Some teams find a way to win no matter what, the Bears are the opposite of those teams. This year they have lost close games due to dropped passes, incompetent play-calling, ultra-conservative coaching, questionable refs, defensive mistakes in the secondary, special teams miscues…
The list is long and undistinguished, but Sunday they found yet another way to lose a close game. With a four-point lead and less than five minutes to go, they had four crucial penalties on the last two drives of the game.
Two pass interference calls allowed the Lions to drive down the field to score a touchdown and take a 20-17 lead with just over two minutes to go. Quarterback Matt Barkley took over from his own 25-yard line with plenty of time left and three timeouts.
Barkley led the Bears down the field and twice got within the Lions 20-yard-line, only to see both long pass plays called back due to holding calls on consecutive plays. So instead of first down inside the Lions twenty-yard line, Barkley faced a 1st & 30 from his own 37-yard-line.
To Barkley’s credit, he still almost got it done, setting the Bears up with a 4th & 11 from the Lions 44. Of course, Josh Bellamy dropped a catchable pass on 4th down to seal the 20-17 Lions win.
Barkley played another solid game and the only mistake he made on the final drive was choosing to trust Bellamy on 4th down. I’ll cover Barkley’s performance in more detail below as well as the positive and negative takeaways from the Bears 10th loss of the season.
Bears Takeaways: Week 14
1.) Matt Barkley can’t catch a break
Matt Barkley deserves to be 3-0 as an NFL starter. The fact that he’s 1-2 is due mostly to circumstances beyond his control. Enough has been said about the wide receiver drops that cost Barkley a win in his first start against the Titans, but Sunday it was a combination of the offensive line, another Bellamy drop, and the referees that did him in.
Barkley took over from his 25-yard line with a little over two minutes left on the clock and three timeouts. He calmly led the Bears into Lions territory and threw not one, but two accurate passes to get the Bears inside the Lions twenty yard line, easy range for a game-tying field goal (even for Barth).
Unfortunately for Barkley, the refs called a hold on both long pass plays. I’m not saying that there wasn’t any holding, but much more egregious holds went uncalled for most of the game (on both sides). It seemed like nit-picking after how the game was called for the first three-quarters plus.
Even worse, Barkley bounced back from the two holding calls with an accurate out route, that could have been caught if the Bears receiver, Deonte Thompson, wasn’t mugged by Lions corner Nevin Lawson. It went uncalled, which was ridiculous after the two less obvious pass interference calls on Bears corners during the Lions game-winning drive.
Barkley has played surprisingly well in his three starts. Well enough that he could easily be 3-0 and one of the best stories in a Bears season lacking many good ones. It’s hard not to feel bad for Barkley as it took him four seasons to get a chance to start an NFL game only to be let down by incompetence all around him.
On the bright side, unless the Bears brass is blind (a possibility), Barkley should get a legitimate chance to be the Bears starting QB in 2017.
2.) Jordan Howard is the Bears running back of the future
Howard continues to produce when given enough touches, though the Bears are still winless when Howard doesn’t get twenty carries and undefeated when he does. If I keep writing it every week, maybe eventually John Fox will hear about it.
Howard got just 13 carries, despite averaging 6.6 yards per carry on the day. On the season Howard is averaging 4.988 yards per carry. He’s just a good run away from averaging five yards per carry, which would make him the first rookie since Walter Payton in 1977 to average five-plus yards per carry.
Howard is the Bears best offensive weapon but for some reason, the Bears coaching staff hasn’t realized it yet. He should be getting twenty-plus touches every week, but the Bears keep trying to work Jeremy Langford (3.4 ypc) and Ka’Deem Carey (4.0 ypc) into the game. Maybe the Bears coaches are trying to lose to help their draft position?
With a solid and improving offensive line and a workhorse running back in Howard, the Bears at least have a couple parts of their offense in place for 2017. Now all they need is a quarterback, a tight end, and a couple reliable wide receivers.