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Bears vs. Lions: Notes from an underwhelming 20-10 loss

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A week after the Bears put on their best performance of the season, they reverted back to their old losing ways.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Jordan Howard had a disappointing outing against the Bears’ division rivals.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears failed to build upon their win against the Cincinnati Bengals with their following matchup on Saturday. With a 20-10 loss to the Detroit Lions, the Bears fall to 4-10 on the year, their fourth consecutive season in which they have had double digits in the loss column. Here are a few of my notes from this week’s game.

  • Professional football on a Saturday just feels weird.
  • Sherrick McManis almost had Matthew Stafford on a cornerback blitz off the edge, but Stafford was able to evade the pressure successfully. Unfortunate for the Bears, but it was a good play by the quarterback.
  • Matt Prater is very good at kicking the football.
  • Quandre Diggs just laid the smack down on Kendall Wright on that third-down target. I honestly thought that the ball was going to end up into the hands of another Lions defender after Diggs forced it out of Wright’s hands.
  • Lamarr Houston has been impressive since returning to the Bears. He overpowered Corey Robinson en route to his third sack in three games with the team. Although it’s not certain that the Bears will decide to bring him back, it’s great to see that he’s stepping up with Leonard Floyd and Willie Young out.
  • Both Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie were beat off the edge on the first time Mitchell Trubisky was sacked. The interior offensive line failed to do their job, too, and Ezekiel Ansah and Quandre Diggs combined for the sack.
  • Stafford was not fazed by pressure much today. This was put on display on a particular play on the Lions’ third drive. He was under pressure in the pocket, but he stepped up, avoided defenders, and hit Kenny Golladay on an out route for a first down.
  • The second level was left open quite a bit throughout the first quarter. Detroit had a lot of space to create some offense.
  • Bryce Callahan had an impressive tackle for a loss on Kenny Golladay. Callahan played him tight in man coverage and tackled him right as the receiver caught the ball. Both Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc have been impressive in the slot at the nickelback position this year, which is encouraging.
  • Maybe the Bears shouldn’t keep running multiple tight end sets or bunch sets nearly every time they run the ball. Opposing defenses read into this and can easily stack the box. Dowell Loggains needs to have more diversity in his play calling, especially on running plays. It’s simply too predictable.
  • Referee Jeff Triplette makes a lot of mistakes. Not so much in deciding when penalties happen, but in the actual calling on the plays. He called a neutral zone infraction on the offense, for crying out loud. The offense still moved up five yards, because everyone knows that Triplette is bad.
  • Pernell McPhee just destroyed that running back screen. He read the play perfectly, shed his block and brought Ameer Abdullah down for a six-yard loss.
  • Matthew Stafford has a phenomenal arm. On a third-and-26 play, he scrambled out of the pocket to evade defenders, threw a good deep ball and Marvin Jones Jr. was able to get good position to catch the 50/50 ball over Eddie Jackson.
  • Chicago’s run defense was just...bad. As was the case in coverage, the middle of the field was wide open for the Lions’ handful of running backs. The Bears’ defensive line was unable to plug up holes against an ailing Detroit offensive line, giving up a lot of space in between the first and second level.
  • I’m not sure what the assignment was, but Eddie Jackson should have played T.J. Jones more physical at the line of scrimmage on Jones’ touchdown reception.
  • Jackson gave Jones far too much space to catch the ball and get around him. When you’re near the goal line, you can’t afford to give up space.
  • Tarik Cohen has had so many of his big plays called back by stupid penalties. He had a phenomenal kick return called back after a stupid holding penalty by DeAndre Houston-Carson. The Bears really could have used a big play like that to help flip the momentum of the game, but instead they started off that next possession deep in their own territory.
  • Penalty aside, Cohen has been very good on special teams in recent weeks. He has done a better job of not dancing with the ball right when he receives a kick or a punt. Instead, he has gotten better at hitting the hole hard and using his straight line speed to outrun defenders.
  • Jordan Howard would do so much better if Chicago’s coaching staff ran some different formations on running plays.
