6.) Have we seen the last of Chris Conte in a Bears uniform?
Before the season I would have considered this good news, but with the awful play of the Bears others safeties I think Conte is the best option the Bears have at the position right now. Conte suffered his 2nd concussion in just 5 games this year and he has a history of concussions going back to his college days at California. The NFL’s concussion protocol is pretty strict and he will have to clear several tests now before being cleared to play again. Its possible Conte could be out for at least a few weeks if not longer and is a free agent at the end of the season. It’s feels weird to say this, but I hope Conte is back soon. GM Phil Emery’s decision to not being in starter-level talent at free safety is looking like a major mistake.
7.) Is Danny McCray really the best option?
With Conte out of the game, Ryan Mundy moved over from his strong safety position and did an admirable job filling in at free safety (.4 grade). Danny McCray came in to fill Mundy’s vacated strong safety role and really struggled. On both of ex-Bears Greg Olsen’s TDs, McCray was burned in coverage and it doesn’t appear that he knows his coverage roles as he does a lot of standing around and reacting late to plays. How bad is Brock Vereen? McCray is clearly a sub-par option but the Bears kept Vereen glued to the bench for the 2nd week in a row. I thought Vereen played pretty well in limited action against both the 49ers & Jets, so I don’t know why the Bears are reluctant to give him a shot. Can he be much worse than McCray?
8.) Ego Ferguson is making a push for the starting DT job
It wasn’t all bad news on Sunday as rookie DT Ego Ferguson got his most snaps yet (31) and has his best game. Ferguson batted down two passes in a row, had two stops against the run near the line of scrimmage, and even generated some pass rush inside. It was an impressive all around performance and Ferguson’s play is a big reason the Bears run defense has improved the last few weeks.
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9.) Kyle Fuller wasn’t perfect, but looks like the Bears best CB
He had his lowest tackle total (3) of the season, got called for a pass interference in the end zone, and gave up 4 catches on the day, but considering that he was shadowing the 6’5, 240 pound Kelvin Benjamin all day Fuller played pretty well. In a matchup between the favorites for offensive and defensive rookies of the year, I think Fuller was the better player of the two. He held Benjamin to just 3 catches for 38 yards and broke up two long plays despite a considerable size and strength disadvantage. Fuller will have his hands full against some quality big WRs the rest of the year, but has proved to up to the task so far. The rookies (Fuller, Ferguson, Sutton, O’Donnell) were really the only bright spotsof a painful loss.
10.) The offensive line had it’s worst game of the season
With Jermon Bushrod out with a knee injury, I figured the O-line would struggle a little, but Carolina’s D-line has been dominated the last two weeks (PIT, BAL) so I expected a better performance. Rookie Michael Ola was playing his first game at LT, but was matched up with journeyman DEs Wes Horton and Mario Addison, and didn’t win either battle. Ola held his own but gave up 2 QB hurries and missed a crucial block on a 3rd & 2 run that got Forte stuffed in the backfield. LG Matt Slauson may have returned a week to soon from injury as he struggled all day in pass pro giving up a sack, a hit on Cutler, and a QB hurry. The rest of the O-line wasn’t much better as they couldn’t provide a consistent pocket for Cutler or open up running lanes in the 2nd half.
11.) The D-line still isn’t generating enough pressure
Rookie DTs Will Sutton & Ego Ferguson played pretty well, but Jared Allen was invisible all day and Lamarr Houston still hasn’t registered a sack, though he did provide some pressure on Newton and played decently. The Panthers offensive line is a group of no-name journeyman and if the Bears high-priced DEs can’t beat tackles like Byron Bell and Nate Chandler it’s going to be a long season for the defense. Willie Young continues to be the Bears best pass rusher and had a strip-sack on Cam Newton that Houston recovered and led to a Bears TD.