Bears Takeaways: Week 4

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

3.) The offensive line is coming together

There were signs of improvement in week three, but still too many mistakes. This week they did an even better job of protecting Hoyer and opened enough running lanes for Jordan Howard to gain 111 rushing yards.

There were some mental mistakes with penalties on Leno Jr, Massie, and Whitehair and the interior line got destroyed on a key 4th & short, but overall they played their best game of the season. Hoyer had all day to find a receiver on most throws, Howard averaged almost 5 yards per carry (4.8), and the o-line was a key reason that the Bears finally won the time of possession battle (33:14 to 26:46).

Offensive lines generally improve with continuity and despite being only the 4th game this group has played together, they are showing legitimate signs of becoming a solid unit. The o-line should continue to improve next week against a sub-par Colts front-seven.

4.) Dowell Loggains’ play-calling makes Lovie Smith look like a gambler

In my last takeaways column I had week eight in the Loggains firing pool and nothing has changed despite the Bears getting their first win of the season. The Bears gained 408 yards on the day and easily won the time of possession battle, but could only manage 17 points. That’s unacceptable.

Loggains continues to rely on a dink and dunk offensive scheme even though the Lions secondary was beat up and they had 5’10 (generous) undrafted free agent Nevin Lawson covering one of the Bears three 6’3 wide receivers (Jeffery, White, Meredith). The Bears didn’t even try one deep ball to take advantage of the significant height/speed advantage.

That isn’t even my biggest complaint. The Bears had a good drive going in the 2nd quarter with a chance to go up two touchdowns, but on 3rd & seven Loggains called a short pass to Eddie Royal which predictably came up short leaving the Bears with a 4th & 1. Since the Bears don’t have a kicker they trust from outside 30 yards they decided to go for it.

On 4th & 1, Loggains decided to take Jordan Howard out of the game and bring in Joique Bell, who the Bears just signed a few days ago and try to run him up the middle. The Lions and everyone else in the stadium knew what was coming and Bell was stuffed for a loss of yards. Not only did the Bears waste a scoring opportunity, but it gave the Lions the ball with their best field position of the game. Of course, they took advantage and kicked a field goal for their first points of the game.

Loggains appears terrified to make anything but the safest play calls. The Bears had a few advantages in this game including three wide receivers with at least three inches height advantage on any of the Lions corners, a powerful 230-pound running back in Jordan Howard, and the lead since early in the first quarter. Loggains called plays like the Bears were up three scores and had a lock down defense. Luckily the Bears defense played their best game of the year, but the Bears still almost gave the game away in the 4th quarter.

Unless there is some significant improvement from Loggains’ play-calling or the Bears go on an improbable winning streak, I don’t think Loggains will survive the week nine bye.

5.) Vic Fangio needs to get more aggressive

Fangio has a much more distinguished track record than Loggains, which will keep his job safe through the rest of the season at least, but he needs to start getting a little more creative with his defensive schemes. The Bears have been running a vanilla zone most of the season with minimal blitzing and comfortable cushions for opposing receivers.

His schemes have worked at times, like in the first half against Houston and Philly and again Sunday against the Lions. The Bears are tenth in the league in total yards allowed, but they also haven’t played a top-tier quarterback yet.

The Bears haven’t been able to generate much of a pass rush so far this season, but Fangio stubbornly keeps trying with just his front four defenders. The Bears rarely blitz and when they have, it hasn’t been effective. They rushed more than four players just two times on Sunday on 43 drop back by Stafford.

The Bears have just six sacks in the first four games, so Fangio will need to start doing something different soon with Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck coming up in two of the next three games. They aren’t going to make the mistakes and bad passes that Stafford did on Sunday.

If Fangio keeps trying to generate a pass rush with just four, the Bears young secondary is going to get picked apart once they start facing the better QBs in the league. The run defensive looked much better this week, but it won’t matter if the Bears can’t stop the pass. Le’ts hope Fangio has some more creative defensive schemes planned to improve the pass rush.

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

6.) Kevin White is getting better

Kevin White showed some signs of improvement for the second straight week, but left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. He walked off the field with just a slight limp, though he was taken into the locker room for treatment and didn’t return.

Hopefully the Bears were just being over cautious with White. John Fox still hasn’t released any news on his injury, of course.

It’s not like the Colts are going to change their scheme based on whether White plays, but he is getting better. After not doing anything in the first quarter, White had six catches for 55 yards before leaving the game with an injury late in the third quarter. He showed the ability to get separation from corners and also find the open spots in zone coverage. Those are significant improvements that could help White unlock his immense potential.

Ideally, White won’t miss any time and keep improving on a weekly basis. The ability to run proper routes and find holes in zone coverage will just make his size and straight line speed that much more dangerous. This season might be a lost cause record wise, but can still be used to develop talent for the future and White has as much upside as anyone on the team.