  • Mike Tirico said that 1965 was 42 years ago. You’re only about 10 years off on that, my man.
  • The Bears put together a solid offensive possession on their last drive of the first half. Aided by two big passes - calling downfield passes actually moves the chains, imagine that - they made it onto Detroit’s side of the field but ultimately came up short and were forced to punt.
  • Where was the urgency on that final drive? Their offense showed little to no desire to try and save time and score before the end of the half.
  • Kenny Golladay caught another beautifully thrown ball by Stafford, but only after pushing Kyle Fuller off of him. Thankfully for the Bears, the referees called offensive pass interference and the Lions lost yards.
  • Theo Riddick got a solid gain and fell on top of Sam Acho. Before he could hit the ground, he let the ball slip out of his hands. Eddie Jackson recovered it, which gave the Bears one last chance to score before the first half ended.
  • Mike Nugent made a 41-yard field goal with two seconds left on the clock. Although the game was still a two-possession game heading into the first half, a 10-point deficit is better than a 13-point deficit.
  • Trubisky finished the first half completing nine of his 12 passing attempts for a total of 71 yards. He was reliable when asked to throw the ball downfield, although that didn’t happen often.
  • Vic Fangio likely isn’t coming back to Chicago next season, but maybe that’s best for the Bears. There have been plenty of instances where he has made bad play calling decisions. This was made evident on Saturday especially, as a lot of the coverages he called gave the Lions’ weapons a lot of space.
  • The Bears come out firing on their first possession of the second half with...an interception. Kudos to Darius Slay for dragging his toes to stay in bounds, though.
  • Matthew Stafford threw two end-zone passes above his receivers’ heads in the first three quarters, but, as the saying goes, the third time was the charm. He hit Eric Ebron with a great pass right above Danny Trevathan.
  • I emphasize this: the middle of the field was poorly covered throughout the game, and Vic Fangio is partially to blame for putting together poor formations.
  • Trubisky threw a pretty ball to Kendall Wright in a tight window for a 19-yard gain. Those are the type of plays that get you excited for the rookie’s future.
  • Tarik Cohen made an impressive one-handed catch on a flat route for a gain of three. Although the Bears didn’t gain much in the way of yards, it was still an impressive play.
  • Akiem Hicks lit up Matthew Stafford to pick up his eighth sack of the season. The defensive end had been on a bit of a cold streak statistically - his sack yesterday marked his first sack since Week 8 - but he has been a constant disruptor in the backfield this season. It would be a shame if he were to miss out on the Pro Bowl, because he truly is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league today. An All-Pro nod is debatable, but he at least deserves to make it to his first Pro Bowl.
  • Of course the Bears get called for a penalty on a bad punt by Sam Martin.
  • Markus Wheaton had a catch? What?!? Good play aside - it was both a good catch and a great throw by Trubisky - he has been a total bust of a free agent signing. There’s no way he returns to the team next year.
  • Trubisky’s footwork still could use some work, but he has been able to make some very good throws. If he works on setting his feet and keep his balance, then he will be able to be more consistent on his accuracy.
  • A 17-point deficit is tough to overcome, but starting off with the ball inside your opponent 10-yard line is a good start to try and overcome it.
  • Scratch that. Trubisky threw a pass intended for Dontrelle Inman into double coverage and was intercepted by Quandre Diggs. It was a poor decision from the quarterback to throw it to Inman from the start.
  • I recently started playing Punch-Out!! for my Wii again. I decided against turning the game off to try and beat Soda Popinski (formerly Vodka Drunkenski, for those of you who played the arcade version made in 1984) for you guys. You’re welcome.
  • Golden Tate completely broke Kyle Fuller’s ankles. He faked Fuller out, causing the cornerback to fall flat on the ground. Allen Iverson would be proud.
  • Sam Acho brought Stafford down for the sack, but Eddie Goldman and Bryce Callahan deserve credit for part of it. Callahan shed a block made by Tion Green, while Goldman completely overwhelmed Graham Glasgow on the interior.
  • Lamarr Houston followed that sack up with a sack of his own on the very next play, which marked his fourth sack in three games. He really has been impressive since rejoining the team.
