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It’s only week 5, but the Bears have already managed to lose two games in which they were clearly the better team. I’m not even sure who to blame for this one, as there were multiple suspects. Cutler’s interceptions, Forte’s horribly timed fumble, Trestman’s play-calling in the 2nd half, the awful special teams unit, the offensive line, the defensive line, Robbie Gould, Mel Tucker’s incompetence, or the inability of the coaching staff to adjust at halftime? Pick your poison, they all deserve some of the blame, but overall this Bears team is just not very good right now.
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Despite jumping out to a 21-7 lead in the first half, the Bears somehow ended up losing 31-24 in one of the most frustrating losses I have seen in a long time. The Bears looked like the better team in this one for most of the game, but the combination of the mistakes I mentioned above allowed the Panthers to come back and steal a victory. I’m still disgusted by the outcome of this one and am not ready to write rationally about it so I will just get to the takeaways:
1.) Jay Cutler needs to be better
Cutler is going to get more blame than he deserves for this loss (as usual), but he definitely deserves a fair share of it. His interception in the 4th quarter was possibly his worst throw of the day and just a flat-out mistake from Cutler. He had a bad pick in the 1st quarter as well, trying to force one to Brandon Marshall despite triple coverage. After his first INT, Cutler looked like an all-Pro with 3 1st half touchdowns, but he sucked again in the 2nd half. I’m not sure if it was the play calling or Cutler’s preference for short passes, but for some reason the Bears just stopped going down the field in the 2nd half. It was a steady diet of runs and dump-off passes. The Panthers secondary is one of the least talented in the NFL and were playing their 4th & 5th CBs due to injury, so it makes little sense that the Bears would decide to stop throwing downfield. Cutler has been a gunslinger since he joined the Bears, so the decision to throw predominantly short passes probably came from the coaching staff.
2.) Dr Trestman & Mr Tice?
The Bears offense was unstoppable in the first half and then like most team do, the Panthers made some adjustments at halftime. The Bears didn’t. They kept running inside against the strength of the Panthers defense (Lotulelei, Short, Kuechly) and throwing short dump off passes. The Bears have one of the most talented WR groups in the league, and the Panthers have one of the least talented secondaries in the NFL. So why not throw the ball downfield and see what happens? We will never know because the Bears kept throwing short passes which let the Panthers extremely talented LB core affect the outcome of the game. I just don’t get what the Bears were thinking. The first half play-calling was some of Trestman’s best but in the 2nd half it seemed like Mike Tice was calling the plays again.
3.) Mel Tucker is in over his head
The Bears don’t’ have a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but after the Bears offseason acquisitions they have enough to be better than what Mel Tucker has done with them so far. In the first half the Bears defense was respectable, but in the second half the Bears didn’t make any significant changes for the 2nd week in a row. Right now every team knows that the 12-15 yard slant or curl is wide open whenever they want it. The bend-but-don’t-break defense used to work for the Bears when they had play-makers like Tillman, Urlacher, and a still mobile Lance Briggs, but right now they have rookie Kyle Fuller and that’s about it. The Bears don’t have the right players for the soft cover 2 defensive scheme anymore, but Tucker is either too stubborn, too dense to realize the problem, or isn’t comfortable with any other scheme.
In the first half the Bears defense made some plays, but in the second half the Panthers adjusted to the Bears soft zone and the Bears didn’t make any counter adjustments. This is two weeks in a row that Mel Tucker stuck with his first half scheme and didn’t show the ability to adjust at halftime. If the Bears improve and end up making the playoffs, do you trust Mel Tucker to design a scheme that can stop a good QB? Cam Newton has been one of the worst QBs in the NFL this season and he was again until the Bears prevent zone at the end of the first half. It was like the Bears never got out of the prevent once the second half started as Cam Newton continued to pick apart the Bears soft zone with 10-15 yards passes in the same wide open spots that were there last week against the Packers. If Mel Tucker can’t fix this in the next two weeks, he doesn’t deserve to be in Chicago for the 2nd half of the season.
4.) The Bears Special Teams still suck
I say this every week and it’s actually getting worse. Rookie Pat O’Donnell looks like a keeper after an impressive day of punts (52.3 ypp!) and rookie Senorise Perry forced a fumble, but the rest of the special teams unit needs serious help. Recently signed DB Teddy Williams made a bonehead play on the first punt of the game running into the Panthers return man before the ball came down. Then to compound the mistake, multiple Bears (Khaseem Greene, Christian Jones, Cornelius Washington) stood around and did nothing despite the whistle not blowing and Panthers rookie Philly Brown picked up the ball and ran it for a 76-yard TD. It was the type of play that only seems to happen to the Bears (GB game last year) and a sign of poor coaching. The Bears also had three penalties on special teams players and even the once reliable Robbie Gould missed a 35-yard chip shot. Right now it is even money on which coach gets fired first, DC Mel Tucker or ST coach Joe DeCamillis. I hope they both get canned.
5.) Is Brandon Marshall still hurt?
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
He practiced in full on Thursday before the game and was rumored to be 100% healthy, but with only 3 catches for 44 yards and only 6 catches total the last three weeks… It certainly seems like something is wrong. As much as Jay Cutler likes to throw to Marshall, he only did so 5 times on Sunday, which leads me to believe that Marshall is having trouble getting open. If he can’t get open against Carolina who at times were playing only 1 starter in the secondary, he’s not going to be able to get open against most teams as the Panthers have one of the least talented secondaries in the NFL. I still have plenty of faith in Marshall, but I’m a little worried.