Well, if you're a Bears fan, yesterday's game started about as well as you could have hoped for - an interception by Tracy Porter, a great offensive drive spearheaded by the Jay Cutler to Alshon Jeffery connection and a touchdown punched in by Jeremy Langford, and a halftime lead. And if you're a Texans fan, the game ended about as well as you could hope for, grinding out offensive sequences against a Bears team that failed to get consistent pressure, making key plays with just an inch of room to spare, and turning on the accelerator when ahead late in the game with Whitney Mercilus.
We have a number of things to get to, including John Fox's use of challenges or lack thereof, the good pass protection until the final quarter, and the Jekyll and Hyde act the receivers pulled in the game. But first, we may as well wrap up the game itself.
The Texans' first drive really kicked off when Brock Osweiler took a third and 2 scramble for 15 yards down to the Bears' 36.. and the drive promptly ended two plays later with Tracy Porter ripping an interception away from DeAndre Hopkins. The Bears tried to get Jeremy Langford running early, but the big damage was done by Eddie Royal (13 yards), Alshon Jeffery (29 yards) and a deep defensive pass interference penalty drawn by Jeffery to bring the ball to the 5. Jeremy Langford finished the drive two plays later with a one yard plunge for the touchdown.
For the record, raise your hand if you had the Bears as denting both the touchdown and takeaway columns before their opponent.
After an uneventful next Houston drive, the Bears took over at the Texans' 40, where they would face 4th and 1 at the 31. The Bears went for a quarterback sneak, but Cody Whitehair and Cutler botched the snap, and it was called short.
The Texans took the next drive 14 plays, ground out 4 first downs on the drive, took the ball to the Bears' 10, but could only manage a field goal. But on the Texans' next drive, another 10 plays led then 61 yards to the end zone as Brock Osweiler lofted a 23-yard pass just inches over the outstreched fingertips of Tracy Porter to DeAndre Hopkins. At two points earlier in the drive, a pass to the sideline to Hopkins on third down was converted, but it looked as if he may have come down out of bounds, and on 3rd and 1 the play before the touchdown, the runner appeared short, but the spot gave the Texans a first down. More on that later on.
In the waning moments of the first half, the Bears got the ball back with about 50 seconds remaining, and made the most of it. Cutler took off for 12 yards up the field, then after a Zach Miller pass interference penalty (of which I'm not sure visual evidence exists outside of the shallowest of pick plays) nullified a 19 yard Langford screen pass, Cutler launched a beautiful throw to Alshon Jeffery, who was on fire in the first half, picking up four receptions for 105 yards. The next play capped the drive, a 19-yard toss to Eddie Royal in the front of the end zone. The Bears went into the half leading 14-10 behind some solid pass blocking by most of the line, Bobbie Massie notwithstanding, and some excellent quarterback play by Cutler.
The start of the second half didn't go quite as well. On the second play, Cutler threw a ball to the right side of the field... to open territory, as it was picked off. Kevin White ran his route to the inside of the field, but inexplicably stopped running any route, then after the pick, just kinda... stood there. We'll talk more about White later, but as far as a debut goes... White's could have gone about three hundred percent better.
The defense still did their best to hold strong, allowing a field goal on that takeaway stand. Three drives later, leading 14-13, the Bears stood facing 4th and 2 on the Texans' 38. This time, instead of going for the first down, the Bears punted, netting only 29 yards of field position. The sequence worked to start, as the Texans punted from their 30, but on 3rd and 6 on the Bears' next drive, Alshon Jeffery dropped an easy pass that hit him square in the numbers with nothing jostling him, and the Bears were forced to punt again. The Texans made the Bears pay.
On 3rd and 7 from the 18, Will Fuller took a low screen pass from Osweiler, instantly accelerated and took it untouched into the end zone, and the Texans had their first lead of the game.
From there, things spiraled on the Bears. Jeremy Langford kept getting stuffed for low yardage. Eddie Royal took a pass for 19 yards, but on 3rd and 6, Whitney Mercilus got around Charles Leno easily and slapped the ball out of Cutler's hands. Cutler dove on it but the Bears had to punt. After a field goal from the Texans made it 23-14, Cutler hit Royal on 1st down and missed him on second before getting sacked up the middle. Then on the final Bears' drive, Cutler was sacked again on first and 10. Kevin White got two actual catches in the final drive, but it only seemed fitting that the final throw would be an incompletion to Kevin White on 4th and 10, and the Bears fell to 0-1.
Enough narration, let's hit the bullets.
- Okay, where to begin. Let's start with the fourth down playcalls, which were a point of contention. I had no problem with the Bears going on 4th and 1 on the 31, and I would have pounded the table for going for it on 4th and 2 from the 38. Regarding the first one, with the Bears up 7-0, I loved the go for it call. You'd just gotten your weapons online the drive before, you had some decent control over the Texans' offense outside of Lamar Miller, the 49 yard field goal is not exactly a gimme worthy of saying "take the points," why not try to make it stick hard. On the second one, I didn't like the punt. The defense was still doing a solid job on the Texans, but there's more to be gained by trying to keep the ball versus just netting 29 yards. On a side note, if you aren't familiar with the New York Times' 4th Down Bot, go do yourself a favor and follow it on Twitter, it gives the calculations for each fourth down permutation.
