Bears Takeaways – Week 11

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Well, at least that wasn’t as embarrassing of a loss as last week against the Bucs. The Bears played a strong first half to take a 16-9 lead over the 6-3 New York Giants, but fell apart in the second half and lost 22-16.

The Bears had a chance to win late, down six with the ball and three minutes left in the game but a Jay Cutler interception ended their comeback hopes. The Bears managed to drive into Giants territory despite a couple of penalties and the Bears offensive line giving up pressure on every pass attempt.

Overall, it was a much better performance than last week’s disaster, but the Bears came up short due to injuries, bad offensive line play in the second half, and a disturbing lack of adjustments at halftime by an overmatched Bears coaching staff. For some reason, the Bears just haven’t been able to put together a full game this season and they dropped to 2-8 on the year.

I’ll cover the highlights, lowlights, and a detailed breakdown of all the injuries in my takeaways below.

Bears Takeaways – Week 12

1.) Jay Cutler played pretty well despite tough conditions

His numbers were nothing special (17/30, 252, 1 TD, 1 INT) but with the wind howling and the Bears offensive line giving up pressure on almost every 2nd half pass, Cutler played pretty well. His touchdown pass to Zach Miller was a throw only about half the QBs in the league could make and Cutler had a number of other impressive completions Sunday.

Unfortunately, Cutler couldn’t get it down when it mattered in the second half but in his defense, he was running for his life most of the time. The Giants have one of the best defensive lines in the league and they were too much for the Bears backup linemen to deal with. Right tackle Mike Adams was destroyed by Jean Pierre-Paul and once Josh Sitton left the game the interior line struggled as well.

With tight end Zach Miller and guard Josh Sitton out of the game, the Bears offense stalled. There were no running lanes, receivers couldn’t get open, the play-calling was uninspired (like it has been every 2nd half this season), and there were some ill-timed penalties to make things even more difficult.

Overall Cutler played as well as could be expected given the difficult circumstances, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the talent disparity of the Bears back-ups playing against the starters on one of the better teams in the NFC.

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2.) Jordan Howard drops the ball in the 2nd half

I almost lost it when the Bears started Jeremy Langford in the 2nd half after Jordan Howard gained 72 yards on just 12 first-half carries. They brought Howard in on the next drive and gave him some rare 2nd half carries, but Howard had his worst half of the season.

There wasn’t much room to run, but Howard only gained five yards on five carries and dropped three catchable passes. Those drops contributed to the Bears brutal second half on offense and one ended an important drive on a good throw by Cutler. Howard isn’t known for his receiving skills, but has been solid this year and needs to make catches that hit him in the numbers.

For the day Howard had a pretty decent game with 99 total yards and 5.5 yards per touch, but it could have been much better if he’d done anything in the second half. The Bears are still winless when Howard doesn’t touch the ball at least 20 times.

3.) Deonte Thompson had his first good game of the season!

I wrote last week about Thomson and his league-worst 19.9 yards per kick return, but he looked much better Sunday. Thompson averaged 29 yards per return on the day with a long of 40 yards. He even caught a pass for 10 yards and a first down. One game isn’t enough to change my mind on Thompson, but at least he showed that he’s capable of making something happen as a returner.

4.) Kicking game was brutal on both sides

I thought new Giants kicker Robbie Gould would have a big game against his former team, but he made the Bears brass look pretty smart for releasing him. Gould missed two extra points today, which would have cost the Giants the game if the Bears had been able to complete their fourth quarter comeback.

To Gould’s credit, it was very windy in New York today and he did manage to hit a 46-yard field goal. Bears kicker Connor Barth didn’t fair much better with one missed extra point and a 51-yarder that clanked off the goal post.

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5.) Bears injury luck keeps getting worse

The Bears continue to get destroyed by injuries. Here is a breakdown of this week’s casualties:

  • TE Zach Miller – Broken foot. This is heartbreaking for Miller who missed three full seasons with foot injuries and had finally established himself as one of the better receiving tight ends in the league. He’s out for the rest of the season. Tough break.
  • OLB Leonard Floyd – This was scary. Floyd jammed his neck off the back of 336-pound Akiem Hicks and was lying motionless on the field for about five minutes. He was eventually taken off on a cart and was at least moving his arm. Early reports for the Bears are positive, but Floyd was taken to a local hospital for more tests. Floyd is leading all rookies with five sacks and looks like a long-term building block for the Bears. Hopefully he is okay.
  • G Josh Sitton – Left the game early in the third quarter with what looked like an ankle injury and didn’t return. The Bears offensive line fell apart once he left the game.
  • CB Cre’Von Leblanc – Suffered a concussion while missing a tackle on a key 4th down play. LeBlanc didn’t return.
  • OLB Christian Jones – Key special teams contributor Jones hurt his ankle on kick coverage and didn’t return.

