By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
A big time measuring stick game for the Chicago Bears wound up revealing that they are still well short of being a good team on the rise.
The Bears fell to the Patriots 38 to 31 Sunday afternoon on the lakeside in the first truly big game for the franchise in perhaps the last four years. The Bears had their opportunities to win this game as the Patriots weren’t the efficient offensive machine that they normally are, yet growing pains reared their ugly heads again this week leading to another total team collapse.
Bears fans can have their pick on what to be upset about with the team: Khalil Mack did his best to fight through his ankle injury and he is clearly not healthy. Mitchell Trubisky was mainly a weapon with his legs rather than his arm. Special teams was mostly noticeable in a negative way and gave up two difference-making touchdowns. The coaches didn’t do enough to get the team ready to play and again in game calls left heads scratching.
Mistakes are common with a young team — the highs are high and the lows are low. Lets take a look at some takeaways after another tough loss.
Not There Right Now
In previewing this match-up, it was clear the Bears had themselves a measuring stick game against an established NFL power. The big take away is that the Bears are not there right now.
There is one side of fans that think we saw the real Bears and that they aren’t good. The other side is more optimistic but will have to stay patient as the Bears are still a team learning to find its way. More of a sample size will make things clearer but in the here and now its clear the Bears have to keep working on fixing their issues.
This is the third loss of the season where the offense, defense and special teams wasn’t good enough all at the same time. It makes one wonder what is the problem and then you look at how the coaches are young and new on offense and special teams. The roster has some veterans on it but there are a lot of guys being counted on who have not had a ton of success individually or on a NFL team.
For example look at the offense. Who is the go to guy that has had a ton of success in the NFL, Allen Robinson? What about on defense, Mack, Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan all have quality experience, but then who else? The Bears have to keep growing and find a way to turn this game into a positive and be more ready for their next measuring stick game.
Where Is the Pass Rush?
The defense has completely lost its mojo with Mack hampered by an ankle injury, the pass rush has been non existent now for two weeks.
If the Bears are waiting for Mack to get healthy to get the pass rush back then Fangio will have to make adjustments. Bilal Nichols showed up for a couple plays but where is Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Eddie Goldman and especially Leonard Floyd? These guys are getting one on ones and they are not capitalizing.
It is very tough to see what should be the strength of the team become such a non factor. If the Bears can’t fix their defense then this season could get away from them really quick and it starts with the pass rush. This defense’s coverages are built on the idea that the rushers will get to the passer.
The book is out right now to throw the ball quick against the Bears. Can the Bears figure out an adjustment? Two weeks in a row, it hasn’t happened.
Patience Is a Virtue
What has become clear is the Bears really are a work in progress and aren’t close to a finished product that fans can be proud of. Of course, this Bears team might just be overrated and ultimately will be too inconsistent to become good. The answer will come in time one way or the other.
The high of the three-game win streak seems like a fading memory and the current low is hitting hard. Young teams do this in all sports and the roller coaster of the peaks and valleys can make you sick. Nagy made a mistake play call by not going for a Hail Mary or field goal at the end of the first half instead of the meaningless dump off. Trubisky was way too off at certain points and frequently couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn.
The special teams can’t give up a kickoff return for a touchdown and a block punt for a touchdown in the same game. And the strength of the team, the defense, has to show up to defend home turf. These lows compared to the highs of 18 sacks in four games or six touchdown passes in a game are part of the roller coaster, one that will hopefully end with a team ready to compete for bigger and better things.
The highs will return and what this young team has to figure out is how to play consistently every week, but it’s going to take time.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears for WARR