Ryan Bukowiecki is a student at the Illinois Media School and a contributor to The D & Davis Show
What the heck was that?
Many Chicago Bears fans were saying just that after a demoralizing 29-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. The Bucs took it to the Bears and easily won every phase of the game as they won by three touchdowns including a 26-0 advantage at halftime.
Tampa feasted against Bears quarter back Mike Glennon, who had three turnovers in the first half and at one point the Bears had two turnovers in just five plays. The Bears defense did not stand much of chance with all the bad field possession but they did not play a great game either, managing to get one turnover off a fumble in the third quarter after the game had already been over.
Chicago’s defense recorded a sack in the first quarter by Willie Young but could not get to the QB again until the fourth quarter in garbage time. Overall, the Bears could not make enough impact plays and could not take care of the ball well enough to win the game. It will not get any easier this week as arguably the best offense in football and one of its best teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers, make their way into town.
Offense has to be functional — This goal maybe stretches beyond this week because the performance in Tampa can not happen again if the Bears want to be better than last year’s 3-13 record.
Mike Glennon was brought in because he had the reputation of taking care of the ball. Glennon was bad last Sunday as he missed receivers and failed in assessing his reads, he is not great at moving in the pocket and the offensive line is beaten up right now. The lone silver lining is that it looks like Kyle Long will play Sunday at left guard, but Long hasn’t played in forever and was a no show in the preseason…hard to get too excited about the all-pro, at least until he gets used to being back on the field.
Right guard Josh Sitton and backup tackle Tom Compton are questionable and may not play either. Who knows what this O-line will be able to do?
Another potential silver lining is getting receiver Markus Wheaton back in time to face his former Pittsburgh brothers. Wheaton is listed as probable for this week from a finger dislocation injury earlier in camp. It will be interesting to see if he makes an impact but realistically how much can the Bears really expect, this isn’t Odell Beckham Jr we’re talking about. Another concern is running back Jordan Howard, who has a shoulder injury and left Tampa in a sling, but he is listed as probable.
It may be one of those weeks of next man up but regardless of injury, the Bears have to find a way to be functional and take care of the ball. Punting is okay (and expected) but all the offense can’t come up with plays in just garbage time and they definitely have to take care of the football as much as possible.
Defense has to take the ball away — The Bears defense managed to force a fumble against the Bucs when the game was too far out of hand. If the Bears want tp have any chance this week, a more timely turnover will be needed.
Last year the Bears were tied for the worst team ever in NFL history at creating turnovers. This is going to be a point of emphasis in most games this season but especially against a team like the Steelers, whose roster is more talented from top to bottom than Chicago’s.
And when you look at the NFL, the thing that usually separates a win from a loss is that turnover ratio. Last week the Bears lost that ratio 4-1. This week the goal is to at least break even but in reality, the goal is to win the turnover ratio to give themselves a chance at winning this game.
Probables need to be difference makers — Since the beginning of the season Kyle Long, Prince Amukamara and Markus Wheaton have been on the sidelines. They are listed as probable this week and are expected to make their season debuts.
That’s great and all but the Bears need these guys to be more than on the field. The secondary has been okay at best this year. The offensive line as well — okay, at best. The wide receivers have had no best, they’ve just been bad. Long, Amukamara and Wheaton each have the ability to make an impact this week and it is sorely needed. Amukamara may get the assignment of going up against the best wide receiver in football in Antonio Brown. Can he slow him down and force other Steelers weapons to beat the Bears?
Wheaton has the chance to be a playmaker on the outside, which is so badly needed for this offense. Can he get behind some coverages or use his speed in the open field to make impactful plays? Can Long help get Jordan Howard going and give Glennon space to step up in the pocket?
Maybe with Long being an anchor in the interior of that offensive line, the offensive line as whole can solidify itself. If these guys are indeed going to go, the goal is to be playmakers because so far the rest of the team has not been able to step up.
Find a way to stay healthy — Of course injuries are apart of the game and even with all the precautions and advances in sports medicine, they still happen. That being said, the Bears have to find a way to stay healthy this week, otherwise, this team may not be able to make it to the end of the month let alone the end of the year.
So far this season every week has brought with it a major injury along with multiple in-game injuries that have killed the Bears strategically. And very few of the injuries seem to not linger into the next week. The Bears themselves must feel the same frustration that fans feel and they are trying everything they can to prevent these injuries. That makes staying healthy a goal this week.
It is bad enough to lose games but adding the injuriesmto insult is demoralizing for a team still looking to develop. Also, another reason why staying healthy is a goal this week: the Bears will have a short week to recover against the class of the NFC North, the Packers, on Thursday in Week 4.
Many won’t expect the Bears to win either this week or next. Part of pulling off any upset lies in findimg a way to keep all the best talent playing in the game and not watching from the sidelines.
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