big 38-10. The Packers are hunting for a playoff spot and will be looking to beat the Bears on their way to it.
The Packers will come into this game with a record of 7-6 and are sitting behind the Lions and the Vikings in the division. Chicago, with their loss on Sunday, was officially eliminated from the playoffs.
Look for a full preview of next Sunday’s game at the end of this week.