You know, I think with this team, I reached a point where losses like yesterday's just don't really bother me - they just kind of make me shrug and go "Well... yeah."
During yesterday's WCG Sunday Livestream, Sam and I brought up the thoughts of punishing mistakes and being able to outscore a line your defense draws for you in the sand. Merely ("merely," he says) scoring points off turnovers is nice, but mistakes extend far beyond the realm of simple turnovers and takeaways. For the Bears, that goes to and beyond the following:
- Sherrick McManis' last two drives
- Kyle Fuller getting beat short and outrun long
- Sam Acho's roughing the passer penalty
- Robbie Gould's first field goal miss of the season
- Jeremy Langford's drop
Oh, there were more, that's not intended to be an inclusive list, but the Vikings made the Bears pay dearly for their mistakes.
Sure, the Bears started off pretty well on their own, as apparently the Bears worked with Kyle Fuller on recognizing what a football looks like during the bye week. Fuller registered a pass breakup and later picked up the first interception of the season for the defensive backfield, which the Bears converted into their first touchdown of the game on an awesome throw by Jay Cutler to an awesome catch by Alshon Jeffery. That made the score 10-10.
Oh, right, the Vikings touchdown. That was scored on a punt return, of course, where anyone that got close or out of their gap was seemingly blocked out by two blockers, and Pat O'Donnell seemingly wanted nothing to do with getting in Marcus Sherels' way. The Bears now have allowed six return (fumble, interception, kick or punt) touchdowns on the season, which hasn't boded well for a team that can't afford to pile points on a defense that already has allowed plenty on the year.
Then again, we are discussing a defense that had one of their stronger games of the year, right up until the end. Teddy Bridgewater was held below 60% completion percentage and to 187 yards, and despite Adrian Peterson's 5.2 yards-per-carry day, it didn't feel like the Vikings offense could get traction, even with a complete lack of pass rush. And when Jay Cutler took the ball, ran right when everyone else went left and barged straight into Harrison Smith for a touchdown, things started feeling pretty comfortable that the Bears would end the day 3-4.
But on the next drive, Sherrick McManis missed an open-field tackle Madden style - by diving to the ground in front of the receiver before even touching him - and Stefon Diggs was off for a touchdown to tie the game. The next drive, Jeremy Langford had a third down pass clank off his hands, and the Bears punted. Charles Johnson snapped up a 35-yard pass to move the ball downfield, Adrian Peterson ran 9 yards to line it up for Blair Walsh, and Walsh punched it through the uprights to complete the comeback.
Injuries played a huge role in the game for the Bears, as they have pretty much all year. The Bears played this one without their starting rookie center Hroniss Grasu (yes, he was inactive), moving Vladimir Ducasse to left guard and inserting Patrick Omameh at right guard. They lost Eddie Royal for the latter portions of the game, as well as Matt Forte and Bryce Callahan. What that means, of course, is more time for Langford and McManis... who had their own roles in the way the game played out.
But that's not the only thing that contributed. I have to admit to a certain frustration with the way the offense played out. Early in the game, the Bears stuck hard with a run game that just wasn't quite going anywhere, and left themselves in barely manageable third and long situations (converting only 3 of 12 chances on 3rd down). From Kyle Fuller's interception on, it was like a light went off that for the offense to get moving, the Bears had to do something resembling a vertical passing game and push the ball down the field more than two or three yards.
Now, how much of that effectiveness is due to the Vikings' defense adjusting to defend screens and runs is to be determined, but sometimes, Alshon Jeffery is just going to get his no matter what the defensive matchup and alignment. But, we are talking about times when the Vikings were rushing to meet Royal or Forte in the backfield before the ball was barely out of Cutler's hand.
- I know some of you are irritated at the penalties, namely the "roughing the passer" on Sam Acho, and the lack of penalty for pushing over Pat O'Donnell. I'll spare you my usual "There were any number of plays to affect that outcome" routine and instead offer a word or two of advice to Ronde Barber on the FOX broadcast - You can't on one play cling to "Letter of the rule" and on another play that's often been interpreted as letter of the rule switch to "Well, it wasn't that bad, so it's not a penalty."
- Adrian Amos looked pretty good coming on a safety blitz, though it'd have been nice if he didn't arrive to an empty part of the backfield. For as little pressure as the Bears' pass rush generates, they have to make the most of those chances - it feels like even their pressures take so long to develop. Fortunately, the Bears started getting to Bridgewater late in the game, and Pernell McPhee converted one for a hard sack. Christian Jones was credited with another QB hit.
- Marc Mariani had another mistake that I didn't cover - two of them, actually - because he caught a bit of Lions-itis on punt returns, mishandling a pair and yet retaining possession on both of them. He did pick up a 19-yard reception, and I will say, his 26.0 kick return average was higher than the Vikings' combined 18.3.
- Jay Cutler had a very strong game. Not sure what there really is to say here; didn't really put too many balls in danger, made strong decisions, ran a read option, and bowled over a safety for a touchdown. What else? Oh, right...
- Once the Bears discovered Jeffery, it was like other targets ceased to exist - of the Bears' 33 passing targets, Jeffery was targeted on 15 of them. Martellus Bennett only had 5 targets, converting 3 for receptions. Marquess Wilson and Royal only got 3 targets each; Wilson got one for 14, and Royal got shut down hard, only picking up 2 yards. How much of that is Jeffery just being way too good a matchup? It just really shows what the Bears were missing when Jeffery was injured.
- John Fox went for the first on 4th and 1. Maybe not quite as conservative? Or small sample size? (Hint: It's the first game after the bye.)
- Before Callahan got injured, I think we were seeing why he was playing and McManis wasn't - it actually wasn't "avert your eyes" awful. Not great, but not awful.
- Eddie Goldman was okay, but I still would have liked to see a little more out of him in stops. Peterson didn't break off any big, big runs, but he was constantly at the second level or pushing through the first level.
- Bridgewater locked in on his own targets, too. Mike Wallace had four targets, converting none, and Stefon Diggs converted six of his 12 targets.
- It really felt like Martellus Bennett has disappeared. Zach Miller got a reception, but it was taken away by a penalty. If Forte is out for any length of time, they're going to need Bennett to show up again.
So here we are, 2-5 and heading into a matchup with the Chargers before heading to the Rams, Packers and Broncos. On the plus side, the Bears have played tough the last four games. On the minus side, they need to stop finding ways to lose games late and making late mistakes that kill them.
What are your thoughts on yesterday's game?