3.) The Bears front seven played a great game
The Bears had four sacks Sunday but probably should have had twice that many. The front seven were in the backfield all day, but Bucs QB Jameis Winston did a great job eluding the rush. Bears rookie Leonard Floyd was the most impressive of the Bears pass rushers and finished with 1.5 sacks. He should have had at least three, but needs to get better finishing plays. Willie Young, Pernell McPhee, and Cornelius Washington all could have had at least one more sack as well.
The Bears didn’t get the impressive sack total they should have, but they did their job putting Winston under constant pressure and forcing him out of the pocket. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman, in his first game back from injury, and Akiem Hicks did an admirable job collapsing the pocket from inside as well.
Not only did the front seven put consistent pressure on Winston, but they were great against the run as well. They held the Bucs to just 80 yards rushing, but over half of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided and the Bears defense was gassed from being on the field most of the game.
The front seven did their job Sunday and then some. Unfortunately, the Bears defense was on the field for almost 15 minutes longer than the offense. It’s not reasonable to expect the defense to play well when they are on the field for almost two-thirds of the game. They deserved a better fate than the 36-10 outcome Sunday.
4.) Leonard Floyd is a legitimate weapon as a pass rusher
One of the few bright spots Sunday was the play of rookie Leonard Floyd. He had 1.5 sacks on the day, but should have had double that if he would have finished plays better. It was the third consecutive game that Floyd has recorded at least one sack. He’s become a legitimate weapon off the edge and gives the Bears a rare building block on defense.
This season is a lost cause, but if Floyd keeps playing well it will draw attention from McPhee, Young, and the interior pass rushers. The Bears have had nine sacks the last two weeks, 24 on the season, and are on pace for 45, which would be their highest total since 2001 (48).
5.) Kick & punt return units were a disaster
Why does Deonte Thompson still have the Bears kick returner job? He’s last in the league among qualified returners with just 19.9 yards per return. If that wasn’t bad enough, for some reason Thompson keeps bringing kicks out of the end zone even though he rarely gets the ball to the twenty, much less the 25-yard-line where they would get the ball on a touchback.
On Sunday, Thompson brought two kicks out of the end zone. He got to just the 10-yard-line on one and the 16 yard-line on the other. That’s 24 yards the Bears lost due to Thompson’s decision-making. I could see bringing the ball out if he had a track record of success, but when he’s averaging just over 19 yards per kick, it makes no sense to bring the ball out of the endzone.
The Bears should spend the rest of the season trying to figure out if they have any viable kick returners on the roster. Rookie Cre’Von LeBlanc has return experience in college and Jeremy Langford has enough speed to be dangerous as a returner.
The punt return team wasn’t any better and actually cost the Bears points. Veteran Eddie Royal decided to field a punt at the 5-yard-line and to compound his mistake, ran backward to try and get outside. Royal was lucky the refs ruled him down inside the one instead of in the end zone. It didn’t matter as the Bears gave up a safety just three plays later.
Overall it was an awful performance by both units. The Bears should hold auditions for both the kick and punt returner jobs the rest of the season. All that’s left to play for is developing players for 2017.