Here are a few takeaways from the Bears’ 29-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, which dropped them to 0-2 on the season.
1. The Bears’ front seven is not as good as we hoped
The Bears had a rookie quarterback coming to their building who, while looking good in his first NFL action, is inexperienced nonetheless. The best thing to do to young quarterbacks? Pressure them into making mistakes, and the Bears said as much before the game.
And yet, they didn’t happen at all. Sure, the Bears managed to get a sack from Willie Young in the third quarter, but other than that, how many times was Carson Wentz under duress? Not many. As the weeks go on, it becomes even more glaringly obvious how badly this Bears’ defense misses Pernell McPhee, who, as we all know, won’t be eligible to play for four more weeks.
Jerrell Freeman set the tone early, just as he did last week, with a couple jarring hits and some savvy play recognition. From there, it seemed only a matter of time before they started causing problems for Philly’s offense.
But that never materialized. Young made a few plays but just isn’t a consistently disruptive force. Lamarr Houston was lost to a knee injury after not really doing much. Floyd was a non-factor after an encouraging Week 1. And there was, for a second-straight week, little-to-no impact from Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and Mitch Unrein.
If there’s one encouraging bit of news, it’s that a below-average secondary (at least on paper) continues to make plays with no help from their defensive front. Bryce Callahan, Deiondre’ Hall, and Tracy Porter all had pass-breakups in the end zone, and Jacoby Glenn tackled aggressively all night lone in addition to continuing to show solid ball skills.
— Erik Lambert (@ErikLambert1) September 20, 2016
And despite getting beat on plays by their receivers, both Porter and Glenn made excellent hustle plays, knocking balls out of receivers’ hands before they could fully gain control.
But as admirably as they performed, their impact is directly tied to what the front seven does and whether or not they can control the line of scrimmage and push the pocket. For two weeks now, we’ve seen the exact same kind of performance, as the Bears couldn’t pressure Brock Osweiler last week either. How many plays can you expect them to make when the quarterback has a clean pocket every play from which to work?
This was a very advantageous situation for the Bears, at least on paper, coming into the game. Instead, Chicago just served as a national showcase for Carson Wentz.
2. Jay Cutler tried to do too much
Cutler had a decent first half, but the second half is one that I’m sure he’d like to forget about. For one, he was (stop me if you’ve heard this before) pressured from all sides and very rarely had a clean pocket to throw from, unlike his counterpart. The play-calling likely didn’t help, as Dowell Loggains continued his game plan from last week, abandoning the run early and leaning on mid- and deep drops that exposed Cutler to a battery of punishment.
#Bears QB Jay Cutler was wearing a cast on his right thumb post-game, and he told reporters he's "concerned." He'll have tests today.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 20, 2016
— David J. Chao, MD (@ProFootballDoc) September 20, 2016
And the quarterback’s performance suffered for it. He continued a somewhat disturbing trend of bouncing very manageable throws to receivers, and he had a bad fumble in which he tried to make a sidearm throw while going down. And that was all before a gut-wrenching interception in the third quarter that definitely was not on his receiver that time.
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot Cutler can do about his current situation. He’s playing with a bad offensive line, a subpar running game, and receivers that are still struggling to be reliable aside from Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal, when he has time to get them the ball.
Even on Cutler’s biggest throw of the night—a 49-yard bomb to Jeffery—he had to escape pressure allowed by Charles Leno Jr. before getting off an underthrown ball that could’ve been a touchdown if he had time to deliver it properly.
When you're wondering how @TheWorldof_AJ was so wide open and then you see it…
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 20, 2016
Like it or not, the Bears’ offense does not usually function well when Cutler is forced to do everything himself. When that happens, his mechanics break down, he forces throws, and he gets frustrated, which further feeds into the poor national narrative surrounding him. While it’s not clear how much of struggles were due to his thumb injury, which he apparently suffered well before that strip sack according to his post-game comments (reported by NBC Chicago), but either way, we’ve seen the Cutler-trying-to-a-save-a-bad-offense move before, and it doesn’t end well.
Truthfully, he’s still not the Bears’ biggest issue, and it would be a gut-punch if he has to miss any time, no matter what you think Brian Hoyer may have showed you against a soft, garbage-time defense. But Cutler cannot be winning quarterback unless he has better support.
3. Jordan Howard is going to start having an impact
Just before the game, I predicted we would see Howard’s first NFL carry soon. And after a fairly uninspiring first couple of carries for Jeremy Langford and a quick look to Ka’Deem Carey for the next two drives, it was almost inevitable that the rookie running back would see his first action tonight.
