By Bryan Dietzler
If you have been watching the Chicago Bears lately, it’s easy to see that they have been playing a little bit better lately. Their game against the Titans was a close one, they beat the San Francisco 49ers and they nearly defeated the Detroit Lions. There was no reason to think that they couldn’t play the Green Bay Packers tough and maybe even get a win. The Packers weren’t that great and when these two teams get together, anything can happen. So perhaps this would be not only a close game but possibly a Bears win.
It did end up being very close. For the first two quarters, the Bears played the Packers very close and kept themselves in the game. Then, in the third quarter, Chicago’s seemingly fell apart as turnovers helped give the Packers a 17-point lead. It appeared the contest was over at the end of that third quarter.
But in the fourth quarter, the Bears erased that lead and tied the game. But, they weren’t able to stop Green Bay from winning as they let Jordy Nelson get behind the defense and catch a perfect pass that put them in field goal range. The ensuing three points gave the Packers the win and ended the Bears hopes for a come from behind victory.
The Packers earned the first score of the game after wide receiver/running back Ty Montgomery scored from four yards out to give Green Bay a 7-0 lead. Connor Barth’s 26-yard field goal in the second half would give Chicago their first points of the game and make it 7-3.
The Bears would go up 10-7 after quarterback Matt Barkley hit wide receiver Joshua Bellamy for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Green Bay would add three more points on a 34-yard Mason Crosby field goal and at the half, the game was tied 10 apiece.
Green Bay would take complete control of the game in the third quarter thanks to several miscues by Barkley. The Packers added three points to make it 13-10 thanks to an 18-yard field goal by Crosby. After another Bear’s miscue, Montgomery would add a touchdown, this one from three yards out to put the Packers up 21-10.
The Bears would allow one final score in the third quarter, this one a 42-yard run by Christine Michael. Green Bay would end the quarter up 27-10 on the Bears. The 17-point lead, with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm for the Bears, seemed insurmountable.
But as we have learned, we should not underestimate the Bears or even Barkley. What happened in the fourth quarter ended up being one of the greatest moments in Chicago Bears history.
After being virtually absent for the first three quarters, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery got into the act in the final quarter catching an eight-yard touchdown pass from Barkley. That put the Bears a little bit closer to the Packers as the score was 27-17. Still, Green Bay’s lead seemed insurmountable.
Chicago would add seven more points following a nine-yard run by Jordan Howard. That made it 27-24. Chicago’s final score of the game, and the tying score, came when Barth booted a 22-yard field goal to tie it up at 27 apiece.
But, the previously mentioned Aaron Rodgers to Nelson bomb, which was mishandled due to a bad play call and poor coverage, set the Packers up perfectly to win. With the final seconds ticking off the clock, Crosby nailed a 32-yard field goal to give the Packers a 30-27 win.
You can say a lot about Barkley but he is a poised quarterback that can make plays all over the field. Granted, he had several miscues Sunday but hopefully that can be corrected with more experience and additional learning. Remember that this is only the fourth game he has ever started in the NFL and quite frankly, he hasn’t done that bad. He still has some learning to do but could be a good number two option in this league.
Yes, I did say he could be a number two option. Several people have already anointed him the starter in 2017. This kid has a lot of learning and experience to gain before he can become a full-time starter in the NFL. And would he ever become a “great” NFL quarterback? That is difficult to tell. Let’s see how he does the rest of the season and then, maybe, we can pass judgment.
The Packers did a good job of bottling up Howard when he did get to run the ball at first but later in the game, Howard got a good head of steam going and had a couple of nice runs. The coaching staff ran Howard 17 times (he had ninety yards and the one score) but they could have run him a little more. On a cold day like Sunday, running the ball is always the best option, but apparently, that doesn’t hold true for the Bears’ coaching staff.
So, blame the lack of production in the running game on a stout Green Bay rush defense and the usual problems the coaching staff has with running the ball. If they could have run Howard more they could have taken some of the pressure off Barkley (especially in the third quarter). Perhaps he wouldn’t have made those critical mistakes if the Bears’ rushing attack would have been going strong and given him another option (other than passing the ball). It’s a possibility.
The wide receiving corps played some of its best football of the season this Sunday. There weren’t too many dropped balls and a couple of the guys, Deonte Thompson and Cameron Meredith, stepped up and played very well. Jeffery, who had missed the previous four games following a suspension for using PED’s showed up in the fourth quarter and helped the Bears pull closer to then eventually tie the Packers with his touchdown catch. Even the “king of drops” Joshua Bellamy, had a critical touchdown catch.
After three weeks of ups and downs the wide receiving corps we finally had an “up” week. Great work by this group.
The tight ends didn’t see that much action as starter Daniel Brown only had one catch for eight yards. The most noticeable thing this group did was see Logan Paulsen get a holding call down near the end zone which took the Bears back a bit (in their effort to get that final score). Not a great day for the tight ends.