- On a side note, can we stop confusing the coach's call with the team's execution? There's a difference between a coach making the wrong call and the team failing to execute the chosen call. The players botched the snap - that's not on the coach in that moment. This goes right there with arguing against a call based on hindsight. Either way, whichever call the coach makes, if the execution goes right and they achieve their goal (made field goal, picked up first down, whatever), it's not even a topic of discussion.
- (On another side note, can we do away with "take the points"? There's a reason it's called a "field goal attempt.")
- John Fox may be entering Lovie Smith territory with challenges if he wasn't already there. On both of the above situations, a challenge probably would have stopped the eventual touchdown cold. Then the play he does challenge is one that is... well, it's headscratching why one would even consider trying to challenge it.
- Bobbie Massie being bad in pass blocking is nothing new. This is who he is; you just hope his run blocking is enough to outweigh the bad feet and bad pass blocking. I didn't exactly leave today any more enamored with him. He had a rough game against some outstanding pass rushers. Charles Leno was better on the left side, but the one Whitney Mercilus sack versus Leno was just about as effortless as Mercilus' sack versus Massie. On both, a little lateral movement would have been nice. Before things got out of control in the fourth quarter though, against that front unit, the line actually played well, especially in that Sitton/Whitehair/Long center unit. Whitehair, getting the start at center, stonewalled Vince Wilfork a few times. There wasn't much pressure up the middle, and what pressure there was was mostly avoided by an on-point Cutler until he could get rid of the ball. There was a free rusher up the middle at one point, after the center and entire right side of the line was blocking hard walling up the overloaded right side. Things didn't get crazy until the Texans had the lead and could just come at Cutler hard, and this was after a game where if they could get a hard hit on Cutler, they did (5 sacks, 13 QB hits)
- Kevin White simply does not know how to play receiver at the NFL level at this time. In college he got by on athleticism, because in college that can work. In the NFL, he hasn't developed running routes, getting open consistently, cutting. And there's certainly no excuse for stopping effectively playing football in the middle of a play. I'm not expecting a finished product out of a guy who didn't play at all last year and needs to, you know, run to work on his routes, but I'd at least expect full effort.
- And then there's Jeffery, who did all his work in the first half and got nothing else moving outside of a drop. The Texans did a great job of adjusting to the weapon that was hurting them (Jeffery) because nothing else stepped up. Langford got nothing going on the ground; you know the story on White (3 receptions on 7 targets, leading the Bears in targets), and Miller had a rough 3 catches for 14 yards. The Bears need another weapon when teams focus on closing out Jeffery, and when Jeffery does get a chance, he can't drop the ball.
- Special Teams. Okay, I don't think Pat O'Donnell is a bad punter (he can outkick me, for instance). I just don't think he's a gamechanging punter. He doesn't really flip field position as much as you'd like a punter to. For comparison, Shane Lechler. Lechler averaged a full 6 yards more on each of his five punts, and a longest punt of 60 yards. So on average, the Bears were giving up 6 yards more each time the teams exchanged punts - and that doesn't account for yardage on plays lost or the like. I don't want to make this about Pat O'Donnell, because he didn't lose the Bears the game, but he didn't really help the Bears win the game. (Yes, I'm aware his numbers are hurt by the 29 yard pinning punt on 4th and 2, but his longest was still only 47 versus Lechler's 60.)
- I thought Jacoby Glenn played a mostly solid game except for the overpursuit and slide on Will Fuller's 35 yard short catch. I felt better about Glenn after his coverage on Gordon and if he has to continue to play significant time, I'm okay with that. Glenn picked up two pass deflections.
- Man, it feels good to have aggressive, playmaking linebackers. Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan combined for 28 tackles, 16 solo, a sack and 2 tackles for loss. Lamar Miller put up some serious work on the Bears in the first half, grinding out drives for the Texans... but in the end accounted for a 3.8 YPC, as the Bears shut him down hard in the second half. Of course, just in time for the Texans to get Will Fuller going.
- Leonard Floyd had a couple spots of nice pressure, but he needs to make those happen a little more. I felt like going in, he should have had a matchup advantage against the Texans left tackle, but not so much over the course of the game.
- How soon can we get Thom Brennamen on a spaceship to the sun? Just when I thought I couldn't appreciate Sam Rosen, Brennamen had to remind me he exists.
That's what I've got. Week 1 is in the books, and while the Bears are 0-1, hopefully we have more moments to watch that are like the first half, as opposed to the second half. The Bears started off the game about as well as we could have hoped for. Both sides made mistakes over the game. The Texans capitalized on the mistakes the Bears made, took the lead, and decided they wanted to stay there.
Let's see what happens on Monday Night Football at home against the Eagles. What did you find interesting about yesterday's game?