By Bryan Dietzler
The Chicago Bears, with a two-game winning streak, came into New Orleans to take on the Saints who had been having a good season through the first part of the year. The Bears were searching for the first three-game winning streak since 2013, and their fans hoped that they could keep their momentum going.
The Saints had a winning streak of their own going and were playing very well.
Could the Bears earn their third win in a row and keep their hopes of getting to the playoffs alive? Or would they lose big to one of the fastest teams in the NFL?
The Bears would neither do that good or that bad in Sunday’s game.
Perhaps you could call this game “meh”?
The defense, which had been one of the best units in the league over the last few weeks suffered some breakdowns while the offense did a little more than it has the previous two weeks. Chicago’s offense showed that there are some great things coming. But still, the lack of talent on that side of the ball is evident and there is a lot of help that’s needed to make the offense better.
That is their weak spot right now.
After watching and re-watching the game, this writer has come up with several key points that came out of the game relating to how it was played and some of the things that happened in it.
So, sit back and take a little time to re-discover some of the things that happened to see if there was anything that was missed or that warrants further discussion.
Reports Monday morning stated that tight end Zach Miller had to have emergency surgery to repair the arteries in his knee after dislocating it on the no-call touchdown catch. Some of the reports even stated that they were trying to save his leg. We hope that Miller is ok and that he will be able to lead a normal life. I will keep an eye on this and have updates on Miller later.
Perhaps the biggest thing to happen in the game was the call made on Miller’s touchdown. He clearly caught the ball and came up with it and the explanation that was provided by the officials (which can be found all over the internet) doesn’t seem to make sense. But whether it was a catch or not won’t be debated here. What’s more important is Miller’s health.
The strip that safety Adrian Amos had (that he eventually recovered) was a key moment for the Bears. After suffering through several games without creating any turnovers, Amos has had two in three weeks. He is starting to look like the kind of player that the Bears need at the safety position.
Amos is tough, opportunistic and reliable. The Bears haven’t had that at the strong safety position in quite some time.
It’s just too bad that the Bears couldn’t capitalize on Amos’ turnover and turn it into some points.
One of the unsung heroes of the Bears’ defense is linebacker Christian Jones. Jones has been bounced around the linebacker position going from the outside to the inside. He stepped in to play for Nick Kwiatkoski who was injured but has since been cleared to play. Kwiatkoski has not played, however.
Jones has been playing very well in Kwiatkoski’s place and may not allow the second-year linebacker to reclaim his starting role.
For now, Jones is playing very well, and you don’t want to upset what is happening there. Let Jones play and see what happens.
Wide Receivers or Lack Thereof
You can see that the lack of talent at the wide receiver position has hurt the offense. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has a lot of potential and with better wide receivers he could have had an even better season. But when your receivers lack the talent needed to do some great things catching the ball, you can’t have any kind of positive impact in the passing game.
The Bears’ receivers don’t have the knowledge or skills to get away from opposing cornerbacks, run crisp and clean routes or have the speed to be a threat to the defense. They are just mediocre and that’s why the Bears’ passing game doesn’t have the kind of potency that it should have.
Trubisky is a solid quarterback and will get better when the help around him gets better. Until then, he will not have the success he could have if he had the receivers he needs to be successful. The Bears won’t win many games until they get some better receivers so Trubisky and the offense will continue to be stuck in the mud.
Not So Special Teams
Special teams have been tough for the Bears this year. Their worst game was against the Ravens when they allowed two returns for touchdowns but there have been breakdowns in other points in games. The Bears should have also considered doing something about Connor Barth who seems to have an issue with consistency. The only two real bright spots the Bears have had on special teams this season have been with some of their return players and their punter.
If the coaching staff somehow gets retained this offseason, then head coach John Fox needs to consider getting rid of special teams coach Jeff Rodgers. Sure, he’s a colorful interview and will tell you most anything that you want to hear but much more is needed out of their special teams.
They need consistency and they need to have some additional stand-out performers.
They just aren’t getting any of that.
Rodgers needs to be let go and someone else needs to take his place. Chicago’s special teams must get better.
Once again, the Bears had penalties at critical times on Sunday, but no penalty was more critical than the one against cornerback Kyle Fuller. I am sure you will remember that one well. Fuller lined up in the neutral zone on a field goal and the five-yard penalty gave the Saints a first down. They turned those three points into six.
There were other instances where penalties came at the wrong time including a holding an unsportsmanlike penalty call on Josh Sitton.
The Bears must clean up their penalties. They are costing them points and ultimately, games.
Aside from the injury to Miller, the Bears had a couple more injuries that there might be some concern about. Guard Kyle Long injured his hand and was on the sideline with a cast. Center Cody Whitehair sat down with an elbow injury. This hurt because Hroniss Grasu was on inactive with a hand injury.
Nickle back Bryce Callahan has a knee injury. The severity of it is not yet known.
We will look at the injury report a little later after it comes out. Remember, the Bears have a bye week, so they will have some time to rest and get healed up.
Jerrell Freeman Suspended
Speaking of resting, linebacker Jerrell Freeman is going to have some unpaid time off to go on top of the time he is spending on injured reserve. As this story was being written, it was reported that Freeman was suspended for PED use, again. This time for ten games. Remember that last year he was suspended four games for the same thing.
Freeman will start serving the suspension immediately.
The suspension may signal the end of Freeman in a Bears’ uniform. He has become unreliable. Even though he’s not active, he would still have to serve some of the suspension next season. It would be two games because he will serve eight games of it on injured reserve. Do the Bears want to keep a guy who can’t seem to learn his lesson?
The Bears will be on bye next weekend so they will rest and recover. They will host the Green Bay Packers, at Soldier Field, on November 12th.
There will be a full preview of that game coming up on Bearsgab.
Please follow me on Twitter @bdietzler.