By Bryan Dietzler
When you have two teams that are dwelling at or near the bottom of the league, you tend to have little interest from football fans in the game. The Bears came into this Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers with a 2-6 record but were coming off of a victory against the Minnesota Vikings so they did have some momentum. Chicago was also coming back from a bye week so they were supposedly well rested for this game.
The Bucs came into the game with a record of 3-5 but had played teams tough. They are rebuilding but have a promising future, just like the Bears appeared to have. It would seem as if the Bucs would be ripe for the picking and the Bears could win this game handily.
This contest saw both teams make plenty of mistakes but the Buccaneers made the fewest and least critical as they beat the Bears, soundly, 36-10. Chicago played a pretty poor game on both sides of the ball but the offense was the biggest culprit. This did not look like the same team that had beaten the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night a couple weeks ago. It was not even close.
The scoring started out in the first quarter as Bear’s quarterback Jay Cutler threw an interception to Bucs safety (and former Bear) Chris Conte. Conte ran into the end zone to give the Buccaneers a 7-0 lead. Chicago would get on the scoreboard on the next possession as they got a 54 yard field goal from Connor Barth to make it 7-3.
After more miscues by the Bears offense, Tampa took a bigger lead following a 10 yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Cameron Brate to put the Bucs up 14-3. Tampa would tack three more points onto that total with a 30 yard field goal from Roberto Aguayo. That field goal made it 17-3. Halftime was approaching and it appeared as if the Bears would go into the locker room down big to the Bucs. But Cutler redeemed himself with a 50 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cameron Meredith to make it 17-10 at the half.
The Buccaneers started the scoring off in the third quarter as Winston hit wide receiver Freddie Martino on a 43 yard touchdown pass. That put the Bucs up 24-10. Tampa would throw three more on the total with a 27 yard field goal to make it 27-10.
Cutler would eventually contribute, yet again, to the Bucs scoring as he fumbled the ball out of the end zone giving Tampa Bay two points (a safety). This made it 29-10. The final score of the game came in the fourth quarter as running back Doug Martin pushed the ball into the end zone from one yard out.
That made it 36-10 and closed out the scoring for the game.
The Bear’s offense was the biggest culprit in the loss and Cutler had a huge hand in giving the game away to Tampa Bay. His two interceptions, fumble and fumble for a safety stole four possession away from the offense putting the defense in a poor position.
The quarterback play was horrible. Cutler’s miscues, coupled with his inability to get the ball to his open receivers, made it a long and uncomfortable afternoon for everyone. He was not making clear and solid decisions when he was on the field. It may have been the pressure he was getting, receivers being out of position, or a poorly called offense. Something just wasn’t right with Cutler in this game and it cost the Bears a win.
The wide receivers were struggling right along with Cutler. The only highlight from this group was the 50 yard touchdown catch by Meredith. Otherwise, this group did little on the day mostly because of the play of Cutler but also because Tampa Bay was getting some good coverage on them. It was a real low point in the season for this group. Tight end Zach Miller did have a few grabs to help out the tight ends but all of the receivers had a pretty rough outing.
Starting running back Jordan Howard had a decent game but fumbled the ball giving it away to the Bucs. His 100 yards helped make the day not look too terrible for the offense but he was a little inconsistent. He started the game, had the fumble, the disappeared for a while. Some rumors following the game seem to point to him having an injury of some sort. Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey saw some action but didn’t contribute that much.
The offensive line was rocked by injuries in this game. Guard Kyle Long, a perennial Pro Bowler, left the game and showed up later with it wrapped up in an air cast. It has now been said that he will be out for the rest of the season. Chicago got used to life without him for the last two games and will have to live without him a lot longer now.
The ever improving Bobby Massie was also a casualty in this game. He left early with a concussion. He will be day to day while he clears the concussion protocol.
The offensive line is essentially devastated and will probably struggle for the remainder of the season.
The defense was put in an awkward position several times on Sunday. Four turnovers gave the ball back to the Tampa Bay offense leaving the defense in poor position to defend. Tampa was able to take advantage of a tired Bears defense and scored 34 points (don’t count the safety) which is unusual even for the Bears defense. Things just didn’t go right for the defense all afternoon. It was partially their fault and partially the offenses fault.
The defensive line was ok in this one and got some pressure on Winston. They had Eddie Goldman back and he played very well but went out with an injury late in the game. Akeem Hicks flashed as did Will Sutton who, like Goldman, left the game with an injury. It’s not known how long he or Goldman will be out.
The injury bug has struck again, just when almost everyone was back and playing.
The line did do a nice job of stopping the run but there were times they couldn’t reach the quarterback. They will have to work on that more as the season moves forward.
The linebackers played well, as usual, and the defense got good play from guys like Pernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd. The run was taken care of, for the most part, and the passing game was disrupted, at least a little, especially by Floyd and McPhee. There is a concern here about Jerrell Freeman. He was injured in the game and details are sketchy as to what happened. Hopefully he won’t be out for a long period of time. If he is, this defense will be losing its best player and that will hurt the team greatly.
The secondary struggled in this game allowing long passes to be completed at will. Winston is a good quarterback but the Bears let him look like a better than average quarterback. They also allowed virtually unknown receivers have big catches. Tracy Porter was good, for the most part, but the Bears have been using Cre’Von LeBlanc and he has been horrible. He gave up another big score in this game and exposed a huge weakness in Chicago’s secondary.
The depth in the secondary is good but they are inexperienced. They will continue to suffer this season until they get more time under their belt. When they do though, this unit will be pretty good.
Special teams were good, for the most part. Connor Barth didn’t miss any kicks so that was a plus. Punter Pat O’ Donnell had an average game. The coverage units were ok but the Bears’ punt return game had an odd thing happen. Eddie Royal, just back from an injury, fielded a punt from the Bear’s five yard line. His mistake left the Bears in poor field position. He needs to be a little smarter with his decisions.
The coaching staff did a less than stellar job calling this game. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains did not do well with the offense in calling the right plays at the right times. After a near perfect set of plays he called against the Vikings, Loggains had what was probably his worst game this season on Sunday. Granted, Cutler had a lot to do with many of the problems on offense but Loggains helped out too.
The defense still has trouble with execution and does have a couple of guys in the wrong spot at times, mostly in the secondary. LeBlanc should not be covering anyone and it’s amazing he is on the roster. Fangio is a good defensive coordinator but his defense was just put in some tough positions this Sunday. Hopefully they will have an opportunity to get better still this season.
Next week, the Bears will play the New York Giants in New Jersey. The Giants played the Cincinnati Bengals this Monday night and beat the Bengals 21-20. That makes the Giants 6-3 on the season. New York has a host of talent including the famous Odell Beckham Jr, Eli Manning and a host of other solid performers.
Will the Bears be able to right the ship and win their third game this season?
A full preview of the upcoming game will be posted at the end of the week.
ROSTER NOTES: It is worth noting that Long and Sutton have been placed on season ending injured reserve. Alshon Jeffery has been suspended for four games due to taking a banned performance enhancing drug.