After four competitive games to start Matt Barkley’s career with the Bears, he experienced his first blow out in a 41-21 loss to the Redskins on Saturday. Unlike his first four starts, where Barkley played well enough to earn a win, he was a big reason the Bears lost. It was so bad that he tied Jay Cutler’s team record with five interceptions.
From the beginning, Barkley’s passes were off target and he made way too many poor decisions and even poorer throws in a game that the Bears were never really competitive. Barkley was far from the only reason the Bears lost. There were a couple good drives on offense and stops by the defense, but overall the Bears were soundly outplayed on both sides of the ball. Questionable play-calling (again) didn’t help matters.
The Bears actually gained just 20 fewer yards than the Redskins (478-458), but had the ball for five fewer minutes (like usual) and lost the turnover battle 5-0 (like usual). What was unusual for the Bears is that they didn’t record any sacks for the first time since week 11 and let the Skins convert 62% of their third downs (8/13).
With 458 total yards on the day, the Bears were able to move the ball between the 20s but couldn’t convert in the red zone or turned the ball over to end productive drives. Most of the factors that have plagued the Bears all year were present again this week: Jordan Howard wasn’t utilized enough (had only 9 carries halfway through 4th quarter), the safeties were useless, blitzes were ineffective, and the Bears missed too many tackles.
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In the grand scheme of things, it’s better the Bears lost and maintained their shot at a top five draft pick. I’ll give an update of their draft odds below and there is some good news (Jags won!). I’ll also break down the few positives and many negatives from Saturday’s loss in my takeaways below.
Bears Takeaways: Week 15
1.) Matt Barkley has been exposed
In the NFL there is usually a reason that a journeyman quarterback hasn’t been given a legitimate chance to be an every week starter. At times over the last few weeks, it appeared the Bears may have found one that slipped through the cracks in Matt Barkley.
He had arguably played well enough in first four NFL starts to be 4-0, but week 15 had been his worst start as a Bear so far with three interceptions and a lost fumble. This week Barkley was even worse with a team-record five interceptions (tying Jay Cutler, of course).
Last week’s turnovers weren’t egregious and could even be blamed on others besides Barkley, but this week the blame falls squarely on his shoulders. None of the five interceptions could be written off as bad luck or miscommunications, Barkley was flat out bad this week.
His five interceptions ran the gamut from forcing the ball into double or triple coverage, throwing off his back foot when a check-down was wide open (in true Cutler fashion), and just not being accurate with the ball. Barkley actually got lucky as at least two other balls should have been picked off.
In the last two weeks, Barkley has turned the ball over a ridiculous nine times! That would be bad even for Jay Cutler, Chicago fan’s convenient whipping boy. The offensive line did a solid job against a good Redskins pass rush and the receivers finally caught the ball consistently, but Barkley just sucked against the Redskins.
Barkley’s recent stretch of incompetence is eerily similar to what happened when Brian Hoyer took over for Cutler earlier in the season. Hoyer replaced Cutler as the starter and threw for 300+ yards in four straight starts but the Bears only won one of those games, just like Barkley has only won one of his five starts despite putting up solid stats.
There is a reason both Hoyer and Barkley were available for pocket change, they both have legitimate flaws and the more they play, the more those flaws are going to get exposed. Hoyer either couldn’t or wouldn’t throw the ball downfield and defenses figured out pretty quick that Hoyer would try to dink & dunk them to death.
Barkley is at least willing to throw the ball downfield and stretch defenses, but hasn’t shown that he can do it effectively. He lacks average NFL arm strength and while he is willing to try, Barkley can’t put enough zip on long passes to complete them consistently.
His passes tend to hang too long in the air and give defensive backs plenty of time to catch up. For example, Barkley had Josh Bellamy in one-on-one coverage deep but by the time Barkley’s wobbly deep ball got there, Bellamy was triple-covered and the pass was intercepted.
I’m not completely giving up on Barkley after one disastrous game, but nine turnovers in a two-game stretch is unacceptable and Saturday he looked like a third-string QB for most of the game. He’s got one more game this year to prove that the last two weeks were a fluke, but if he continues to regress than his chances of getting a starting gig with the Bears next year will regress as well.
Regardless of how the Bears brass feels about Barkley moving forward, they need to add a young QB this offseason. Matt Barkley could end up being a solid NFL backup QB and even win a few games for the Bears in relief, but he is probably not the guy who will lead the Bears back to the playoffs next year.