Two games into the 2017 season and it's the same old story for the Chicago Bears under head coach John Fox. A story that's actually drawn out for awhile now. Play hard in the season opener, and then drain yourself and experience a beat down the following week - the way the Buccaneers beat the Bears 29-7 on Sunday. Admittedly, an impressive model of consistency from this organization, even if it demoralizes everyone who experiences this pattern.
These Bears are currently working through a bevy of injuries yet again (from Jerrell Freeman and Nick Kwiatkoski, to Cameron Meredith), have inherent flaws on both sides of the ball (no reliable pass catchers on offense and no reliable cornerbacks to trust with regularity on defense), and find themselves staring at 0-3 for the third straight season with the Super Bowl contending Pittsburgh Steelers coming into town.
All is not peachy-keen at Halas Hall as there are deep-rooted glaring issues of note seemingly everywhere. To scapegoat and place the brunt of the blame on current starter Mike Glennon would be inherently mistaken. But, his performance through two games hasn't helped the team climb out of it's current malaise whatsoever. If anything, he's dug the Bears in much further into the six-foot hole they were already building.
Sunday's game against the Buccaneers, where the Bears had four first-half turnovers - three of which by Glennon - was the perfect microcosm of exactly what a quarterback can't do when much of the parts around him are already flailing around. His 301 yards on Sunday were the most hollow since Jay Cutler threw five interceptions on Thursday Night Football against the 49ers while eclipsing the 300-yard mark in his debut 2009 season with Chicago. Ignore his turnovers and he had a solid performance in garbage time. Of note, according to Pro Football Focus, he was actually 10 for 13 for 147 yards on passes that travelled at least 10 yards in the air. Baby steps? We're not going to gloss over anything, though.
In essence, Glennon did the Bears no favors against Tampa Bay with his careless play as he earned the calls for Mitchell Trubisky to take over the starting mantel under center.
Let's break down each of Glennon's three mistakes that effectively buried the Bears before they ever had a chance of a fair fight against Tampa Bay.
Glennon's first turnover, an interception thrown to linebacker Kwon Alexander, couldn't have come at a worse time as far as tone-setting for the rest of the game.
I mentioned in my keys before this game that provided the Bears didn't give the Buccaneers short fields off of giveaways, like they did in 2016, they would enjoy better success. That plan went out halfway through the first quarter.
Here you have the Bears driving in response to a solid first field goal possession by the Buccaneers. You have Glennon going 6-for-6 on his first six attempts marching the Bears all way to just outside the red zone. Then on a 1st and 10 play, all signs of reading a defense and going through progressions properly, goes out the window as you see above. If Glennon did do such a thing as "reading a defense", he would've seen rookie tight end Adam Shaheen slipping out late to the right, and would've been able to dump it off to him with a chance to gain optimal yards after the catch on a solid first down play as the Bears march on. Instead, Glennon locked in on Sims and the whole possession went down the drain.
It's hard to fathom what exactly Glennon saw there as it's clearly a predetermined read to Dion Sims that he doesn't move off of. A timing play that was blown up from the outset by good coverage. The window to fit the ball in was never there. Alexander immediately inches over to Sims to close off that option, but like a rookie quarterback - not five-year veteran - Glennon decides to go there without surveying the field. Judging off of Alexander's position, I don't even think Glennon is able to complete that pass if he had a stronger arm. A complete miscalculation.
It's not as if Glennon didn't have time to read the Buccaneers defense either. The Bears' offensive line holds up more than well enough on the play.
That's as clean of a pocket and wall as you're going to get in the NFL. Glennon had time to look somewhere else yet carelessly threw the ball into coverage. He wasn't under duress. This was a lazy read through and through.
Let's jump over to the Bears' next possession, right before the start of the second quarter. The Buccaneers have extended the lead to 10-0 following a Mike Evans touchdown. The Bears desperately need a response. They don't receive said response.
This time, the Bears reach midfield, and I'm not going to blame Glennon for the fumble entirely - outside of ball security. Lester will reference this in his Sack Watch later this week, no doubt, but this was a complete breakdown in protection. Glennon never had a chance.
