The Bears took a step back against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps that isn’t entirely true. The ball didn’t bounce their way enough, there were some ill-timed officiating calls — both real and imagined — the lack of discipline and poor coaching marooned the Bears.
This was a very odd game for a multitude of reasons. A ton of fumbles, bad calls, missed calls, injuries, missed opportunities, challenges — both poorly conceived and poorly judged — and way more yards than the scoreboard would indicate. The defense played well for the most part. The offense got some balance, but Dowell Loggains really struggled to dial up the right calls, at the right times. An odd game indeed.
I don’t want to re-hash Zach Miller’s injury, but for anyone who hasn’t — should it be a part of your life — please keep Zach in your thoughts and prayers. As of yesterday evening, it appears that Miller pulled through the first surgery well. Forget football for a moment here, and realize that this man is a husband, a father, a brother, a son. He is more than just the #86 on his jersey, and he was in serious danger of losing his leg, and perhaps even his life. I know that we have a great crew of people here, but I wanted to take a moment to celebrate an overall good guy. Whatever the future holds, I wish him a long, and healthy life...
As for Jerrell Freeman, his comments were, to me, a plea for help. I am not going to make excuses for him, but clearly this is a troubled man right now. From strictly a business aspect, I have advocated for him being cut — that seems an almost certainty now — but as a player, I certainly enjoyed watching him play. He was a tackling machine and controlled his “box” of the field. My guess is that his career is over and he is clearly dealing with some serious head trauma. Regardless of where you stand, or whether or not you have sympathy/empathy, or you think he’s a cheating bum, I will say the same thing about Freeman as I did about Miller. I personally wish him well and hope he gets the help that he needs...
Now, onto the game itself!
Keys to the Game
Handing over the Keys: The Bears actually did this a little bit. We saw a much more balanced game plan than we did in the previous 3 weeks. This game plan certainly highlighted the lack of one-on-one play-making ability by the Bears receiving options. It also highlighted the lack of coaching common sense. Jordan Howard is in the game to catch passes and Tarik Cohen is in the game to punch it in from the 1-yard line? Ultimately it worked, by that decision was curious at best. Another odd decision was using Michael Burton as the lone back in shotgun plays. What sense does that make? There were penalties, dropped passes, errant throws, and strange play calls. Perhaps we should just run the ball 60 times. I was very wrong about Dowell Loggains...
Pushing the Pocket: This happened on occasion but not anywhere near consistently enough. When the pocket was being pushed, Drew Brees was off his game. When they didn’t, he shredded the Bears secondary. The Bears only managed to pressure Brees 5 times in the game. That simply isn’t good enough. Their offensive line was beat up and not particularly great to begin with. There should have been more opportunities to get in Brees’ face. It appeared to me that the game plan was quite conservative, after having been uber-aggressive in the previous 3 games. We need to get back to that.
The X-Factor: The Bears failed to use their speed — Tarik Cohen and Kendall Wright — in this game. Wright had a few catches but Cohen was used sparingly, again. There needs to be a balance in how he is used. Personally, this was the perfect time, with a fast track. Wright got into the game a bit, but some of the routes — which were down the sideline — he ran were curious to me. Wright succeeded running crossing routes, deep ins, quick mesh routes in the flat early on in the season. Why is he now being used like a flanker? That isn’t his forte.
3 Bears Up!
Josh Sitton: I had Cody Whitehair as one of my players to watch, but as it turned out, I needn’t worry. Josh Sitton was there to save the day! And boy, weren’t his shotgun snaps pretty? A true thing of beauty. Oh, and Sitton blocked pretty we too. I had not expected that kind of play from him at center, but I should have. With a right (snapping) elbow injury for Whitehair, and presumably still a cast on Grasu’s hand, it would seem that Sitton is the center for the time being. Depending how bad the elbow injury is, we may see an interior lineup (from left-to-right) of Whitehair, Sitton, and Kyle Long. That will be something to monitor going forward.
Tre McBride III: First off, let me preface this be saying that by no means do I think he is the answer at wide receiver. However, he had a pretty nice game. It is clear that he can work the defense when matched-up in zone coverage. I think that going forward, McBride can be a nice fourth or fifth wide receiver. Unfortunately, on Sunday, he was our number one. I would like to see him use his size more in press-man coverage, but he is definitely a useful piece on offense for the remainder of the season.
Leonard Floyd: Floyd was all over the place. Too many times he was out of position — at Vic Fangio’s behest — by being in coverage. We really need to stop seeing that. Our outside linebackers were torched multiple times by a future Hall of Fame quarterback. When he was moving forward though, he looked as fast as I have ever seen him. He was consistently beating the right tackle to a spot, unfortunately, Brees is adept at moving in the pocket. This is where the middle push would have made a huge difference in this game. Had the interior collapsed the pocket more, Floyd might have had a seriously monster day.
3 Bears Down
Michael Burton: I didn’t like keeping a fullback on the roster in August, and I dislike it even more now. Truthfully, what is Burton’s purpose on this team? When his is on the field, the Bears run 86.1% of the time. He consistently missed his blitz pickups, and he seems to get in Jordan Howard’s way on runs. Personally, I don’t believe that the zone blocking scheme — that the Bears want to employ — works well with a fullback leading the way. If you aren’t going to have the threat of him in the passing game, his presence in the shotgun isn’t helping your rookie quarterback.
The Secondary: This was their worst game in a little while. They seemed to play soft coverage for much of the game. Perhaps that is more of an indictment on Fangio, and by proxy, Ed Donatell. The tackling was also an issue for the secondary as a whole. Bryce Callahan, Adrian Amos, and Kyle Fuller all missed tackles that turned into bigger plays than they should have. This group has been solid in tackling all season, so I hope that this was an anomaly.
Dowell Loggains: I believed that the overly conservative game plans were at the behest of John Fox, and I still believe that. This game, however, falls solely on the shoulders of Loggains. The game plan was balanced, which was nice to see, but the play calls were too often poorly made. I mentioned the strange usage of running backs and Kendall Wright, but there were some inexcusable play calls. On the 3rd-and-1, and 4th-and-1 calls around the 2-minute warning, those pass plays were awful. The Saints are the best team at batting down passes, and you run 0 to 1-yard routes to pick up a first down? You know you have Jordan Howard on your team, right Danger Zone? Speaking of danger zones, that is basically what the Red Zone is for the Bears right now. There are several tried and true plays inside the 10-yard line, perhaps we should try using some of those?
What are your thoughts on who played well and who didn’t?
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