The Bears lost another heartbreaker this week to the dreaded Packers, 30-27. It was a strange game with the Bears looking overmatched for most of the first quarter and all of the third, but outplaying the Packers in the 2nd and 4th quarters.
It actually isn’t that strange at all, as the Bears having been playing well for about half of all their games this season. They just can’t seem to stay consistent over the course of a full game this year.
Quarterback Matt Barkley almost pulled off an amazing comeback with the Bears down 27-10 going into the 4th quarter, but once again came up just short. Unlike the last two losses, there is no obvious target to blame this one on. There were no bad drops in the end zone or consecutive penalties to sabotage last minute drives, though a holding call on TE Logan Paulson did move the Bears from the 3-yard line to the 13 on their final possession.
Still, Barkley had a first down and goal from the 13-yard line and couldn’t get the Bears in the end zone to take the lead. The Bears settled for a field goal after a bad pass from Barkley on 3rd & three that was almost intercepted at the goal line.
Barkley and the Bears also left enough time on the clock for Aaron Rodgers to work his magic and drive the Packers down the field for a game-winning field goal as time expired. It was a valiant effort by Barkley, but the Bears just aren’t as talented on either side of the ball as the Packers, and can’t afford to turn the ball over four times and still win the game.
There were some positive signs for the Bears, as there have been the last few weeks, but they just didn’t play a complete game and couldn’t recover from a brutal third quarter where they turned the ball over three times and gave up 17 unanswered points.
I’ll cover both the positive and negatives from Sunday’s loss in my takeaways below.
1.) Matt Barkley is showing us something new every week.
This week it was Barkley’s impressive resiliency. Some QBs wouldn’t be able to bounce back from turning the ball over on four consecutive drives, especially one Bears fans know well, but Barkley seemed unfazed.
He came out to start the fourth quarter slinging the ball with touch and accuracy to march the Bears down the field for scores on three straight drives to end the game. In his last four starts, Barkley has shown excellent poise in the pocket, above-average accuracy, and today proved that he won’t implode after a few mistakes. He may be 1-3 as a starter, but Barkley has played well enough that the Bears could easily be 4-0 in the first four starts of Barkley’s NFL career.
Of Barkley’s four turnovers, one was on an end-of-half hail mary, one on a blind-side strip-sack, one was on a play where the target (Daniel Brown) was held, and on the fourth there appeared to be a miscommunication with rookie Daniel Braverman, wasn’t even looking for the ball. I’m not absolving Barkley of blame, but none of the turnovers were egregiously bad plays.
I wasn’t too optimistic about the Matt Barkley experience, but he has shown me enough that I think he deserves a chance to win the Bears starting quarterback gig in 2017. Granted that could change if the Bears trade for Garappolo or draft a rookie who proves he’s ready to start, but Barkley has shown more than enough to at least be in the mix for the starting QB job next year.
2.) Why isn’t Jordan Howard getting twenty plus carries per game?
The Bears are 3-0 when Howard gets 20 or more carries. They only have three wins on the season. This seems pretty simple to me, but for some reason Bears OC Dowell Loggains just won’t run the ball enough to utilize Howard correctly.
Howard is a big, powerful running back who gets better late in games when defenses are worn down trying to bring down the 230-pound back. We saw it this week as Howard gained 63 of his 90 yards in the second half.
Howard gained 113 yards from scrimmage with a touchdown and an average of 5.3 yards per carry on Sunday. He’s now averaging over five yards per carry on the season, but on a brutally cold day, the Bears only gave him the ball 17 times. That’s more than most weeks, but still not enough.
The Bears have an offensive line that is becoming one of the league’s better units, a QB making only his 4th NFL start, and a suspect receiving core… There is no reason not to make Howard the focus of the offense, but for some unknown reason Loggains has been reluctant to feature Howard on a weekly basis.
Hopefully, the Bears new OC next season will utilize one of the Bears few offensive weapons properly.
3.) The Bears have a good offensive line
It was hard to even type that headline after so many years in a row of having one of the worst offensive lines in the league, but this year’s o-line is getting better every week. On Sunday they kept Barkley clean for the most part, the exception being Charles Leno Jr getting roasted by Julius Peppers for the Packers only sack of the game.
The Packers defense has destroyed Bears QBs the last few seasons, but Sunday was a different story. Matt Barkley does get rid of the ball much quicker than Cutler, but on most throws he had plenty of time to find an open receiver.
There weren’t many holes for Jordan Howard in the first half, but there were in the second as the Bears o-line wore down a solid Packers front seven. There aren’t a ton of bright spots from this season, but the development of a solid offensive line is a big one.
The Cowboys are a good example of how quickly things can turn around with good offensive line play. The Bears obviously still need a quarterback, but with the entire o-line expected to be back next season and all but Josh Sitton under 30 years old, it’s one of the few things the Bears don’t need to worry about for 2017.