You'll note immediately that the Buccaneers bring six guys on a blitz on a third-and-long. However the Bears have six guys to account for each defender. The fact that two guys lose dramatically on the play, capitulated any chance of the conversion.
The replay focuses on defensive end Noah Spence beating Bobby Massie easily to the outside but to me, the most egregious is Jordan Howard's effort in picking up blitzing inside linebacker Kendell Beckwith. Spence is the one who gets the initial pressure and Massie is beaten like a drum, but Howard allowing Beckwitch to beat him to his inside shoulder affords Glennon no opportunity to step up in the pocket down the middle. Pressure from the inside will always be more dangerous to a quarterback than on the edge. Because of that, Glennon is at the final step of his drop and already feels pressure from every side, giving him no time to read the defense. This might have been an occasion where Howard's ailing shoulder prevented him from doing his absolute best.
With pressure from the outside and a blitzing linebacker coming free down the middle, even an athletic quarterback such as Trubisky likely couldn't have escaped from this defensive sandwich. The only knock here for me on the quarterback is that Glennon didn't eat the sack and keep the ball tight to his body. The hot read to Kendall Wright is there as you'll see, but too much pressure too quickly kills the chance of a completion.
Finally, we get to the nail in the coffin. What ended any small chance of a Bears' comeback on Sunday. Glennon's pick-six on a deep attempt on another third-and-long for Joshua Bellamy that coincidentally happened on Chicago's next possession, with a little over four minutes to go in the half. A turnover on three straight drives.
Before we get to the actual play, I thought it'd be appropriate to mention Glennon's explanation. Apparently, there was miscommunication here. We don't have Bellamy's quote of what went wrong, but the all-seeing eye in Glennon knew.
"The receiver (Bellamy) kind of turned around the nickel a little bit, so I thought when he broke out that he was going to win. Obviously (that was) not the case. I need to move on in my progression and avoid those situations," said Glennon of what went wrong.
A 27-year-old quarterback that fell for a safety baiting him and threw his receiver under the bus for his mistake. That's always good. Now let's see what the tape says.
The first observation is that protection was not an issue. Look at that clean, beautiful pocket. Glennon could have justifiably moved off of his first read but instead sails it to Bellamy because he believed he "would win" when cornerback Robert McClain was sitting on him the entire time.
If he went away from his gut instinct that Bellamy was going to win out of his break, Glennon could've hit both Kendall Wright and Jordan Howard late as safety valves underneath with room to get the first down after the catch. I'm not sure Howard or Wright pick up the first down short of the sticks, but they had a better opportunity than a blanketed receiver.
Here's another angle for a closer look at Bellamy.
Glennon's explanation looks worse in deeper context because Bellamy clearly loses, and loses easily. He comes out of his break with no virtually no space left behind by McClain and slows down a little, either expecting the ball to come his way or go in another direction. This was a case of Glennon sticking to a predetermined first read - note the clear out by Deonte Thompson up top - while staring down his receiver that he trusted too much. I'd blame Bellamy for a poor route but the decision is ultimately Glennon's to go his way in another extremely tight window. McClain takes the ball back, makes it 26-0, and finishes off the Bears with a flurry.
It doesn't matter how good or how prepared your football team is. If you have four first half turnovers, three of which came on three straight offensive possessions, you're not going to win. If you have a quarterback who doesn't go through his progressions, stares down his receivers, and who diagnoses every play at a snail's pace, you're not going to win.
That's not the kind of player that lifts a squad. That's the kind of quarterback that turns an already mediocre team into a top lottery pick in the draft.
Glennon isn't to blame for all that ails the Bears, but he deserves a significant amount of criticism and shouldn't be making these kinds of throws in his fifth year as a quarterback. There should be a higher degree of patience and processing. When you only have 21 starts under your belt, though, who should be surprised? This is who he is.
In the end, it's difficult to tell exactly how much longer Glennon will be at the helm of this Bears offense. If he continues this low level of performance and awareness every time he steps out onto the field, any prayer the Bears have of coming out with a victory will be minimal.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times and is an editor for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.