Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, we are gathered here today to lay to rest the scattered remnants of the remains of the 2014 Chicago Bears.
Oh, I know the season's been factually and figuratively over for several weeks now, but as loss after loss has piled up in recent weeks, the one thing that has become apparent over anything else is that the teams that are beating the Bears are on a whole other level than this five-win Bears team. A winning level. A productive level. One might even say... a playoff level.
It would be one thing to accept the failures of this team as simply being outperformed on any series of given days. After all, this is a team that has now gone seven of their last eight games without so much as a first quarter point, haven't scored 30 a single time this season, given up 50 points in two losses. But those points are exactly why you can't simply say the team is being outperformed. They're being outperformed in nearly every single way possible. Quite frankly, it's amazing they weren't eliminated from playoff contention sooner.
Now over four games back in the division, and a wild card spot just about out of reach (they have the most extreme of possibilities at 8-8, but for simplicity's sake, the odds of that happening are worse than the odds of Lambeau Field just disappearing from Wisconsin - any other team reaching 9 wins this week knocks them out immediately), the Bears' remaining agenda over the next three games is fighting for jobs, on both a coaching and a player level. We're talking about a league where half the teams fight for playoff spots, and the Bears are arranging vacation plans three weeks early. But that's okay; the Bears are such a team that deserves that. They are not a good football team.
This week's game didn't exactly get out of hand until Cole Beasley's second touchdown catch that might not in and of itself have been a touchdown catch, and then Matt Forte picked up a first down and promptly fumbled, but the Bears continued to show why they aren't a serious playoff team. The offense briefly put some flashes together (it helps when Brandon Marshall shows enough concentration and good enough hands to haul in a deep bobbling catch) to put a couple of touchdowns on the board, but through a four-touchdown stretch by the Cowboys, the Bears had absolutely no answer. Which has largely been the story of the Bears' season - teams could essentially score at will, and the Bears would have no defensive answer in adjustments or no offensive answer because the offense regressed to such a low level.
In a way, I think we figured the defense would struggle, and at some times, struggle badly. I'm not sure we could have knows the offense would follow suit to the degree they have. Which is the terrifying part. Even when Marc Trestman reintroduces the run and an earlier deeper passing game to the Bears offense, they still get a short screen pass batted by former Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton.
But that kind of underscores what's been a fundamental problem of the Bears' offense - predictability and an over-reliance on a screen game that has been the team's most-used weapon when the game is still in reach. Coupled with penalties, such as pushing 3rd and 5 to 3rd and 15, the screen game on third and long created a lot of situations that just weren't favorable.
"Just weren't favorable." That sounds like something you might have heard in a Bears press conference after getting blown out again.
In this one, things got unfavorable early - after the 42-yard completion to Brandon Marshall, he took a knee to the lower back that eventually sent him to the hospital with a rib injury. Credit though to the Bears, especially Martellus Bennett, for coming back to complete the touchdown and at least try to keep things moving (and for playing through a leg injury in the latter parts of the game). Forte's fumble may well have put the knife in the remainder of the season, if the touchdown lob over Chris Conte's head didn't do that itself (funny how Conte seems to be in the middle of season-ending moments for the Bears).
There just aren't many teeth to this Bears' team. Even Forte was held to about two yards per carry. Bennett came up big with eleven catches, and Jeffery came through on the opportunities he did have, but the Bears just don't have the defense to play anything less than perfect on offense.
The Bears did fight back to within ten points, and maybe if they got going a little sooner than they did, it could have been an actual game instead of fighting back against a defense only playing such by virtue of playing eleven players against the Bears offense. At least they fought back, though. It beats getting pounded by thirty with no semblance of being competitive.
Let's take a few bullet points before wrapping this up:
- If you're kicking an onside kick at the start of the fourth quarter, and there are at least two other situations this year alone where such an action might have also been appropriate, you're not a playoff team. And speaking of onside kicks, Jay Feely kicked one that the Bears converted.
- Regarding the two-point conversion midway through the fourth quarter: Do the Bears get a point for every player involved in shoving Forte across the line?
- Willie Young against a running back is a fun mismatch. It's good to see the Bears' premier pass rusher win that match up.
- The interception thrown by Jay Cutler to seal the game wasn't a bad throw, just a great play by Orlando Scandrick. That, unfortunately, happens when you're trying to make plays at the end of the game. Cutler's passer rating on the day was still over 96.
- A couple of really scary numbers, the Bears were 2-10 on third down conversions, and only held the ball for 27 minutes and 32 seconds. They ran about the same number of plays.
- 15 rushing attempts is more than last week's called 7, but Ka'Deem Carey still got fewer carries this week (0) than he did last week.
- The back four had a miserable game in the defense (Chris Conte, especially), and there wasn't much in the way of pass rush outside of Willie Young, but I thought at linebacker, Shea McClellin had a decent game. Jon Bostic, not so much, and Christian Jones got hit a couple times with special teams penalties. There was just no answer for the Cowboys' offensive line, especially as they kept lanes open for DeMarco Murray (who was flat out outstanding).
Really, there isn't much more to say. The Cowboys came in, punched the Bears hard in the mouth at the end of the second quarter and early in the third, and the Bears' answers late in the game just weren't ever going to be enough. The Cowboys dared them to keep up, and the Bears just couldn't. So a victory by Detroit or Seattle this week (a single win by either team) will promptly eliminate the Bears from the playoffs, and this farce of a meaningful season can finally, and mercifully, end.