Bears Takeaways: Week 4

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Victory! It feels like it’s been about a year since the Bears won a game (it has been over a year since they won at home) and I forgot how good it feels. Of course, it wasn’t pretty and the Bears almost managed to lose a game that they were leading 17-6 with two minutes to go. They managed to pull out the 17-14 win after a failed onside kick by the Lions and broke a six-game home losing streak and a six game losing streak verse the Lions.

It’s possible that the Bears and Lions are the two worst teams in the NFL, but a win is a win. The Lions played an awful all-around game with plenty of dumb penalties, dropped passes, and bad decisions from QB Matt Stafford. The Bears dominated in all facets of the game and should have won this one easily, by two or three touchdowns instead of just a field goal.

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They moved the ball well all game and won the time of possession battle for the first time all season, but stalled in Lions territory more often than not. Once they crossed the fifty yard-line, the Bears had their share of bad penalties, the play calling was ultra-conservative, and the Bears don’t appear to have any faith in their kicker Connor Barth outside of thirty yards.

It’s a nice change to be able to write more positive takeaways than negative, but there were still plenty of concerns for the Bears. I’ll cover the bright spots of the Bears win and the most glaring mistakes in my takeaways below.

Bears Takeaways: Week 4

1.) The Bears have a running game! 

Jordan Howard got his first start and didn’t disappoint, running for 111 yards (4.8 ypc) and catching three passes for 21 yards He also had an 18-yard run called back by a penalty on WR Deonte Thomspon (why is he on the field?) and another eight-yarder wiped out by a hold on Whitehair. Howard did three things that the Bears haven’t gotten out of the running back position this year:

  • Gained yards after contact. Howard’s 2nd and 3rd effort after contact gained important yards for the Bears, putting them in manageable 2nd & 3rd down positions instead of going down on the first hit like Langford did the first few games of the year.
  • Made people miss. Despite Langford’s better speed and smaller frame, he hasn’t shown the ability to make people miss in the open field. Howard has over twenty pounds on Langford and is a tenth or two seconds slower, but has consistently displayed the ability to make people miss even in tight quarters.
  • Found holes when they weren’t obvious. There were multiple runs that looked stuffed at the line of scrimmage, but Howard improvised and found a way to gain positive yardage when it looked like there wasn’t any room to run.

I was also impressed with Howard’s ability as a wide receiver. At 222 pounds, I didn’t expect much in the passing game, but the Bears split Howard out wide multiple times and even threw a fade to him in the end zone that drew a pass interference call (questionable). Howard also did a good job in pass protection, stoning blitzers on at least three plays that I noticed.

Hopefully HC John Fox saw the same things I did and he lets Howard keep the job once Langford is healthy. From what I’ve seen, Langford’s best role is as a change of pace back.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /

2.) Hoyer was efficient but boring 

I’m not knocking Hoyer, who was solid with 28 completions on just 36 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns, I just think he left a lot of points on the field. The Bears put up 408 total yards but only scored 17 points. They also outgained the Lions by 145 yards and had the ball for almost seven more minutes, but only won by three points. The Bears moved the ball with ease for most of the game, but the offense seemed to shut down once they crossed the 50-yard-line.

Some of the blame has to be put on OC Dowell Loggains for his conservative play-calling, but Hoyer was part of the problem as well. He consistently threw short of the sticks on third down and didn’t throw deep once all game. Hoyer played it safe with a dink and dunk offensive scheme, which worked well enough early on drives but stalled when the field shortened.

The Lions secondary was beat up and they had to start undrafted 2nd-year corner Nevin Lawson across from Darius Slay. Lawson is barely 5’10 and was matched up with the 6’3 Kevin White most of the game, but the Bears didn’t once try to take advantage of the size (and speed) advantage White had on a deep ball.

For some reason the Bears can’t put a full game plan together. For the first three games they neglected the run and today they neglected to throw downfield. Hoyer had plenty of time to throw all game and a few deep balls could have opened up the field for both Howard and the Bears intermediate passing game. I’m not sure how much of that is Hoyer and how much is Loggains, but either way the Bears need to be more dynamic on offense if they are going to score against good defenses.