  • Jordan Howard picked up a first down through the air, but, in classic Bears fashion, a holding penalty called it back. Josh Sitton also got hurt on that play. Ugh.
  • Both Josh Sitton and Tom Compton - the two starters at guard - got injured on Saturday. These moves forced Cody Whitehair to switch over to right guard. After a rough start to the year, Whitehair has actually been great in recent weeks after settling in at center. We can only hope that a momentary switch to guard won’t take him out of his groove again.
  • This Bears team is just undisciplined. That will come along with better coaching, hopefully.
  • Markus Wheaton had...TWO CATCHES? Am I sure that I didn’t tune out during halftime and started dreaming?
  • What an impressive throw by Trubisky, and an equally impressive toe drag by Kendall Wright. The 19-yard gain followed up on the 20-yard pass to Wheaton.
  • Trubisky followed those two passes with another impressive 18-yard pass to Josh Bellamy.
  • Jordan Howard is a very good running back, but I’d hesitate to call him elite. He isn’t a great receiver (although he didn’t have any issue this week), and he has had a handful of down games. Yesterday’s 37-yard outing marked his fourth performance with less than 40 rushing yards.
  • If the Bears do enough to address the wide receiver position in free agency, then they could wait until Round 4 to draft a wide out and focus on picking up an offensive tackle early on. I really like UCLA’s Kolton Miller as a potential left tackle in the pros. Picking him in Round 2, alongside someone like Clemson edge rusher Clelin Ferrell in Round 1, would be a very good haul.
  • For a team down by 17, there was little to no urgency to score late in the fourth quarter. Their sole touchdown drive began with nine minutes and 23 seconds left to go in the fourth quarter. It ended with two minutes and 32 seconds left. Sure, a win was unlikely to begin with, but John Fox’s inability to manage the clock cost them the chance to at least make it a closer game.
  • I’m convinced that the Bears should bring back Benny Cunningham this offseason. The third-string running back has proven to have value on special teams and as an option on passing downs. He picked up Chicago’s first touchdown on a nine-yard reception.
  • Akiem Hicks absolutely destroyed Matthew Stafford on an incomplete pass. Hicks was left unblocked (for some reason) and just lit the quarterback up.
  • Tarik Cohen should have called a fair catch on that fourth-quarter punt. If he had, then the Bears would have had somewhat decent possession to start a crucial drive. Instead, he let the ball roll, leaving the Bears inside their own 10-yard line to fend for themselves.
  • Speaking of Cohen, using him more on wheel routes is a very smart idea.
  • The Denver Broncos beat the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, so this loss will move the Bears up in the draft order. A win is always the rooting point, but when your team is as disappointing as the Bears are, it eases the pain of a loss a bit.
  • Darius Slay is a top-10 cornerback, no doubt about it. His two interceptions this week brought him up to seven on the year, a league-leading total. It’s always great to have that caliber of a cornerback on your team, but it might be even worse to have one on an opposing team.
  • Three interceptions by Trubisky on Saturday. He had his fair share of good plays, but you could tell by his decision making flaws and his inability to get the ball off in time on a few occasions that he is still a rookie. The 31-for-46 and 314 passing yards look impressive, but it’s the interceptions that tell the story here.

This article has been very depressing, so let’s finish it up with a few positives:

  • Kendall Wright finished the game with seven receptions for 81 yards. This performance comes one week after he had 10 receptions for 107 yards. I’d say he’s earned himself a spot on the team again next year.
  • The pass rush was actually solid this week. They brought Stafford down four times and hit him six times on 37 drop backs. Not too shabby for a pass-rushing unit that lacks a whole lot of talent.
  • Eddie Jackson ended up with eight tackles - seven solo tackles and one assisted tackle - and a fumble recovery. Outside of the failed 50/50 ball win over Marvin Jones, he had a solid game.
  • In the end, this Bears squad is a rebuilding team who is only biding its time until the end of the season, when a full cleansing of the coaching staff is expected. They don’t really have much more to gain this year besides a good draft pick and development of their young players.