Week 15: Bears swept by Packers in gut-wrenching fashion

How can Chicago Bears’ losses still sting this much? Well, losing to the Green Bay Packers generally doesn’t help things…not only is the all-time rivalry now tied 94-94-6, but the Bears fell despite putting together an admirable effort in the midst of their 3-11 season.

If only effort was enough to win games.

Anyway, here’s what I saw:

1. Matt Barkley: QB #1 of the future?

Much like his first start of the season against Tennessee, Barkley left us shaking our heads in frustration at points and pumping our fists at others.

On one hand, this game was part of the reason why I’m not willing to commit to Barkley as the Bears starting quarterback going forward.

While the first two of his four turnovers weren’t his fault, his two interceptions were the kinds of things that kill offenses.

First, why throw that ball? Brown wasn’t open, and there was safety help over the top. There’s no window there for him.

Also, that second pick in particular reminded me of a few poorly thrown balls I saw from Brian Hoyer in training camp, as it sailed right out of his hand when throwing over the middle of the field.

When you lack arm strength, sometimes the tendency is to put more air under throws to get distance. Sure looks like that was the case on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s first theft of Barkley, which is an ominous sign if your favorite thing to do is throw over the middle of the field.

But then, it’s hard to deny how well he played outside of that bad 3rd-quarter stretch. Especially once he found Alshon Jeffery, he got in a rhythm and started firing darts all over the field, particularly on his preferred in-breaking dig routes (at least the ones that didn’t get picked).

In my mind, Barkley has clearly earned another contract and, if he sticks with the Bears, deserves a chance to make the roster and possibly compete for the starting job.

But seriously people: if you think the Bears shouldn’t draft a QB at all because of Matt Barkley, then my only conclusion is that you don’t ever want to win a Super Bowl. Because unless you have a historically great defense, having subpar talent at the quarterback position is a non-starter if you want to win games that mean something.

2. Alshon Jeffery came back with a vengeance

With Jeffery out and Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson struggling to stay on the field of late, the Bears have been looking, to little avail, for a receiver to make plays in their absence.

Interestingly, in Jeffery’s first game back, the motley crew of Cameron Meredith, Josh Bellamy, and Deonte Thompson made some nice plays to support Barkley while Jeffery was conspicuously absent in the first half.

But boy, the second half belonged to Jeffery, who was on fire.

All six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown for Jeffery came after the break, as he basically abused whoever lined up across from him and showed renewed burst and RAC ability.

No one quite knows what the offseason holds for Jeffery, as his suspension and lack of production this year have undoubtedly cost him some serious money.

But make no mistake about it: he’s a truly difference-making player when he’s on the field and when the Bears choose to involve him. None of those aforementioned receivers is even remotely in his league as a playmaker, meaning no disrespect.

Re-signing him, especially with their instability at receiver, should be a priority this coming winter and spring.

3. Bears run defense gets gashed without key pieces

Today was probably first day when we saw the Bears badly miss Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker.

While we’ve grown accustomed to the missed tackles from John Timu when he gets a chance to play significant snaps, we haven’t yet seen Nick Kwiatkowski struggle as a tackler in the run game.

Well, we definitely did today, as Ty Montgomery routinely made them miss or shrugged off their arm tackles on his way to 162 rushing yards, which is easily a career-high for the WR/turned RB, and two touchdowns.

Let’s also not forget that Eddie Goldman was out of the lineup as well, which makes Akiem Hicks’ job more difficult since offensive lines are free to double-team him more frequently.

Ultimately, the Bears probably will struggle to stop the run consistently just because they’re not healthy and are playing a lot of inexperienced players. That doesn’t make it less frustrating to watch.

4. Dowell Loggains evolves, then reverts

The roller-coaster continues for the first-year OC.

I have been as hard on Loggains every week as anyone, but I have no problem pointing out that he had an outstanding 4th quarter, particularly on the Bears’ penultimate drive.

Instead of abandoning the run game once the 4th quarter starts/the Bears get down by more than 10 points, he stuck with Jordan Howard, who had struggled early in the game. And he was handsomely rewarded as Howard busted loose seemingly at will, finishing with 17 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown.

And, as previously mentioned, the Bears got the ball into their best downfield threat in Jeffery, which opened up the offense further.

Sadly, the amount of great work he did in the 4th quarter only makes the end of the Bears’ last drive hurt worse.

With the Bears facing 3rd and goal from the 3 and the Packers having no timeouts left, Loggains called a pass play that fell incomplete off the hands of Meredith.

Why is that a problem? Well, if you run the ball and don’t score there, you can let the clock wind down before kicking the game tying field goal instead of leaving more than a minute left for Aaron Rodgers to steal your dignity with his back against the wall once again.

But, as we saw, that’s not what happened, and Rodgers got the last laugh, as per usual.

5. John Fox plays not to lose—and loses

Give Fox and the coaching staff some credit for getting this team to keep fighting regardless of their (now) 3-11 record. Their effort today was nothing short of inspired.

But in the end, when you play not to lose, you lose in spite of yourself. And that was born out once again for Fox and the Bears.

First, there was the refusal to go for it on 4th and goal from the 3 despite the offense’s momentum throughout the final quarter, preferring for his team to take their chances against Rodgers and the Packers in overtime.

Then, when given the opportunity to take a 10-second runoff due to Packers player being down with an injury inside of one minute to play, Fox declined the runoff, allowing the Packers to keep 54 seconds on the clock on 3rd and 11.

The rest was history.

The worst part is that the Packers took so long to get the ball after that huge throw that they would’ve been very much in danger of running out of time just get a snap off if those 10 seconds hadn’t been there.

Guys, this isn’t new, okay? This is standard John Fox, whether it’s mismanaging timeouts, playing too conservatively, or simply not utilizing strategy to his advantage.

Talk all you want about the effort of this team and how they’ve been playing so well with this many players injured, but let’s not act like injuries and inexperience are the only reason why they’re losing.

And don’t act like Fox wouldn’t be making the same ridiculous decisions if the Bears were actually a contender, either. Because he would. That’s what he does. And even though there’s a very high likelihood that he returns, the Bears won’t win a Super Bowl with him as coach just as they won’t with Jay Cutler as quarterback.

One Last Thing:

The safety hunt continues for the Bears…getting a feeling Jabrill Peppers’ or Jamal Adams’ name could get called in our draft spot this spring.

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