I’ve never seen anything like the string of injuries the Bears have suffered this season. It seems like every game the Bears lose at least two or three players.

6.) Reserve offensive linemen were awful

I mentioned it earlier but right tackle Mike Adams was clearly overmatched by Giants DE Jean Pierre-Paul. He was either overpowered or too slow to stop Pierre-Paul on almost every pass play in the second half. I was interested to see what the former 2nd round pick (2012) could do, but now I see why the Steelers gave up on him so quickly.

Backup guard Ted Larson, who is filling in for Kyle Long, also struggled. He had a crucial 4th quarter holding penalty that backed up the Bears on a must-score drive and gave up multiple pressures inside. Rookie Eric Kush entered the game after Sitton’s injutry and held him own but didn’t make many positive plays.

As a group the Bears backups were a mess and a big part of the reason that the Bears couldn’t move the ball in the second half. They will need to improve next week if the Bears offense is going to have any chance to succeed.

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7.) The secondary needs help badly

At one point in the second half the Bears had the following five defensive backs on the field: Bryce Callahan, Demontre Hurst, Sherrick McManis, Chris Prosinski, and Deon Bush.

That’s probably the worst group of DBs any team fielded this week (this season?). The Bears really need to add talent in the secondary this offseason. Some of their young players have potential, but there needs to be at least one or two proven players on the field for the Bears secondary to have a chance against good QBs.

8.) Front four didn’t get it done 

After nine sacks in the previous two games, the Bears didn’t have any on Sunday and were neutralized by the Giants offensive line. Losing Leonard Floyd hurt, but he was ineffective for the most part in his three+ quarters played. Pernell McPhee was invisible out there after his inflammatory comments during the week.

Willie Young got some pressures on Manning, but couldn’t finish any plays. Rookie Jonathan Bullard got a rare start Sunday, but didn’t make any plays and was replaced by recently signed C.J. Wilson in the second half. Both Cornelius Washington and CJ Wilson played well, but neither made enough impact plays to make a difference.

With the inexperience in the Bears secondary, the front four needs to provide at least some pressure to protect the back half of the defense. The Bears couldn’t get it done on Sunday as the Giants offensive line won most of the battles on pass plays, giving Eli Manning the time he needed to find an open receiver.

The front four has been one of the few bright spots recently, but they didn’t play well enough against the Giants and the Bears lost.

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9.) Does the coaching staff know teams make adjustments at halftime? 

Does John Fox take a nap at halftime? How many games this year have the Bears played well in the first half and then get crushed after haltime? It happened again this week. The Bears controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the first half, but once the second half started, they couldn’t do anything right on offense or defense.

For some reason the Bears seem to assume that everything that worked in the first half will keep working in the second. They call the same plays on offense and run the same schemes on defense. This is the NFL and most teams adjust pretty fast to stop the opponent’s best plays. Not the Bears though. This coaching staff has been an embarrassment all year and Sunday was more of the same.

10.) Still in line for the #3 overall pick!

As painful as the Bears 22-16 loss was, with only two wins still the Bears are in line for the #3 pick in the NFL draft. This season is a lost cause, so fans might as well look on the bright side and start dreaming about who the Bears could select in the first round.

I’ve already started my draft coverage of players the Bears might target. Here are some links if you want to see some potentials QBs (part1, part2) or RBs (part1, part2) that would be good fits for the Bears.

11.) Pat O’Donnell had his best game as a Bear

One of the few bright spots in the Bears loss was the play of punter Pat O’Donnell. On six punts he averaged 48.2 yards, despite swirling winds. He also had a punt of 67 yards from deep in Bears territory in the fourth quarter. O’Donnell is having a solid season and looks like a keeper moving forward.

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12.) Random game notes

  • Rookie tight end Ben Braunecker got 30 snaps after Zach Miller left the game, but looked overmatched as a blocker.
  • Recently signed DT C.J. Wilson played well with two QB hits.
  • Adrian Amos dropped an easy INT and has to start making plays if he wants ot keep his job next season.
  • Deon Bush got some snaps on defense but didn’t make any plays. I’m glad the Bears picked him in the 4th round over Dak Prescott!
  • Bryce Callahan played well in his first game back from injury.

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