So once again the Bears had the familiar "play a really tight game until you blow it in the final minutes" game that we've seen so frequently this season. This one, of course, became the final nail in the coffin of the Bears' 2016 playoff hopes, spearheaded by a dumb number of penalty flags and Josh Bellamy's inability to catch anything that remotely hits him in or near the body, and also Matthew Stafford's apparent ability to tiptoe through the tulips on a touchdown dive to take the lead.
The thing is, the Bears team isn't good, because a good team takes this game and blows it out of the water. As much as the Bears did everything in their power to avoid winning the game, the Lions left open a ton of opportunities for a good team to take control completely. Their pass rush was remarkably absent and they committed plenty of their own dumb penalties.
So they're a bad team. But, they probably aren't that far away, except for difference makers (which still puts them pretty far away; I mean, they're a three-win team, here). There isn't a true difference maker in the defensive backfield. Offensively, Alshon Jeffery has been suspended, and Jordan Howard may as well get locked up in a museum case once the team is behind in the second half. And at this point it's hard to say there's a true difference maker under center.
But that's a lot of discussion for a time in the future. For now, a football game happened that pushed the Bears further down the division.
- Right away, let's talk about wide receivers and what happens when you have four wide receivers have to miss a game due to injury or suspension, coupled with the loss of your top tight end. When you're missing Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal, Marquess Wilson and Zach Miller, your receiving options look a lot like a mishmashed collection of fives and sixes... because that's what you're left with and it's really hard to find starter-quality wide receivers this deep into the season. No, Bellamy isn't a good wide receiver and his catch radius resembles a donut... but surprise, he's forced into the role because there is literally nobody else. Rookie seventh-rounder Daniel Braverman was the highest drafted wide receiver active yesterday. Yes, you want a stronger receiving corps than that but I don't know of any that could withstand losing their top three targets, their TE1 and a useful replacement piece in Wilson.
- Maybe with a better, All-Pro type quarterback, but Matt Barkley played well given the circumstances. His touchdown throw to Cameron Meredith was a really solid, well placed throw, and in his biggest test of this small sample size, he showed better than expected. On the final drive, he made two very nice completions that were called back by penalties. However, the offense only mustered ten points on the day. The Bears haven't had a good offensive showing all year on the scoreboard outside of beating the 49ers and, well, it kind of took the worst secondary in the NFL to provide that.
- Oh god, we have to talk about the penalties don't we. All 11 of them undoing 139 yards of performance. The five first downs that the Lions received from penalties. That was a terrible performance by the Bears, a rough performance by the Lions (committing 7 penalties themselves) and by the officials, who missed as many calls as they made and were just all over the board. (And before anybody says anything, the holding calls on the final drive? Totally legit.) The "hands to the face" penalty to nullify a big play by the Lions was actually supposed to be hands to the face on the Bears, for one.
- That being said, on the final drive of the game, you have to know that you cannot have back to back holding penalties - hell, even one of them. That was Charles Leno's first holding penalty since week 4.
- Let's talk about happier, more football related things, like interceptions. Bryce Callahan had one pass interference penalty, but another really good pass breakup, and on the first interception of the game tipped the ball enough to bounce it in the air off the receiver, which Demontre Hurst snared in the end zone. In the fourth quarter, Cre'von LeBlanc just made a great break and drive on the ball to take it to the end zone (I could have done without the "You better not let go of that ball or get it whacked out of your hand" feeling, though). The Bears have found ways to get their motley crew of young cornerbacks and nickels to play decent football, and this game mostly continued that (except for Tracy Porter, who struggled until he took himself out for an illness). Next up, a chance to see if Deiondre Hall learned anything.
- Nice to know that even with a messed up finger, Matthew Stafford can still find a way to launch the ball down the field and find someone when Harold Jones-Quartey completely loses track and takes the most circuitous route possible. And just for the record... Stafford has grown as a quarterback the last year and a half under Jim Bob Cooter. He's earned his MVP consideration, even if he's just on the fringe of the conversation. (And yes, the Bears have more than have of his interceptions on the season. On-ball playmaking is a thing. The Bears need more of it.)
- Now, for the safeties... Jones-Quartey was bad. Adrian Amos came in in relief, as he's been struggling for the better part of two months, and Deon Bush didn't exactly flash much either. It's definitely become more of a weak point with Amos' regression and will probably be a prime target of improvement in the offseason. Especially one that can find the ball and make a play on it.
- And now Dowell Loggains chooses to go back to his wacky, pass-happy ways, as Jordan Howard only got 13 carries out of 50 offensive plays, still mustering 86 yards. He's good, Dowell, please use him (and please stop getting cute with the shotgun on third and short).
- Nick Kwiatkoski looks like he could have a home on the Bears' defense. On one screen to Zach Zenner, he took on a blocking hit but still slowed Zenner enough to blow up the play. Theo Riddick was definitely missed, as the Lions struggled on their "from the backfield" plays.
- Sorry, Robert, Leonard Floyd didn't make a sack yesterday, which is a shame since he was getting good penetration (see: the play where Stafford broke his finger, and Akiem Hicks' sack). But there were several plays where he was just escorted past the pocket and rendered moot, and in the second half, he was hard to find. Jonathan Bullard made one tackle, but I don't recall him doing a whole lot over the course of the game.
- You know, I know it's cool to rip on John Fox's clock management, especially when he runs one play in 75 seconds of clock to go to the two minute warning (awful as per usual). But, I was low-key impressed with the Lions' clock management to close the first half and not calling timeouts. Deep in the Bears territory and already in control of the clock, the Lions are more than happy to milk the clock and take the last play of the half and save their timeouts for three plays in the last 15 seconds. They scored their touchdown before then, but they weren't in any danger of losing the clock or the opportunity to score, so they didn't need to burn them.
So, let's sum it up. The Bears and Lions played a terrible, sloppy game on both sides, the Lions gave the Bears the lead then took it back themselves, and the Bears just fell short after shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly. Good times. What did you notice about the game?