Here are some thoughts on the Bears’ tough 29-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, dropping them to 1-4 on the season.
1. Front seven remains a work in progress
To be fair, the Bears pass rush definitely made an impact in this game, especially in the second half. Willie Young ended up with three sacks in a reserve role, and Akiem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard provided sacks for the Bears’ front that started to overpower the Colts offense after halftime.
Too bad they couldn’t get in that rhythm sooner…
In the first half, Andrew Luck was more or less able to do whatever he felt like. T.Y. Hilton was getting open at will, and Luck had clean pocket after clean pocket from which to find him, outside of a sack and a pressure by Young early on.
Unfortunately, whereas in other games the secondary managed to hang tight against other teams despite a lack of help up front, the Colts simply had too much speed at wide receiver. Hilton, in particular, ate up Cre’Von LeBlanc whenever that matchup presented itself—imagine that? A QB that gets the ball to his best player in favorable matchups…but more on that later.
So while the five overall sacks look nice, the pressure just wasn’t consistent enough against a bad offensive line to keep Luck from beating them. At the same time, this certainly looks like a step in the right direction for the Bears’ front seven.
2. Bears offense continues to leave points on the field
From the very first drive, the Bears continued the precedent they’ve been following for much of the last two games: the offense would threaten, but ultimately, they couldn’t score touchdowns. And they paid the price for it in the end.
For one, the offensive line committed a number of costly penalties that stalled drives, perhaps none more costly than—guess who?—Bobby Massie getting called for holding after being absolutely abused on 3rd down on the Bears’ last possession.
At this point, I’m done harping on how poorly coached this team is and how they repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot. The point just keeps making itself.
Secondly, you can see what you want about Brian Hoyer being the first Bears quarterback to post 300+ yards and 2 TDs in three straight games since Josh McCown in 2013, but he proved that he’s not much more than an efficient backup/borderline starter in the NFL.
But even though he finally led the Bears past the 20-point mark for the first time this season, he continued to struggle with reading the whole field, continuing to pull off downfield reads too quickly in favor of check-downs. Though that served them on plays such as Jordan Howard’s TD catch-and-run, the film will likely reveal several plays that will haunt him (two of which I’m about to discuss).
The numbers looked great overall, but in the end, they still weren’t enough to give the Bears a win.
The Bears posted 522 yards of offense, with Brian Hoyer throwing for 397 and Jordan Howard rushing for 118. That should've been a win.
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) October 9, 2016
3. Alshon Jeffery forgotten when it matters most
After a first half that had people saying things like this:
Where the hell has Alshon been?
Only has that one catch.
— Da Bears Brothers (@DaBearsBros) October 9, 2016
As much fun as this has been, I have to ask. Where in the world is Alshon Jeffery? #Bears
— Erik Lambert (@ErikLambert1) October 9, 2016
If Hoyer doesn't come off some of his quick dumps, find Jeffery downfield, he'll be just good enough to get Bears beat.
— Hub Arkush (@Hub_Arkush) October 9, 2016
Brian Hoyer finally remembered that Jeffery plays on his team, hitting him for a big 38-yard completion on a sideline fade route (!!) and finding him again later for two more completions. In all, Jeffery had five catches for 77 yards, which is not a totally ineffective game.
Just good enough, in fact, for most people to think nothing is wrong, if you’re just looking at Jeffery’s overall season stats (22 catches for 394 yards).
But in the fourth quarter, Hoyer missed his best receiver twice in situations in which most guys look to their biggest threat to make a big play, again driving home a point that I’ve been making for weeks.
Bears tgts last 3 weeks:
IND – Meredith 12, Royal 9, Miller 8, Alshon 6
DET – White 9, Royal 7, Alshon 5
DAL – White 14, Miller 9, Alshon 7
— Joe Ostrowski (@JoeO670) October 9, 2016
First, early in the fourth quarter, Jeffery had 1-on-1 coverage on the right side against Vontae Davis. Prime fade route/slant territory for the big, physical receiver, right? Nope. Hoyer instead badly overthrew a corner/fade route to Eddie Royal on the other side of the field, leading to a field goal.
And then, on the Bears very last offensive play, Hoyer just straight up failed to read the field. If he had, he would’ve seen the backside safety run up to take away the underneath route, meaning Jeffery was 1-on-1 with Davis again. Not only that, but Jeffery had beaten Davis and would have been all alone for a TD.
I'm getting really frustrated that they are not throwing it to Alshon Jeffery. pic.twitter.com/aG6j796Ypf
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) October 9, 2016
You can’t see it on this video, but Hoyer is busy throwing an uncatchable ball behind Cameron Meredith in triple coverage. Jeffery was not in a pleasant mood after this play, nor was he happy when Hoyer missed him earlier in the quarter.
Can you blame him?
4. Jordan Howard is here to stay
Howard outdid himself in his second NFL game, registering 116 yards on 16 carries (7.25 yds/carry) and catching three passes for 45 yards and his first NFL touchdown. He continues to show patience and decisiveness running the football, often making one cut and hitting holes hard.
He even showed off his speed on a 57-yard run in the second quarter, something that he doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for.
Whatever else there is to say about the Bears offense, Howard is, without a doubt, the man at running back and will continue to be a centerpiece for this offense going forward.
5. THROW JEFFERY THE BALL.
If you think I was overreacting before when I wrote this, here it is again. You can’t see right now, but I’ve got the tea kettle going. I’ll be sipping all day.
-Stop playing Cre’Von LeBlanc. Either move Bryce Callahan back inside and bring in Jacoby Glenn, who has proven competent in his limited time, to play on the outside, or, given how well Callahan has played outside, leave him outside and give Glenn or Demontre Hurst a shot in the slot. Anything but LeBlanc.
Also, never put him back as a punt returner again, either.
-When the Bears desperately need a big play, Massie does what he does best: let the play get blown up.
-I like Cameron Meredith a lot and think he earned a few more opportunities to prove himself in the coming weeks. But if he doesn’t stop putting the ball on the ground, he’s going to waste his hard work. I’d hate to see that happen, Cam, so please, stop fumbling.