Bears’ offensive, defensive lines struggle in loss to Texans

Here are a few takeaways from the Bears’ 23-14 loss against the Texans.

1. After strong start, offensive line falters late

After two abjectly poor performances in the preseason, the Bears’ offensive line started off very strong in the first half. In particular, the Bears’ first touchdown–a 1-yard run by Jeremy Langford–showed a glimpse of why the arrival of Josh Sitton could ultimately change the fortunes of the Bears’ offense long-term.

On that play, rookie center Cody Whitehair, who had a decent game outside of a botched snap on a fourth-down play in the first half, and Kyle Long dominated their matchups right away, and Sitton’s pull from the backside stoned star linebacker Brain Cushing in the hole, allowing Langford to burrow his way into the endzone.

But while there’s room of optimism, one problem continues to surface for Chicago: Bobby Massie’s pass-blocking ability is a big problem. The Bears’ right tackle was routinely dominated by speed rushes from Whitney Mercilus, J.J. Watt, Jadaveon Clowney, and just about anyone else they felt like sending after Cutler from that direction. At times, Jeremy Lanford had to chip and help out, which opens up rushing lanes elsewhere.

Of course, it’s not all on Massie. Charles Leno Jr., who has been a revelation for the most part at left tackle, also got beaten a couple of times off the edge by Mercilus and Co. Whitehair got fooled late on a stunt, allowing a free rusher and a sack on Cutler. At the same time, he’s a rookie just learning that position. He’ll be fine.

This particular offensive line grouping only started practicing with each other a few days ago, and I definitely believe that they will improve. Make no mistake: this was a very stiff test for the Bears’ O-line in their first game. But if they really want to live up to the raised expectations they now have with Sitton’s arrival, they’ll need to regroup quickly.

2. The defensive line got dominated

The Bears’ much improved defensive front was not very good against the Texas.

Apart from Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, who seemed determined to overcome any and all things in their way, no other player on the front seven made a significant impact on this game. The pass rush: nonexistent. The run defense: absolutely manhandled.

Eddie Goldman was a non-factor in this game, aside from a tackle-for-loss he shared with Jonathan Bullard. Akiem Hicks had some success on bull-rushes, but he was also constantly fighting through double teams without others being able to win their 1-on-1 matches. Texans’ running back Lamar Miller took advantage of all this, posting 28 carries for 106 yards.

I know that John Fox really likes Mitch Unrein, but I think I’ve seen enough of him as a starter. After a strong first game and a few of his trademark flashes in the backfield, Bullard’s time to start is swiftly approaching.

3. Kevin White is not ready yet

After an entire year off the field, it’s ultimately not that surprising that White isn’t just dominating from the get-go. In all likelihood, he’ll come on stronger as the year progresses. But the way he’s playing right now, it’s probably time to pump the breaks on any 80-catch, 1,000-yard seasons you may have been thinking of.

The signs are already evident that White’s got a steep learning curve. He faked out Cutler, an issue that’s carried over from preseason, and stopped on an out route in the third quarter, resulting in an interception. He dropped a third-down pass that would’ve moved the chains, and he was not able to uncover from defensive backs well despite his speed.

Does this mean he’s a bust? No. But it’s probably time to adjust our expectations a bit after seeing him in his first regular season action.

4. The secondary played…pretty well, actually

Want a positive from this game? Here you go. No, seriously. I’m telling you to be happy with the secondary.

Especially with Kyle Fuller out this week, the expectations for the Bears’ defensive backfield couldn’t have been terribly high. I mean, we didn’t even know who was going to play opposite Tracy Porter, let alone how the anyone was going to perform against a receiver corps that features DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Braxton Miller.

Surprisingly though, the Bears DBs were not the problem today. They performed very well considering how long they had to cover on a given play with no pass rush to help them.

Porter did give up a TD catch to Hopkins, which will happen because Hopkins is…really good. But he also ripped a ball away from the star receiver on the Texans’ first possession for an INT and later fought of an offensive pass interference call to knock a potential touchdown out of Hopkins’ hands.

Jacoby Glenn, who got most of the snaps at left corner, had a very nice game, knocking two passes away from Will Fuller. Ultimately, while many have wanted to see Deiondre’ Hall on the field, Glenn has been so consistent that it’s hard to justify not giving him the nod first in Kyle Fuller’s absence.

Hall, for his part, also had a strong game, knocking away yet another touchdown pass on a fade route to Fuller. He still has trouble with speed-Fuller beat him just before that on a sideline route by simply outrunning Hall, though his coverage wasn’t terrible-but he has shown in just about every game he’s played that he can make plays on the football.

If there’s going to be no pass rush until McPhee returns, he, Glenn, Porter, and the other members of the secondary will need to keep that up.

5. Floyd flashes, but size still a problem

Leonard Floyd showed us why the Bears were so high on him in a two-play sequence in the third quarter. On one play, he torched the Texans’ left tackle for his first NFL sack, and then, after dropping into coverage, he pressured Brock Osweiler when he stepped up to make a third-down throw. The Bears got the stop on that play and forced a punt. He also chased a few running plays down from the back side in the first half.

However, as has been all too frequent with him, the 9th-overall pick found himself being man-handled at the point of attack. More than once, he was wholly enveloped by his blocker on pass rushes, never getting particularly close to the quarterback. And in the run game, he was a liability for the most part, which is not surprising this early in his career.

Clearly, the Bears’ coaching staff thought that Floyd’s athleticism and speed presented a mismatch that they could exploit more so than if they relied mainly on LaMarr Houston. But the question continues to remain: are you satisfied if Floyd ends up on the ground 9 out of 10 times if he ends up with a big play just once? Because for now, that’s likely what we’re going to get from him.

Other notes:

-What happened to Alshon Jeffery in the second half? He started out on fire, with four catches on four targets and 105 yards in the first half, but he only saw two targets after the second quarter.

One of those targets was an awful drop that easily would’ve been a first down, further adding the Bears’ offensive woes.

Given how unstoppable he seemed, I would have thought he should’ve gotten more looks than that. Some of that might been the protection breaking down in the second half, and it may also have had something to do with more bracketed coverage to his side. Whatever the reason, it’s probably no coincidence that when he was a non-factor, so was the Bears’ offense.

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