Chicago Bears Week 16: Takeaways

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always nice to win, but I was a bit torn during the Bears 26-21 win over Lovie Smith’s Bucs. The Bears needed a win for overall team morale after a disappointing three game losing streak, but the impact of Sunday’s win moved the Bears from having a chance at a top 6 pick to most likely a pick in the 12-14 range. With this team not making the playoffs and in dire need of play-makers on both sides of the ball, a top pick could go a long way towards speeding up the Bears rebuilding process.

Enough complaining, it feels damn good to win a game over former Bears coach Lovie Smith. Outside of a first quarter blocked punt that set the Bucs up at the 4-yard line and a gift penalty that negated a Cutler INT, the Bears outplayed the Bucs soundly today. The Bears had a solid lead in total yardage before the Bucs meaningless 80-yard drive to end the game. They held the ball for 37:03 minutes compared to just 22:57 for the Bucs. The Bears looked like the better team for most of the game and it should be a good momentum builder going into 2016.

Perhaps the most positive takeaway from this week’s win is all the contributions from the Bears young players. It wasn’t the Bears veterans that made the difference today. Cutler obviously played a big part, but it was rookies like Jeremy Langford, Harold Jones-Quartey, John Timu, and Jonathan Anderson who made most of the game changing plays. 2nd year guys like Christian Jones, Ka’Deem Carey, Charles Leno Jr and Demontre Hurst also played important roles, and unheralded vets like Zach Miller, Marc Mariani, and Sam Acho made key contributions as well.

It was a solid all around win for the Bears with few mistakes and solid play from all three phases of the game. It may hurt their overall draft position when it’s all said and done, but these young players need to learn how to win and beating a decent Bucs team on the road is a step in the right direction.

I’ll break down the individual contributions in detail below in this week’s takeaways.

Week 15 Takeaways:

1.)  Jay Cutler played a patient, responsible game

Wait, what? After practicing against Lovie Smith’s soft cover-2 for years, Cutler seemed to know what to expect and he picked apart the Bucs D horizontally, completing 20 of 27 passes for 156 yards and a TD.

The numbers could have a been a little better as Cutler missed Zach Miller deep for a probable TD after he’d beaten Major Wright with a double move (seen that before!) and Eddie Royal dropped a TD that hit him in the numbers, but Cutler really had very little to work with on the day. His top receiving options were former 3rd string TE Zach Miller, a sick Eddie Royal, and no-name receivers like Marc Mariani, Deonte Thompson and Josh Bellamy.

Somehow Cutler still made it happen, connecting on slants, screens, and short outs to lead the Bears to 26 points. Perhaps more importantly, Cutler didn’t turn the ball over once. He did throw another INT to a defensive lineman on a deflected screen pass, but it was wiped out by a (questionable) penalty. The Bears may want to just take the screen pass out of the playbook.

Next: More Takeaways