The Chicago Bears started their 2017 season on Sunday with a 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, even though it was the start of a new season, the game featured too many similarities of a John Fox coached team.
The team was yet again overmatched from a talent aspect, especially at the wide receiver position against a highly superior team and found themselves one play away from having the biggest upset of the week. At the end, it was just a few critical plays that the Bears didn’t make on the defensive side of the ball that led to a loss, similar to many we have seen in the past two seasons.
Early in the fourth quarter trailing 13-10, the Bears defense had the Falcons offense facing third and 10 on the Falcons 12-yard line.
Quarterback Matt Ryan was able to maneuver in the pocket to find tight end Austin Hooper wide open down field due to a busted coverage in the defense, Hooper caught the ball and scored on a 88-yard touchdown pass increasing the Falcon’s lead to 20-10. That was not it as on the next Falcons drive, Ryan again hit Hooper on a third down and 10 from their own 25-yard line for a 40 yard completion.
The pass would set up a field goal which led to the 23-17 final.
— Jurado (@JuradoNYC) September 11, 2017
Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio had his defense ready as they held the top ranked offense in 2016 to just two touchdowns, the crucial mishap would not sting as much if was just a fluke but there have been several instances over the last two season where the Bears have lost in similar fashion.
In 2015, the Bears scored on a late Jay Cutler touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings at home to make the score 20-13, but with just then four minutes to go, the Bears would give up 10 unanswered points with two 35-yard plus passing plays to lose 23-20.
During that same year, the team would be leading the San Francisco 49ers by the score of 20-13 and it was up to the defense to make another stand to win the game.
With 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert facing a third and three at the Bears 44-yard-line, he dropped back to pass only to take off and run up the middle for the first down but ended up going all the way scoring the touchdown to tie the game. Bears kicker Robbie Gould would miss a game winning field goal which would lead to overtime where Gabbert would win it for the 49ers with a deep 71-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith.
The defensive mistakes that were made in 2015 were expected as it was the Bears first season transferring from a four three defense to a three four defense. Furthermore, their talent level was sub par as only half the defensive starters that played in 2015, played in yesterday’s game.
Going into last season, as the talent on the defensive side of the ball improved, many believed the defensive would perform better as well, but the same mistakes were made.
Two games that stick out the most were the week 6 home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the week 15 game against the Green Bay Packers. Against the Jaguars, the Bears led 13-0 at the start of the fourth quarter only to lose 17-16 as the defense gave up a go ahead 51-yard touchdown pass on a slant pass to wide receiver Arrelious Benn who broke free after Bears cornerback Tracy Porter slipped and fell.
In week 15 against the Packers at home, the Bears trailed 27-10 to start the fourth quarter and managed to tie the game with less than a minute to go in the game.
The Packers had the ball with 31 seconds to go and faced a 3rd and 10 at their own 26-yard line. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit wide receiver Jordy Nelson on a 60-yard deep ball down the middle which led to a game-winning field goal by kicker Mason Crosby. The play was questioned heavily as the Bears chose not to blitz Rodgers who had limited mobility during the game.
It’s the failure to make the one big play that has hampered the Bears, in 2015, they lost four games where the opposing team score the go ahead score late in the fourth quarter or in overtime.
Had those four losses been wins, the Bears would have finished with 10 wins and made the playoffs making it a great first year for John Fox.
This would have taken the pressure of him for the Bears performance in 2016 losing 13 games. Last season, the Bears lost five games where the deciding score was scored in the fourth quarter and the Bears had a chance to either win or tie the game only to lose.
The loss on Sunday was disappointed because it was a loss that has been seen over and over again in the past three years and it is something that can’t keep happening the longer the coaching staff is in place.
The Bears play hard and a good team, but good teams are judged based on their records and if they can’t make the big play to stop the big play then the Bears will be stuck with same results. Sunday was the first of a 16 game season, one can only hope that this will be the last time we see the Bears make the big mistake on defense again in a critical spot.