Brian Hoyer played his best game as a Bear on Sunday, but came up just short of leading his team to a victory. The Bears had the ball inside the thirty-yard line, down six, with just over a minute to go, but Hoyer couldn’t find the end zone and the Bears fell to the Colts by the score of 29-23.
Penalties killed the Bears all game, as they stalled multiple drives inside the opposing thirty after being forced into long-yardage situations due to penalties. On the Bears last offensive play, a 4th & eight, Hoyer appeared to have Alshon Jeffrey wide open in the end zone, but threw to a double covered Cam Meredith instead. It was a tough way to lose for Hoyer, who played almost flawless football most of the game. Hoyer finished with the best stat line of his career which I’ll cover in detail below in my takeaways.
Takeaways: Week 5
1.) Jordan Howard is a beast
Howard gained 118 rushing yards on just 16 carries and added three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown through the air for a total of 163 yards from scrimmage. He managed to improve on a very impressive debut the week before and should have locked up the starting running back job moving forward, regardless of Jeremy Langford’s health.
Langford showed flashes of being an explosive running back as a rookie last season, but averaged under four yards per carry (3.6) and a similar 3.7 so far in 2016. More importantly, Langford hasn’t shown the ability to make people miss in the open field or gain yards after contact. His speed (4.40) is a weapon, but he’s looked more like a change-of-pace third down back than a guy that can carry an offense.
Howard has run with authority since given a chance late in the preseason; His second and third efforts have gained the Bears valuable yards, giving the Bears manageable 2nd & 3rd down situations and has also shown the ability to make people miss despite his 233-pound frame. He’ll have to prove that he can handle 20+ touches every week, but so far Howard is looking like a steal as a fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft and the Bears future at running back.
2.) Hoyer played the best game of his career, until his final throw
For all but about three plays in Sunday’s game, Brian Hoyer looked like the best quarterback Chicago has seen since Eric Kramer. In his previous two starts, Hoyer relied on a dink & dunk passing scheme that was impressively accurate, but also nothing twenty-five or thirty other NFL quarterbacks couldn’t do. Last Sunday Hoyer showed he could complete downfield throws as well.
With 33 completions on just 43 attempts for 397 yards and two touchdowns, Hoyer played the best game of his eight-year career. He didn’t turn the ball over at all and probably would have put another touchdown or two on the board had the Bears not sabotaged drives with penalties in the red zone.
Hoyer was accurate on short, intermediate, and deep throws and managed to find an open receiver almost whenever he wanted to. It helped that the Colts put little to no pressure on Hoyer, but he still made plenty of impressive tosses. Not only did Hoyer lead the Bears to a 4th quarter touchdown on a 96-yard drive, but down six with around three minutes to go… Hoyer drove the Bears down to the Indy 30-yard line before the wheels came off.
Down six points, facing a first-and-ten from the Colts 30 with less than two minutes to go, Hoyer had a chance to win the game for the Bears . Unfortunately, Hoyer made his worst decisions and throws of the game on that last series.
Hoyer overthrew Jeffery on first down, decided to throw short to Royal on 3rd & 15 which left the Bears in a difficult 4th & 8 scenario, and then threw into double coverage to Cam Meredith when Alshon Jeffery was wide open in the end zone.
It was a disappointing end to the best game of Hoyer’s career, but showed that he has the ability to lead the Bears to wins and may have locked up the starting QB job for the rest of the season and ended Jay Cutler’s reign of error in Chicago.
3.) Willie Young was unstoppable
I have written at length this year on the Bears inability to generate a pass rush with just their front four, but Willie Young tried to prove me wrong on Sunday with three sacks and multiple QB pressures. He was a one-man wrecking crew against the Colts, consistently beating whoever he was lined up against and often beating double-teams as well.
If Andrew Luck wasn’t so mobile and hard to bring down, Young might have had two or three more sacks on the day. He was in the backfield almost as often as Colts RB Frank Gore and gave the Bears the pass rush they have been missing all season.
It ultimately wasn’t enough and Luck was able to escape Young often enough to throw for 322 yards and two TDs. It was a start though and the first time all year that Fangio’s plan of just rushing four showed any potential for success. If Fangio can combine an effective four-man rush with a little more blitzing, then the Bears pass rush may not be a lost cause after all.