The offensive line had some ups and downs. The sack- strip- fumble that Julius Peppers had come courtesy of Charles Leno Jr. While Leno Jr. has been steady for a better part of the season, he has not been spectacular and more help could be used at left tackle. As a whole though, the Bears’ offense line allowed just one sack and five pressures on the afternoon so it was a strong effort. It was easily one of the offensive line’s better games of the season.
Chicago’s defense had an up down afternoon. They kept Rodgers from tearing them apart, for the most part, but allowed Green Bay’s rushing attack to do a great deal of the damage. Chicago’s run defense has slowly, over the last few weeks, started to get weaker and it appears to have finally broke this Sunday.
The Bears allowed Green Bay to rush for 226 yards including 162 by Montgomery. This absolutely killed the Bears. Chicago’s rush defense has been solid, not spectacular but solid and they are better than they were this Sunday.
If you watched the game, you would have noticed Chicago’s defenders seemingly bouncing off Green Bay runners. Whether it was the cold, poor tackling or lack of effort, something was amiss and that led to the enormous amount of yards the Packers were able to pile up running the ball.
The defensive line was without Eddie Goldman so they didn’t have their big run stuffing tackle in the middle. That was a problem. The rest of the line seemed to struggle trying to stop the run at the line letting Green Bay backs get into the second and third level where they caused a lot of problems. Thus, the huge number of rushing yards piled up.
Akeim Hicks seemed to almost totally disappear this Sunday. In fact, he had just a half a tackle. This was not a good game for the line, overall. Not to mention, the only sack from this group came from C.J. Wilson.
The linebackers struggled against the run but did have some good pass pressure and got Rodgers down on the ground a few times. Pernell McPhee had two sacks and disrupted several other plays in what was his clearly his best game of the season. Leonard Floyd got some pressure but was taken out of the contest almost entirely. If you watched, you will have noticed that Floyd was set as the “spy” on Rodgers. He kept good containment on the elusive quarterback but didn’t move up the field after Rodgers when he didn’t move. That was a breakdown with both Floyd and the coaching staff.
Like the defensive line, the linebackers allowed Green Bay runners to get beyond their area of responsibility and pile up the yards. Granted, the inside guys were active (John Timu and Nick Kwiatkoski) but no one had a solution for Green Bay’s running game.
The secondary had an up and down game and broke down at the most critical time in the contest. You may have seen a theme with the defense and that is the fact that no one could seem to tackle Green Bay runners. The secondary, the last line of defense, was just as guilty as the rest of the defense. Perhaps the guiltiest position in the secondary was the safeties. Their play was very poor.
Something that the secondary can hang their hat on is that they didn’t allow Rodgers and company to carve them up until the final moments. The cornerbacks did a nice job until the very end especially Tracy Porter. You can’t blame Cre’Von LeBlanc entirely for that last pass play. The play call was not correct (the Bears were in quarters coverage) and it was easy to pick that defense apart. But placing a rookie who has struggled in every game he has played on the opponent’s best wide receiver is going to cause some issues. Poor play calling and poor execution at the games’ most critical moment. That is another mantra of the 2016 Chicago Bears.
Not to be forgotten, the secondary did get a sack. Demontre Hurst came blasting in from the edge and took Rodgers down hard. That was a nice call by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Kicking was solid. Barth made all the kicks but had some short kickoffs which were a bit of a head scratcher. Pat O’Donnell continues to have a good year punting the ball. The return teams were unspectacular but the coverage units did a decent job overall.
The coaching staff continues to leave fans wondering what is happening with the running game. Time and again, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains continues to stall on running the ball despite the fact he has one of the best running backs in football. The rushing attack has been successful time and again and Loggains stops it and moves to the passing attack. It’s almost like Loggains doesn’t like to run. Very disappointing.
Fangio called his best and his worst game of the year. The on the field execution of a few of his calls has been poor, yes, but there were times you could tell that Fangio wasn’t doing the right thing. Still, he’s one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL and the Bears really need him coaching defense. He’s the best they have.
Over many years of being a head coach, one thing about John Fox has been very consistent. He is not a good game manager. He doesn’t make good decisions in leaving too much time on the clock. He also needs to look at some the decisions he makes on players (starting/sitting and inactive/actives). He’s talented but has his flaws.
In the end, playing close doesn’t get you in the win column. The Bears played well, for three quarters, but lost the game thanks to not playing well in that third quarter. Too many breakdowns, too many injuries and too many poor coaching decisions cost the Bears a win. There were some great individual and group efforts and this game shows that the Bears have something to build on for 2017 but they still don’t have enough to finish this season strong. The disappointment of 2016 continues.
The Bears will host the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field on Christmas Eve. A full preview of that contest will arrive here at the end of the week.