Bears-Texans: Did We Watch the Same Game?

Sep 11, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) makes a catch in front of Houston Texans free safety Andre Hal (29) during the first half at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) makes a catch in front of Houston Texans free safety Andre Hal (29) during the first half at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

After reading all of the postgame panic articles following the Bears-Texans, we wonder what game did you watch?

I’ve been reading some of the articles about the Chicago Bears’ disappointing loss in their season opener against the Houston Texans, and I keep asking myself, “Did we watch the same Bears-Texans game?”  The universal opinion seems to be that the Bear’s offense had a complete meltdown in the second half. What I saw was one of the premier defenses in the league making some halftime adjustments and coming out looking to defend their reputation in the second half.

Think about it, folks, the Texans were favored by 6 points. They went into the locker room trailing by 4 having just given up a 31-second touchdown drive. Compared to the Texans’ expectations, the first half must have felt like a spanking. I’d say it is a pretty safe bet that they did not get a “Nice job, keep up the good work” halftime talk. Considering the talent level on their defense, it is also a safe bet that they did not need to get yelled at to feel angry and embarrassed.

Then the second half opened with a rookie mistake by Kevin White. So now you’ve got an elite defense. They are fired up. They have made some good adjustments. AND they have momentum. Given that, why on Earth is it surprising that the Bear’s offense struggled? I saw a Bears’ offense putting up a pretty good fight. There were near misses, close calls, a couple of questionable calls by the referees. I saw a handful of very good plays, sadly, too often followed by miscues. Yes, they came up short, but not as short as people are making it sound.

Do you remember the first half?

Did the first half just not happen?  Did the first half completely negate the second half?  I guess it did exactly that on the scoreboard. Apparently, it also did exactly that in the minds of most of the people who watched the game. In the first half, I saw a Chicago Bears offense that looked pretty darned impressive, and I remember seeing it, despite the disappointment of the second half. I know I have probably already established myself as an incurable optimist, but I took a lot more encouragement from the first half than discouragement from the second half.

Perhaps the Texans’ defense underestimated the Bears’ offense. After all, they were the third-best defense in the league last year.  They had the fifth most sacks. And they lost how many impact players from that defense in the offseason? Oh, yes, ZERO. So, I suppose if you are bound and determined to see the worst possible side of things, you could say the Texans came out flat in the first half and just rolled over and let the Bears have their way. You could also say the world is flat, if you wanted to.

The Truth, In Context

What I say is that the Bears put an offense on the field with an offensive line playing their first live action together. That line featured Josh Sitton in his first week on the team, Cody Whitehair in his first full week as a center, and Kyle Long, playing with an injury. That offense also included Kevin White, also playing with an injury in his first ever regular season NFL game. In the first half, that offense moved the ball against a great defense. Mind you, I’m not saying this Bears’ offense is a great offense.

What I am saying is that they didn’t need to be great. They needed to be a step faster here, a bit savvier there. They needed 5 or 6 plays that they did not quite get. Mostly, they needed cohesion that they don’t have yet; cohesion like the Texans’ defense had plenty of leftover from last season. They needed to convert some third downs in the second half, but they were up against a great defense with a lot of experience at stopping third downs. Take away a couple of rookie mistakes and turn a few near misses into successes and the Bears pull off an upset in that game.

A Near Upset

Upset is the key word there. The Bears were not expected to win this game. Only the most die-hard Halas Hall Kool-Aid addicts dared to believe that this was a game the Bears should win. If both halves had looked like the second half, I would be a basher, too. But the Bears, with all their question marks and “weaknesses” went out in the first half and punched the Texans in the nose. Hard. Bloody hard. The Texans’ defense woke up and played the second half as though they were playing a contender.

Defense?  I’m Complaining, Too.

On the other side of the ball, I have seen some writers roasting the Bears’ defense. Now, I’ll admit, I was disappointed with the defense, too, but they were also far from awful. Yes, they only got two sacks, but they also hurried Brock Osweiler numerous times. They opened the second half defending a very short field and holding the Texans to a field goal, the only score in the third quarter. Which reminds me, am I the only one who remembers that the Bears were still AHEAD well into the fourth quarter?

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Still, as I said, I was not happy with the defense. They got gashed on more than a couple of first down runs; came up a step short on several sack opportunities; could not stop the Texans on third down often enough. And they spent a lot of time on the field. In the first half, that was their own fault. In the second half the offensive struggles made things even tougher. Even early on the defense didn’t look as good as I had hoped. Tracy Porter came up with a timely interception on the Texans’ first drive, but the defense had dug themselves such a hole at that point that nothing short of an interception was likely to save them.

Bad Habits

I had noticed  this trend during the preseason. The defense flashed at times, but too often poor play had mad a tough situation which made those flashes crucial. After one or more bad plays, come back and make a great one. In the NFL, try to make a living NOT making bad plays. Habitual dramatic recovery is a bad way to try to make a living anywhere, come to think of it, but that goes double or more in this league.

So, Now What?

The bottom line among us incurable optimists is that this game should serve as a badly needed wake-up call for a very talented rebuilding team. Many players have talked with a lot of confidence after spending the offseason surrounded by their highly talented teammates, rightly impressed by the potential they collectively bring to a football field. Potential does not win football games, execution does. It only takes a handful of badly timed mistakes to lose an otherwise winnable football game. The burning questions for me are “What did this team learn?” and “What will they do with those lessons?”

I know that very few people who are currently in Bear-bashing mode will take my advice. More likely they will bash me with the same stick they use to bash the Bears. Undaunted, I will advise them, anyway. You might want to save the “I told you so” speeches for a few weeks until we start to see how this team comes together. This season has a LOT of football left.