Another week, another embarrassing loss for the Bears. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Bears have played progressively worse in each loss. They had the lead going into the fourth quarter against the Texans in week one and played a competitive first half against the Eagles (9-6) in week two before collapsing in both games, but in week three the Bears came out flat and were down 17-0 before they even recorded a first down.
The Bears defense, specifically their front seven, were arguably their only bright spot the first tow weeks. They had shut down both the Texans and Eagles for over half the game before eventually getting worn down by a significant time of possession differential due to the Bears inability to string together first downs on offense. Coming into the game, the Bears were last in the league in time of possession, but the defense had still given up the ninth fewest yards in the league.
This week, the defense had no stamina excuse as they were blown off the ball from the first snap by a powerful Cowboys offensive line. The Cowboys ran the ball at will (199 rushing yards, 4.9 ypc) and gave their rookie QB so much time to throw that he didn’t once look flustered. Injuries are somewhat of an excuse as the Bears were missing five players protected to start this season, including promising NT Eddie Goldman, high priced free agent ILB Danny Trevathan, 2014 1st round pick CB Kyle Fuller, and of course last year’s free agent prize OLB Pernell Mcphee who is stil on injured reserve.
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The Bears defense is beat up, with over half of the starters expected to be backups this year and four rookies in the starting lineup. It would be convenient to blame the defense’s lack of effectiveness on inexperience with starters like slot corner Cre’Von LeBlanc, ILB Nick Kwiatkoski, DE Jonathan Bullard, OLB Leonard Floyd, and starting CB Jacoby Glenn all having less than five NFL games under their belts, but the youngsters held their own. There are defensive problems at every position and possibly some with the coaching as well. There is no convenient excuse or easy fix for how bad the Bears have played on both sides of the ball.
There were a few bright spots on Sunday night, but not many. I’ll cover those and some of the more glaring problems in my week three takeaways below.
Bears Takeaways: Week 3
1.) QB Brian Hoyer is not the answer
Unless the question is who the Bears should start if they want to tank for a top five pick. His stat line (30/49, 317 yards, 2 TDs) looks impressive, but it was basically garbage time the whole second half with the Cowboys in soft coverage most of the game. There was a reason that Hoyer was available for just $2M this offseason, despite putting up a respectable 19 TD / 7 TD ratio last year.
HC John Fox insinuated this week that the starting QB job is up for grabs even if Jay Cutler is healthy, but that might be the dumbest thing Fox has said yet in his time with the Bears (which is saying something). The Cowboys have a toothless pass rush, an injured secondary that was one of the worst in the league before the injuries, and the Bears O-line gave Hoyer plenty of time to throw. Despite those factors, Hoyer still couldn’t move the Bears downfield until the game was all but decided.
The Bears probably aren’t going to win many games this year, but the idea that Hoyer gives them a better chance to win is ridiculous.
2.) The Jordan Howard era is here
It may have taken John Fox another few weeks to figure out that Howard is a more talented running back than Langford but with Langford spraining his ankle and likely to miss 3-4 weeks, Fox has no choice now but to give Howard the 15-20 carries that fans have wanted since week four of the preseason.
Despite elite speed and decent power, Langford hasn’t shown the ability to either make people miss or break tackles and Howard can do both. I’m a little biased as I’ve been high on Howard since before the draft, but I think he’s the perfect fit for the power running game that Fox wants to implement. He’s also flashed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. If he can pass block (a legitimate question), Howard could lock down the job over the next few weeks and give the Bears a rare building block on offense.
3.) The offensive line is improving
It’s hard to get excited about any part of an offense that is 27th in the league in total yards and 30th in points scored, but the offensive line was pieced together days before the first game of the season and they are showing signs of improvement. The Cowboys lack of pass rushers certainly had something to do with it, but the Bears o-line gave Hoyer way more time to throw than Cutler got at any point of the Bears first two games.
With two starters with less than a months experience at their positions (Whitehair, Sitton), some growing pains were expected. Whitehair has gotten better every game and should continue to get comfortable at center, while Josh Sitton hasn’t even been on the Bears for a month but could be their best o-lineman so far.
Right tackle Bobby Massie struggled again with speed rushes, giving up pressures to David Irving and Jack Crawford (who?) and there were too many running plays blown up in the backfield, but for the most part the o-line kept Hoyer clean despite the Cowboys knowing the Bears had to throw the ball most of the 2nd half.
The run blocking needs to improve for the Bears to have a somewhat balanced offense, but the talent is there for them to be an above-average unit and they are starting to show signs of getting there.