Chicago Bears: QB Matt Barkley’s Ceiling yet to be Determined

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Lions Performance

Barkley faced his toughest challenge in week 13 against the Detroit Lions.  It was his first start on the road and in noisy conditions.  He also faced a tougher Lions defense, which ranks #10 in the league, as opposed to the Titans and 49ers being ranked #20 and #32, respectively.

Barkley started the game fast with an impressive 12-play, 60-yard drive on their opening possession.  The drive resulted in a field goal, though, due to consecutive false-start and delay-of-game penalties.

Barkley was quiet for the rest of the half, due to the Lions’ front-7 pressure and the coverage ability of their secondary.

Notwithstanding the defensive pressure, Barkley turned it on in the third quarter.  On the second possession of the half, he led the Bears on a 4-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.

On the final play of the drive, he made an impressive throw to WR Cameron Meredith.  Barkley caught Meredith perfectly in stride for a 31-yard touchdown pass.

After a Bears’ defensive touchdown and a following Lions’ scoring drive, Barkley had the game in his hands, down just three points with 3:17 left in the game.

Starting from Chicago’s 25-yard line, Barkley led the Bears to Detroit’s 43-yard line, with 0:58 seconds left in the game.

With the game on the line, Barkley found Meredith past the field-goal target line.  Meredith caught the ball and cut inside to make a gain of 27 yards, to bring the Bears within Detroit’s red zone.

Unfortunately, the play was called back due to a holding penalty on OT Charles Leno Jr.  The penalty resulted in 37 lost yards (27-yard pass negated, plus 10-yard penalty).  The penalty left the Bears on their 47-yard line, with a 1st and 20 with 0:48 seconds left.

Despite the setback, on the very next play Barkley found WR Daniel Braverman up the middle for a 23-yard pass (see at 0:32 in the clip below).  The pass would have resulted in a first down and again put the Bears in field-goal range.

As fortune would have it, the play was called back due to a holding penalty, this time on OG Ted Larsen.  The penalty resulted in 33 lost yards on the play.

Barkley displayed legitimate mental toughness.  Despite 70 lost yards due to back-to-back penalties, Barkley again brought the Bears to Detroit’s 44-yard line.  The Bears had a 4th and 11 with 0:19 seconds left in the game, with one timeout remaining.

With the game yet again on the line, Barkley found Bellamy open up the middle.  Bellamy leapt to catch Barkley’s pass, which hit him in the chest.  Similar to the Titans game, though, the ball bounced off of Bellamy’s chest.  The incomplete pass resulted in a turnover on downs and a loss.

Barkley finished the day 20 for 32 for 212 passing yards, with 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions.  Despite the loss and perhaps less-than-stellar stats, Barkley overcame adverse conditions to again (and repeatedly) put the Bears in a position to win, or at least tie the game to bring it to overtime.

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Barkley had a rocky start to his NFL career and had a history of being turnover prone.  The more NFL play and starts under center, though, he’s made a noticeable improvement.

Can Barkley become a legitimate backup in the NFL?  Can he grow to become a reliable starter in this league?

Before we can make an accurate assessment, we’ll need to see more wins under Barkley’s belt.  It’ll certainly be interesting to see what Barkley can do when WR Alshon Jeffrey returns next week against the Green Bay Packers.

Notwithstanding the 1-2 start, Barkley has earned the right to start for the Bears and the chance to prove himself as a viable NFL quarterback.