Bears Takeaways: Week 13

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite blizzard-like conditions, the Bears offense “exploded” for a season-high 26 points in a relatively easy victory over the 49ers, one of only two teams in the league with a worse record than the Bears going into week 13. Unfortunately, it probably knocked the Bears out of the running for the 2nd overall pick, but they are still in good shape for a top five pick.

Matt Barkley got his first win as an NFL starter (in just his second start) and thoroughly out-played Niners QB Colin Kaepernick. The conditions were admittedly rough and Barkley didn’t even complete a pass until there was 1:43 left in the first half, but from that first completion on Barkley was sharp and in control of the offense.

The Bears looked awful for most of the first half, but scored a touchdown on their final drive and then on their first two drives of the second half to build an insurmountable lead. Despite a few more drops from Josh Bellamy, Barkley moved the Bears down the field with ease for 17 second half points on three drives.

The 2nd overall draft pick would have been nice, but the Bears have had so many close, heart-breaking losses this year, that I think the players needed a win for their morale. They got an easy one Sunday over a Niners team that is clearly much worse than even an injury-riddled Bears squad. The win does nothing for the Bears 2016 chances, but there were some significant positives which I’ll cover below in my takeaways.

Bears Takeaways

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /

1.) Matt Barkley gets his first NFL win

Barkley’s stat line for the day (11/18, 192 yards, 0 TDs) isn’t anything special, but considering the blizzard conditions and lack of receiving talent, it was pretty darn impressive. Barkley didn’t even complete a pass until there was 1:43 left in the first half, but went on a tear from that point.

His passes were on the money and if Josh Bellamy could catch, Barkley’s numbers would have been much better. Bellamy dropped a couple of deep passes that hit him in the hands (for the 2nd week in a row), but Barkley didn’t let that bother him. He was accurate with almost every pass in the 2nd half, stood tall under pressure like last week, and moved the Bears down the field for three consecutive touchdown drives.

Barkley isn’t the Bears answer at quarterback for the future, but the last two weeks he’s looked like an above average backup, who can win a game or two if needed in relief. He’ll need to prove it for a few more weeks, but after two starts he’s shown enough potential to be at least be in the mix for the backup job in 2017.

2.) Jordan Howard is a keeper

The Bears are now 3-0 this season when Jordan Howard gets over twenty carries. Considering the Bears have only three wins total, maybe they should get Howard the ball more often. On Sunday he ended up with a career-high 32 carries for 117 yards and three touchdowns.

Howard plowed through the Niners front seven, who didn’t appear to be giving their best effort, for red zone scores on three consecutive drives. His ability to run through arm tackles and keep the pile moving is unique among Bear running backs.

On the season Howard is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, which is good for 4th in the NFL in a tie with star rookie Ezekiel Elliott. If Howard can boost his per carry average over five yards, he will be the first Bears running back to do so since Walter Payton (5.5 ypc in 1977).

Howard has proven to be a steal as a 5th round pick in this year’s draft and should have the primary back role solidified for next season. The Bears coaching staff has seemed reluctant to hand him the job, but the stats show Howard to be worthy of the role.

There are some areas that Howard needs to improve on, specifically his receiving and pass-blocking skills, but the running talent is there for him to be a workhorse back for the Bears next season.