Chicago Bears Week 16: Takeaways
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2.) Did the Bears miss Shea McClellin? Nope.
If you’ve been reading my takeaways this season, you know my feelings about how McClellin’s tentative read-and-react approach hurts the Bears run D. In Shea’s defense it does limit the big plays allowed by the defense, but it also keeps him from making any impact plays near the line of scrimmage.
He was replaced today by Christian Jones (who was a healthy scratch last week) and two undrafted free agents, John Timu and Jonathan Anderson. All three players attacked the line of scrimmage and spent more time in the opposing backfield than McClellin has all season.
The two rookies also combined on a huge turnover when Anderson put a textbook hit on Bucs RB Doug Martin forcing a fumble recovered by Timu. It was Timu’s 2nd fumble recovery of the game. On the day the pair of undrafted rookie ILBs combined for 9 tackles and helped hold the 2nd leading rusher in the NFL, Doug Martin, to just 49 yards on 2.9 per carry. Jones tied Timu for the team lead in tackles with six and also added a QB hit and pass deflection.
The skill-sets of the two undrafted rookies are quite different with Anderson being an elite athlete with 4.5 speed who excels in coverage and has shown an affinity for well timed blitzes. Timu lacks the speed of Anderson, but is a better at shedding blocks and has shown good instincts as a run stopper. He was also a two-time captain on a Washington defense that had four defensive players drafted in the top 50 picks this year.
Both players bring skills to the table that McClellin lacks and more importantly play with an aggressive nature that McClellin has yet to show. With McClellin in the last year of his contract and the two rookies under contract for the next few years at the league minimum, it makes little sense to me to bring back a veteran like McClellin who has been out produced by two undrafted rookies the last two weeks.
3.) The Bears run defense had their best performance in weeks. Coincidence?
Bucs RB Doug Martin came into the game as the 2nd leading rusher in the NFL, trailing future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Peterson by just 9 yards. The Bears held Martin to 49 yards and just 2.9 yards per carry. That is despite missing starters Eddie Goldman and Jarvis Jenkins for portions of the game due to injury.
The 3rd starter on the D-line, Mitch Unrein, played his best game as a Bear and they also got contributions from Will Sutton and D’Anthony Smith (seeing his first snaps as a Bear). Overall the D-line played their most dominant game of the season, consistently getting a push and keeping blockers off the Bears LBs.
I don’t mean to keep ripping on Shea McClellin, well I sort of do, but a Bears run defense that has struggled most of the season has looked much better the last two weeks, despite facing the top two RBs in the league statistically. It may just be a coincidence that the improvement came with McClellin out of the lineup, but I don’t think so.
The Bears attacked the line of scrimmage more aggressively with Timu, Anderson, and Christian Jones. They also got a good push inside from Goldman before he got hurt, the OLBs did a good job setting the edge, and safety Demontre Hurt was deployed on well-timed blitzes to keep the Bucs running game under control. Assuming health, the same group deserves a chance to repeat their performance next week.
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4.) The rookies on defense stepped up big-time
The last time we saw rookie safety Harold Jones-Quartey he was giving up a 57-yard completion to Lions WR Calvin Johnson in overtime. He was quite a bit better this week with an interception near the end zone, 4 tackles, two passes broken up, and a forced fumble, stopping two promising Bucs drives.
Jonathan Anderson had a textbook hit on Doug Martin forcing another fumble that was recovered by fellow rookie John Timu, which was Timu’s 2nd fumble recovery of the game.
All three undrafted rookies played solid games and continue to prove that they deserve more playing time over the Bears somewhat more established veterans who haven’t made half the impact plays as this group of rookies despite way more defensive snaps.
On offensive rookie RB Jeremy Langford led the Bears with 19 carries for 84 yards (4.4 yards per carry). With Forte nursing an injury on the sidelines in the 4th quarter, Langford teamed with Ka’Deem Carey to put the offense on their backs and keep the Bears final two drives alive, keeping the Bucs off the field and sealing the win for the Bears. Regardless of what happens in the off-season with Forte, the combination of Langford and Ka’Deem Carey are proving they have potential to handle the RB job.
5.) The Bears OLBs continue to play well
Willie Young just missed getting a sack for the 6th straight game, but got consistent pressure on Winston and contributed against the run with two tackles for loss. Fellow OLBs Lamarr Houston and Pernell McPhee each had sacks, though it looked liked like at least half of McPhee’s should have been credited to Eddie Goldman.
6.) The Bears were hit hard by injuries on Sunday
It seemed like every few plays there was a Bears player injured and limping off the field. At times Sunday the Bears were without Matt Forte, Eddie Goldman, Jarvis Jenkins, Hroniss Grasu, and Willie Young. The Bears were already thin due to injuries with 11 players on injured reserve and Alshon Jeffery with a new injury every week, so they were playing mostly undrafted rookies and 2nd-3rd year waiver wire claims.
For the first time all season, there was a guy on the field who I didn’t recognize at all (#70 D’Anthony Smith)! Some of the injured Bears like Young, Jenkins, and Grasu were able to return but the Bears played the majority of the game with rookies and players not expected to contribute at all this season and still found a way to win. It’s a testament to GM Ryan Pace’s ability to find talent off the waiver wire.
Next: More Takeaways