Welp, the Chicago Bears just got themselves closer to securing a top-3 draft pick this upcoming spring. So that’s exciting! Actually, this game did become engaging in the end, so my apathy toward writing was at least infiltrated by some emotion, even if that emotion was frustration. Anyway, let’s get into it.
1. This loss was not on Matt Barkley
Can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I actually was impressed by Barkley’s performance. He overcame two interceptions, including one truly horrible one in the end zone, and ended up throwing for 316 yards and 3 TDs on a ridiculous 54 pass attempts. But the stats didn’t catch my eye as much as his willingness to take shots down the field, his resilience under pressure, and the accuracy of his throws. https://twitter.com/USC_Athletics/status/802944840665174017 Don’t let the 28 completions on 54 attempts (52%) fool you: he was accurate. Time and again (especially late in the game), he delivered catchable balls with regularity only to watch his receivers waste his efforts. https://twitter.com/PFF_NateJahnke/status/802999489644507136 On two separate occasions on the Bears final drive, he delivered balls straight into the hands of a receiver for what would have been the game-winning score only to see it fall to the turf. In both cases, the throws could hardly have been better. What’s a guy to do? After Barkley’s second INT, I remarked that he looked like he was the embodiment of an unholy cross between Jay Cutler’s questionable decision-making and Brian Hoyer’s suspect arm strength. In a way, he stayed true to that throughout the game, albeit from the positive side: he captured Cutler’s fearlessness in throwing down the field (even drawing a few pass interference penalties early) and Hoyer’s short-to-intermediate accuracy and ball security (truthfully, he probably leaned more in this direction until the game started slipping away). Regardless, he shouldn’t have to worry about losing his job to David Fales next week. Barkley will be back under center next week.
2. Some good, some bad from Nick Kwiatkowski
If nothing else, the Bears’ 4th-round pick has shown that he can deliver a blow when he squares someone up. Twice in the running game today, Kwiatkowski met DeMarco Murray in the hole and punished him for no-gain, conjuring images of the old-school style Chicago linebackers have portrayed for decades. Of course, he also showed he’s not perfect. Mariota’s TD pass to Delanie Walker in the first quarter picked on the rookie LB in zone coverage. Walker crossed Kwiatkowski’s face, the rookie didn’t react to him, and Mariota fit a ball in between Kwaitkowski and Danny Trevathan for a score. Provided Freeman and Trevathan stick around for a few years, Kwiatkowski likely won’t get to start right away if those two remain healthy; this is something to watch, especially given the knee injury that Trevathan suffered today. However, there’s no doubt that the young man is physical enough to play the position. Should his coverage abilities improve, he’s going to carve out a role on this team sooner rather than later.
3. Marquess Wilson made his case to stay a Bear
With Alshon Jeffery out, Eddie Royal not doing much, and Cameron Meredith regressing badly, someone in the Bears’ receiving corps desperately need to step up in this game. Wilson, for the most part, answered the bell. Early in the game, he was mostly involved in the short passing game, and he made the most of his chances, running with aggression after the catch and picking up extra yards. Later in the game, he started to make his presence felt down the field, taking over the game on the last couple of possessions. Yes, he dropped a touchdown (though Deonte Thompson picked him up a few plays later), but that last drive was a bounce-back of epic proportions as he racked up 58 yards on three catches. Especially with the future of Jeffery being cloudier now due to a sub-par season and a drug suspension, the Bears will be taking a good hard look at whether Wilson, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, should stick with this team going forward. Today certainly helped that cause. Unfortunately, though, his most memorable play of the game according to the internet was this: https://twitter.com/_MarcusD2_/status/802978138150043648
4. Drops plagued Bears receivers throughout the game
Watching Loggains seemingly trying to break records for passing attempts in a game with Matt Freaking Barkley is bad enough. Watching the Bears’ wide receivers let ball after ball bounce off their hands was absolutely maddening. Howard had a bad drop on a flat route that would’ve been a touchdown, though the Bears ultimately got a TD throw from Barkley to Daniel Brown (?!?!?) to make up for it. But later in the game, the drops just got plain ridiculous. Cameron Meredith, who has slowly faded back into the shadows after breaking out with Brian Hoyer under center, managed only two catches for 19 yards on nine targets overall. He dropped no fewer than five of those targets. Wilson could’ve turned a very good game into a monster game, but he dropped a sure touchdown in the end zone. Josh Bellamy dropped what would have been a wide-open, game-winning TD. Deonte Thompson, who had been in the running to be the Bears most sure-handed receiver, blew that moniker by dropping the game-winning TD on 4th down. https://twitter.com/TheNFLWire/status/802996538146455553 Apparently, hitting Bears receivers in the hands just isn’t a sure thing. But then again, at least all those guys managed to gain positive yardage in this game, which Royal can’t say (1 catch, -6 yards). Film day is not going to be fun.
5. Jordan Howard needs a new offensive coordinators
Statistics don’t always tell the whole story in football, so the fact that Amos still doesn’t have an interception in the 27 NFL games he has now played isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. And typically, if you check out Bears’ Pro Football Focus grades, Despite Barkley’s heroics, I refuse to stop harping on the fact that Jordan Howard is not getting the football enough. In this case (for once), the Bears did actually have to throw the football to get back into the game as they were down by two scores late. But just saying that that was the reason for Howard only getting 18 carries (meaning that he has only broken 20 carries twice in his eight starts) is missing the mark. How can you expect to move the ball and score points when you’d rather throw the ball on 3rd/4th-and-1 instead of handing the ball to a back that’s averaging more than 8.0 yards/carry (especially when your quarterback is averaging significantly less than that total per pass)? Why are you removing the only consistent playmaker you have left in critical situations to give Jeremy Langford opportunities to do…nothing? I’ve said about all I can say about this Bears offense. It’s essentially the same story every week. You can blame things on injuries all you want, and there’s certainly a lack of talent on the field for the Bears. But don’t forget that regardless of who’s played for the Bears this season, the play-calling issues have remained the same. And until there’s a new offensive coordinator, this won’t change.
One last thing: Adrian Amos is not guaranteed his spot going forward
Two plays made this notion painfully clear. On Marcus Mariota’s first big play of the game, Titan’s tight end Delanie Walker blew by a flat-footed Amos for a huge gain right down the middle of the field. And later in the game, he inexcusably forgot his responsibility to cover the deep zone, allowing Rishard Matthews to beat him for a touchdown. No, Amos is not the train-wreck that previous safeties have been for the Bears, and he’s shown an aptitude for hitting in the run game. The problem is that he hasn’t shown any real skill in covering people and understanding where he’s supposed to be in the passing game. If this continues, the Bears are going to have to look elsewhere at free safety. He’s been okay, but just because he’s been the starter for two seasons doesn’t mean he’s been great. https://twitter.com/HighlightHub/status/802960163049209856