That was painful to watch. After an impressive win over the Vikings in their last game, the Bears came out and played one of their worst games of the season in an embarrassing 36-10 loss to the 3-5 Tampa Bay Bucs.
The Bears managed to turn the ball over four times in the first half and five times on the day. It was a half-assed effort by the Bears offense and Jay Cutler in particular. It was arguably Cutler’s worst game as a Bear, which is really saying something. He’ll probably get another start since the Bears don’t have any other viable QBs, but I’m not sure he deserves another one after Sunday’s pathetic effort.
If the end result wasn’t bad enough, the Bears continued to get hit hard by injuries. Kyle Long, Bobby Massey, Will Sutton, Eddie Goldman, and Jordan Howard all suffered injuries Sunday. I’ll cover the injury details below as well as who else is to blame for the loss and the few bright spots from Sunday’s loss.
1.) Jay Cutler played one of his worst games as a Bear
Anyone who reads this site regularly, knows I’ve been a Cutler supporter / apologist for most of his Bears career, but there is nothing positive I can say about Cutler’s performance against the Bucs. As bad as his two interceptions and two fumbles were (and they were really bad), his lazy play and cavalier attitude pissed me off more than anything else.
On his first interception he stared down Jeffery the whole time and threw him the ball despite the corner breaking on the route before Jeffery did. His second pick was the worst play of the game; Under pressure, Cutler floated a pass in the flat off his back foot and it was such a bad throw that even former-Bear Chris Conte was able to pick it off and run it back for a touchdown.
Cutler should have had a third first-half interception on an end zone pass to Jeffery that he threw low enough that it hit the CB in the back. It was caught by a Bucs DB, but Alshon Jeffery made a great play to knock the ball free and keep Cutler from a third interception.
As if the interceptions weren’t enough, Cutler also fumbled twice on Sunday. The first was on the Bucs 4-yard line, negating a great scoring chance. Cutler scrambled out of pressure, held on to the ball way too long, didn’t sense the pass rusher coming from behind him, and was predictably stripped of the ball.
After his first fumble took points off the board for the Bears, his second one actually gave the Bucs points. After an awful decision from Eddie Royal pinned the Bears on their one-yard line, Cutler took his time scrambling around his own end zone before inevitably getting sacked and making a pathetic attempt to get rid of the ball. It resulted in a safety for the Bucs and effectively ended any chance the Bears might have had to come back (slim, I know).
Sometimes turnovers are just bad luck, a deflection, a blown route by the receiver, or a dropped pass that bounces to the defense, but all four of his turnovers Sunday were squarely on the perpetually shrugged shoulders of Jay Cutler. After playing with urgency in one of his best games as a Bear against the Vikings, Cutler came out Sunday looking and playing like this game didn’t matter at all. He finished with a 55.1 passer rating, but it would have been just 34.3 without the gift hail mary at the end of the first half.
Maybe it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things for 2016, but when the rest of the team is giving it their all to try and win, the Bears need a QB who will give a similar effort. Sunday’s performance and effort level were unacceptable. For the first time in Cutler’s career in Chicago, I’m not sure I want to see him out there next week.
2.) Jordan Howard was a beast in the first half, then Fox benched him again
After gaining 89 yards in the first half on thirteen carries (6.8 ypc), Howard only got 2 carries in the second half and one was on the last drive of a game long decided. Yes, the Bears were losing and Howard had fumbled at the end of a 10-yard first-half run, but he was by far the most productive thing going for the Bears on Sunday.
So why did the Bears stop going to Howard? Why have they stopped going to him all year as soon as Howard makes a mistake? For a 5th round rookie, Howard doesn’t seem to make very many of them. When he does, Fox shows little to no patience with his rookie back.
Howard missed a block in pass pro against the Jags and was benched. Howard dropped a catchable pass against the Colts and was benched. He fumbled Sunday against the Bucs and of course sat out most of the second half. Do the Bears coaches not realize that the only two games the team won this season are the two that Howard go over 20 touches?
Howard is the Bears best running back and it’s not close. Langford is healthy again, but he’s a 3rd down back at best. Though if he keeps dropping easy passes , like he did today, then even that role is questionable. Ka’deem Carey runs hard but hasn’t been able to stay healthy, even with limited carries. He could be a good short-yardage back, but Carey isn’t a bell-cow back.
Howard should be getting twenty carries every week, but for some reason, John Fox and Dowell Loggains aren’t giving the rookie the chance he’s earned on the field. Of course, the Bears coaches decided to put Howard back out there for one carry late in the 4th quarter and he appeared to get hurt. It would be a fitting end to Howard’s season if it came on a meaningless play after the Bears coaching staff kept him on the sidelines when the Bears still had a chance to win.