After a certain point, the injury excuse just doesn't fly. Sure, the Chicago Bears have had a number of injuries to key positions, especially on offense. But what NFL team doesn't have to deal with those maladies late in the season? When the Green Bay Packers can win a Super Bowl with 14 players on injured reserve, losing a guy here and there isn't a good enough justification for dropping four straight games to very beatable teams.
Yet that's exactly what the Bears have done.
Today was just one more example of a team unequipped to weather the mounting number of injuries. The Bears played well in the first half, then absolutely imploded coming out of the break. The Seahawks outscored Chicago 31-0 in the second half of today's game. The final score was 38-14.
The defense gave up big plays through the air and the offense was just flat-out anemic for most of the day. The Seahawks' secondary intercepted four passes and recovered a fumble, winning the turnover battle by a 5-1 margin. Two of Seattle's four picks were returned for touchdowns, essentially sealing the game, and Chicago's hopes of making the playoffs.
Injury wise, the Bears lost Johnny Knox to a back injury in the first quarter. He was put on a backboard stretcher and carted off the field. Preliminary diagnosis shows no injuries to his neck. An MRI will reveal the extent of his back injury. The team also lost rookie safety Chris Conte to an ankle injury in the second half. He did not return to the game. Those were the only other injuries at Soldier Field, except for the bruised hearts of 60,000 Bears fans that just watched their team get knocked out of the playoffs.
QB Caleb Hanie
Jerry Lai/US Presswire
-Caleb Hanie was unimpressive for the fourth game in a row. In fact, in this contest, he was downright awful. In the first half, he did a good job managing the game. He had completed 7 of 15 passes for 1 TD and 1 INT. Yet in the second half, things got ugly. He completed just three passes in the second half and threw two picks. He finished the day 10 of 23 for 111 yards and 3 INTs, for a passer rating of 33.3. Things were so bad, the team inserted backup QB Josh McCown late in the game. He came onto the field and promptly threw the Bears' fourth interception.
What we now know about Caleb Hanie is that he's not an NFL starting quarterback. His accuracy stinks and his decision-making is even worse. He missed a number of open receivers, as he's done every game he's started this season. Staring down his first option is par for the course with Hanie, which telegraphs his passes for the defense. Defenders need only to follow his eyes and they'll know where he's going with the ball. He can make things happen with his legs but his awareness and field vision are lacking, even when he's on the run. The Bears cannot bank on him as a backup next year and will very likely cut him after the season. The question now becomes, who will start next week?
-If there was one bright spot in this game, it was Kahlil Bell. He rushed for 65 yards on 15 carries and led all Bears receivers with five caches for 43 yards and 1 TD. It's the first time in his career he has totaled more than 100 yards in a single game. He showed good burst and hands, and excellent vision between the tackles. In addition, he has enough speed to turn the corner. Going forward, the Bears should continue giving him reps and build his confidence for next season.
-Marion Barber averaged just 3.0 yards per carry and had a long run of six yards for the game. He needed a bounce-back performance after blowing last week's game, yet he appeared to regress in this one. Going forward, he should be used mainly as a short-yardage back, while Bell should be given the lion's share of the touches.
-Earl Bennett was once again underused in this game. Chicago's best pass catcher was targeted just once. He caught that pass for 20 yards, yet Hanie never looked his way again. Dane Sanzenbacher, who replaced Knox, had six times as many targets as Bennett, while Roy Williams had four times as many targets. Let that sink in. -The offensive line is dissolving in front of our eyes. With both Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi on injured reserve, this group just cannot get it done on a play-by-play basis. They were able to get decent push up front in the run game, yet when they really needed yards on the ground, they folded. And the pass protection lately has been horrid. Lance Louis and J'Marcus Webb gave up pressure all day long. The team as a whole allowed four sacks to the Seahawks defense. In the past four games, this group has given up 16 sacks. All this coming at a time when they needed to step up and protect their inexperienced signal caller. The constant pressure up front has not allowed Hanie to get comfortable in the pocket and he's now developed a permanent case of happy feet.
-Chicago's defense once again played strong early. They held the Seahawks to just 84 total yards in the first half. Yet the fact they've been forced to play so many minutes this past month, as the offense has failed to keep them off the field, is starting to catch up with this defensive unit. In the second half, they dealt with short fields due to Hanie's interceptions and did not have enough in the tank to keep Seattle out of the end zone.
-Brandon Meriweather, who replaced Conte at free safety, just doesn't get it. He's a hard hitter but he doesn't wrap up, which leads to missed tackles. Yet his biggest fault is his inability to grasp the deep concepts of the Bears' defensive schemes. On the Seahawks' first drive of the second half, Chicago lined up in Cover 1, leaving Meriweather as the only safety over the top. His only job was to keep the offense in front of him and not get beat deep. What does he do? He lets Golden Tate run free down the sideline for 43 yards, setting up Seattle's game-tying touchdown. He was signed to a two-year, $6 million deal this offseason. I would be shocked if he's not waived after this season.
-The Bears stacked the box for most of the day, sliding Craig Steltz up to the line in running situations. The strategy worked. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, who had rushed for 100-plus yards in six of his last seven games, was held to just 42 yards on 20 carries. His 2.1 yards per carry average was his lowest since Week 8.
-Julius Peppers had the lone sack of the game for Chicago. It came in the first quarter with Seattle backed up on their own goal line. QB Tavaris Jackson dropped back and Peppers slipped coming off the edge. Yet he got right back up and stripped Jackson of the ball. Israel Idonije fell on it for the Bears' first touchdown of the game. Unfortunately, the Bears were only able to score one more touchdown in the remaining three quarters.
-Matt Toeaina is a rock at nose tackle and was stout inside again. He had five tackles in today's game – good for fourth-most on the team. Anthony Adams also played well. He had been inactive the past three weeks yet saw the field today due Henry Melton's shin injury. He was active inside and was able to get good penetration. He ended the day with three tackles, one for a loss.
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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.