It's painfully obvious to anyone paying attention the issues ailing the Chicago Bears. It's obvious because they happen nearly every week. And after last night's debacle against the Detroit Lions, it's hard to find good things to say in regard to any area of the team.
What we see over and over are Bears players on both sides of the ball getting beat in the trenches. We see linebackers misdiagnosing plays, wide receivers dropping passes and a secondary that can't stop anyone. And we witness arguably the most-talented quarterback the Bears have had in 50 years running for his life on nearly every snap.
The broken record is skipping, skipping, skipping, with no one able to mend it. At this point the Bears are not a playoff team and unless we witness an amazing turnaround in the next 11 weeks, their season will be over in early January.
Andrew Weber/US Presswire
-Lovie Smith is quite possibly the worst game manager in the league. In the first quarter, after a 10-play drive in which the Lions did everything they could to aid Chicago in moving down the field – they were called for four penalties on the drive – the Bears were faced with a 4th and 1 at the Detroit 26-yard line. Jay Cutler had called a timeout earlier in the drive due to the coaches' inability to get the play to him on time.
Yet on 4th down, the Bears attempted to draw the Lions offside with a hard count. When it was unsuccessful, Cutler called the team's second timeout of the half. The Bears choose to go for it instead of taking the three points. DT Ndamukong Suh blew up the fourth-down play, flying right past T Frank Omiyale, taking RB Matt Forte down a half yard short. Yet Smith decided to challenge the play, even though a spot-of-the-ball challenge is easily the hardest call in the game to overturn. Of course it was not overturned and Chicago was charged its final timeout.
So instead of using the drive to get the team on the board, the Bears used three timeouts in one series and got nothing out of it. It showed a lack of preparation by Bears coaches, who seemed stunned at the decibel level in Ford Field. It's as if they didn't expect the crowd, which hadn't witnessed a home game on Monday Night Football since George Bush's first term, to be raucous in support of their undefeated team. But beyond being unprepared, Chicago's coaches, Smith in particular, consistently demonstrate an inability to think clearly and pragmatically as the game is happening.
-The most obvious issue with Chicago's offense was the lack of pass protection. Cutler was sacked three times, knocked down six times and hurried on all but a few plays. In particular, Omiyale had a downright awful performance. On seemingly every play, he watched as DE Cliff Avril blew right past him. Omiyale just does not have the quickness to protect on the edge. He gets out of his stance far too slowly and does not move his feet well enough to stay in front of defenders. Unfortunately, Gabe Carimi may still be a few weeks away from returning to action. If Chris Spencer's hand heals enough this week, it might be time to slot him in at right guard and slide Lance Louis out to tackle. Omiyale isn't all of the sudden going to flip the switch, so if he's forced into starting duty again, expect a repeat performance.
-Before last night's game, the Bears were 9-0 when Matt Forte rushed for 100 yards or more. He piled up 116 yards on 22 carries behind some solid run blocking. Seven of his carries came in the second half, which is far more than he received in the previous losses to New Orleans and Green Bay. Coordinator Mike Martz actually stayed committed to the run until the game got out of hand in the fourth quarter – a good sign going forward.
-Cutler had his best game as a member of the Bears last night. He ran for his life all game but he moved very well in the pocket and was able to keep plays alive with his feet. He seemed prepared for the lack of protection and was ready to move as soon as the pocket collapsed. He wasn't just standing in and taking sacks. He finished 28 of 38 for 249 yards, 1 touchdown and no picks. In the past, a game like last night's would have forced him into at least two interceptions. Yet he stayed calm and collected in the face of the pressure and did everything in his power to keep the offense on the field.
-WR Devin Hester is one of the most-frustrating receivers in Chicago history. He dropped a wide-open touchdown pass in the first half, then came out in the third quarter and made an amazing grab in traffic. Then he takes a screen pass and runs backward. His inconsistency is maddening.
WR Devin Hester
Andrew Weber/US Presswire
-WR Dane Sanzenbacher has firmly established himself as Cutler's favorite target. He had six catches for 64 yards and did a good job working the underneath routes. He was targeted 10 times on the evening, more than any other receiver. Expect that trend to continue.
-TE Kellen Davis was targeted three times, the same number of targets he received in the last two games combined. He caught all three passes for 25 yards and a touchdown. The more he's asked to stay in and block, the more his talent goes to waste.
-It's obvious the Bears' defense is nowhere near the elite unit it has been the past few years. The unit ranks 29th overall in total defense, 28th against the pass and 28th against the run. Last night, they allowed RB Jahvid Best, he of 190 total yards on the ground coming into the game, to rush for 163 yards on just 12 carries. That more than doubles his previous single-game high of 76 yards. Defensive tackles Anthony Adams and Henry Melton were nonexistent against the run. Detroit blockers moved them around with ease, as they did with Israel Idonije. Melton in particular was manhandled inside and it's becoming obvious he does not have what it takes to hold his ground against the run.
-It's clear now why Bill Belichick cut S Brandon Meriweather this offseason. The two-time Pro Bowler is a liability in zone coverage and he's a poor tackler. On top of that, he has a tendency to leave his feet and lead with his head. He's going to get himself, or someone else, seriously injured with that nonsense.
Unfortunately for the Bears, there really aren't any better options at safety. Neither Major Wright, Craig Steltz or Chris Conte are upgrades at the position, meaning the team will very likely continue to go forward with Meriweather and Chris Harris at safety. There's experience in that duo, but not much else.
-The biggest criticism of the defense is how they handled Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson. He was not chucked at the line nearly enough and was allowed too many free releases. When he gets into space without a cornerback making him work those first five yards, he's impossible to cover, especially for a safety. On Johnson's 73-yard touchdown grab, CB Charles Tillman just let him run freely into the secondary. With a head of steam, Johnson needed only one quick head fake to freeze Harris on the back end. He then flew past him for the go-ahead score.
-Linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher can still hit but something is going on with those two. They are not diagnosing plays well at all, biting hard on play fakes and often moving in the wrong direction on run plays. Age may be catching up with them, or the lack of a stout defensive line, but whatever the reason those two Pro Bowlers need to start playing like they did last year if the defense has any chance at improving.
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.