By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
The trip to the Big Apple didn’t workout the way the Chicago Bears had hoped but it did work out as many of us feared.
Losing again as only they can, the Bears fell in another one-score thriller and for a second time this season in overtime on the road by a a score of 30 to 27 to the hopelessly inconsistent New York Giants.
It was a sloppy day at Metlife Stadium in the Meadowlands and it seemed that Sunday’s game was transferred from the turf straight into the moisture of the nearby wetlands in many occasions. The main story of this game was told in the miscues by the Bears, which coupled with some unfortunate defensive stands and some calculated risks by New York allowed the 3-win team to level things with the 8-win team coming in.
Yes, the Giants aren’t an average 3-win team, particularly on offense with its pair of franchise play-makers, but they are still a very flawed team. Chicago had plenty of opportunities to win the game and almost did so with a furious late game comeback to force overtime.
Yet, throughout the game and even in that willful comeback, another problem made itself plain and that was the Bears not having the services of starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Backup quarterback Chase Daniel didn’t play awful and played well in stretches but he wasn’t as solid as he was on Thanksgiving against Detroit and he showed beyond a doubt that he is a clear step down from Trubisky. This loss comes at an inopportune time for the team, even if due to other results in the NFC North and in the NFC at large, if it didn’t hurt their playoff chances.
Overall, this was the type of loss that most fans can stomach (don’t base that on #Bearstwitter though). It’s hard to win on the road and every team usually has a few let downs throughout the season and at least one inexplicable loss.
Lets dig deeper into this loss and try to make the inexplicable a little more explicable with three takeaways from the overtime loss.
No phase of the Bears play could really be exempt from the overall narrative of this game, which as stated before lies in the key mistakes made throughout the day.
Whether it was offense, defense or special teams, each group had their highlights and low-lights. The Bears best unit by reputation, the defense, did some really nice things with an interception, three sacks and they held Giants quarterback Eli Manning to just 170 yards throwing but they did not bottle up New York’s most dangerous weapons — wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie running back sensation Saquon Barkley.
Beckham Jr. didn’t have a prolific game receiving the ball but he threw a wide open touchdown bomb and caught a wide open touchdown on fourth down, part of a series of pressure snaps where the Giants got the better of Chicago’s vaunted defense.
Barkley didn’t do a ton in the first half but he was able to do whatever he wanted on the ground in the second half and ended his day with 24 carries for 125 yards, good for a 5.2 yards per carry average. The Bears just didn’t do enough defensively and the offense didn’t give much to work with in regards to taking control of the game.
Like the defense, the offense did some nice things as quarterback Daniel ended with a better rating than Manning and the Bears offense ran for 118 yards with their running backs primarily — speaking of which, the mighty mite Tarik Cohen went off with a key touchdown pass to force OT along with 12 receptions for a 156 yards in a showcase performance of his versatility.
However, the problems for the offense showed up throughout the game and it sunk the team early, second play of the game early as the Giants intercepted Daniel for a pick six to draw first blood.
The Giants would force two more turnovers and teed off against Daniel with constant pressure, resulting in five sacks and nine tackles for loss, but the offense’s inconsistency for the day was crystallized in the final four possessions in regulation. As follows:
- First, down a touchdown, after a fumble by Gabriel the Giants only capitalize with a field goal to extend the game to 24-14 NY.
- Second possession, down 10, Chicago goes 7 plays for 72 yards and get a field goal.
- Third possession, down 7 after an onside recovery, a 7 play, 53 yard drive results in a touchdown scored on fourth down.
- Fourth possession, down 3 in overtime, 8 plays 15 yards with a couple fumbles and a desperation throw downfield on fourth down which was knocked down by Janoris Jenkins.
These four possessions show what the Bears were like all day long — when they needed the big plays to stay in the game they got them, but when they needed the plays to win the game the team fell short. Its tough to win on the road when you shoot yourself in the foot with constant miscues.
The (Hopeful) Return of #10
It has been a whole lot of “fun” seeing quarterback Daniel start in place of Trubisky but after Sunday, all Bears fans are ready for a TRU comeback. Watching Daniel’s inability to escape the pocket and push the ball down field was painful against a Giants team that in many ways was asking to be scored on Sunday.
Trubisky hadn’t thrown a ball this week until Friday with his sore shoulder and he did some more throwing in pre-game warmups. Reports are stating that he is close to returning and assuming the voracity of those reports it looks like Trubisky will be back this week in practice and ready to start the prime-time showdown Sunday against the Rams.
If things change and that sequence of events doesn’t happen then the Bears can be in some real trouble this week against Los Angeles and beyond that. Trubisky is still a young player that has to develop more as a quarterback, but this downtime away from Trubisky shows his ability as a downfield player and what having such a talent means to the Bears’ offense.
Whether it is with his legs or with his arm, Trubisky has the talent and ability to stretch defenses vertically. The Bears have really revamped their quarterback situation with Mitch and it shows in the showing that the team didn’t really gain anything in his absence.
Like the other top teams in the league, among them this week’s upcoming opponent, Chicago needs its starting quarterback to win and they need him back as soon as possible as it is time to prepare for the playoff run.
The Road Ahead
In all, losing to the Giants doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot, unless the team doesn’t step up immediately.
Losing a game here and there to inferior teams are okay but that puts more pressure to win the games against good and hungry teams, which means there is a bit more pressure on the Rams game, which was already well-established as a pressurized situation.
The Bears didn’t lose any playoff ground Sunday because everyone in the NFC North lost on Sunday. Every team is now down to their final four games. The Bears have to host the Rams and Packers with two road games against the 49ers and Vikings.The Bears do not want that Vikings game in the final week of the season to mean something.
The Bears are up one in the loss column and two in the win column against the Vikings, who would be glad to play in Week 17 for the North division title at home against Chicago, who should want to make that final week meaningless. If that’s going to happen then the Bears need to win no less than two of their next three games (or better yet, all three) before that final match-up.
Now if the Vikings lose another game or two then the Bears won’t have to sweep through the remaining games, but by winning their next three games they take things into their own hands and would avoid any chance of the Vikings being able to steal the division in what would be a heart-breaking fashion for the Bears.
A playoff spot is likely for the Bears even if they lose the division but a worst case scenario exists where the Bears lose to the Rams and then the Packers, making the game against the 49ers a must win. Going on a three-game losing streak in December is how teams fall short of the playoffs.
The Bears are not in a bad situation but a victory against the Giants would have all but sealed everything up. Now the Bears have to find a way to make up that loss with a win against either the Rams or the Packers, wins which in and of themselves would be greatly satisfying.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears for WARR