He responded well, immediately picking up 10 yards and a first down on his first carry and following that up with a strong run on the next play before being pulled. Howard showed the same sneaky speed that he did in the preseason and didn’t look at all out of place in the starting lineup.
— Stu Jackson (@StuJTH) September 20, 2016
Though Langford did run well at points, he also had a costly late fumble that essentially derailed any potential Bears comeback in the 4th quarter. In addition, that poor play, along with a late injury to Carey, opened the door for Howard to close out the last Bears offensive…“possession.”
Just as he did in training camp, Howard gave the Bears coaching staff ever reason to give him more opportunities in the coming weeks. And Langford’s uneven play early in the season is only going to help his cause to see more touches.
4. We may have overestimated the Bears’ coaching staff
This seems like a leap to make after just the second game of the season, but after the Bears’ performance tonight, it’s really hard to come away from this game feeling otherwise.
Examples? Deonte Thompson taking the ball out of the end zone and getting dropped well short of the 25, where the Bears would have gotten the ball if he had just taken a knee. Leonard Floyd lining up in the neutral zone and negating a fourth-down goal line stand, which became a touchdown on the next play. Abandonment of the running game in favor of deep pass drops that got Jay Cutler killed. Drive-killing penalties.
As much as we’ve heard and come to expect about the professionalism and experience of this Bears’ coaching staff, this entire game—and the second half of their first game—was a damning rebuttal of that notion.
Can someone please ask Dowell Loggains what his second-half adjustments were these past two games? Were there any? Because if anything, the offense has looked markedly worse after the break in both contests than it did in the first half.
For all of Fox’s craftiness, secrecy, and quirky superstition in looking for any possible edge in game-planning (like changing team hotels) before the Bears take the field, this team seems remarkably unprepared to perform when they actually have to play a game. I’m thinking he might want to re-focus his efforts.
As good as Carson Wentz looked, this was a very beatable Philadelphia Eagles team on the whole. And while injuries to key players certainly played a part in the Bears’ struggles, the fact that so many critical errors continue to be made and not rectified from week to week leads me to believe I, along with many fans, overestimated this Bears team. And in particular, we overestimated this coaching staff’s ability to have this team prepared to win every week.
If that sounds unnecessarily harsh or like I’m rushing to judgement, so be it. At the same time, given that this performance was a repeat of the same mistakes from the previous week, even regression in some players (Leno Jr. noticeably struggled again), what other conclusion is there to come to?
5. Injuries are starting to decimate the roster
#Bears Injury recap:
-Houston likely torn ACL
-Cutler possible broken thumb
-Eddie Goldman high ankle sprain
-Amos & Callahan concussions
— Aaron Leming (@AaronLemingNFL) September 20, 2016
The Bears came into this game with only one player—Kyle Fuller—on the injury report. Before the game was out, they had lost the likes of Cutler, Houston, Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, Eddie Goldman, and Ka’Deem Carey to various injuries, with several other players having to take plays off to receive medical attention.
This is not a team that can withstand injuries to key players; they already lack the start power, especially on defense, for it not to be a big problem. And let’s not even get into how big a dumpster fire this season will become if Cutler has to miss games…
Bottom line: the Bears desperately need to get some good health-related news and rest their injured players as much as possible over this short week. Quite simply, they as a team can’t afford to be at too much less than 100% if they want to be remotely competitive.
-I already mentioned this, but thank goodness for Freeman. He’s been nothing short of outstanding, even without help from his lineman. If only more Bears defenders brought it like this every night:
-Seeing a healthy Eddie Royal be such a difference maker is incredibly encouraging. He made men miss in the passing game and proved a reliable target for Cutler and Hoyer. And his punt-return, while meaningless, was an outstanding individual effort. If nothing else, it’s good to see him being himself again.
-Can someone get Kevin White running up the field on a post or fade route (and no, I don’t mean one that gets thrown out the back of the end zone)? Didn’t he run a 4.3 at the combine? Even with a steel rod in his leg, I’m thinking he can still run. Let’s see him do that, then.
-Kyle Fuller’s not getting his starting job back when he returns, in my opinion. If he does, it would be a disservice to the play that Glenn and Hall have displayed opposite Porter. They’ve earned the chance to keep playing. And while Glenn appears to be the starter for now, Hall continues to flash every single game he’s played in and is demanding playing time. There’s hope at cornerback for the Bears.