The Chicago Bears (0-3) looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL last night, and have for the first three weeks of the regular season. With key injuries throughout the roster, it's hard to foresee any drastic turnaround this season, which is unfortunate for Bears fans.
Still, there is plenty to watch on a roster that is one of the youngest in the league. Last night's 31-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys was difficult to stomach but there were plenty of performances of note, a few of which provide glimmers of light in a season that has quickly gone dark.
RB Jordan Howard
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains finally executed the running-back-by-committee approach the coaching staff espoused all off-season, with rookie Jordan Howard getting the majority of the touches. Howard was on the field for 49 of the offense's 65 snaps, carrying 9 times for 45 yards, while adding 4 catches for 47 yards. Howard's presence in the backfield immediately provided a spark to Chicago's dormant rushing attack, as he ripped off a 36-yard run on his first carry of the night. Jeremy Langford was limited to just 15 snaps, due in large part to an ankle injury that knocked him out of the game in the third quarter, yet he averaged 10.3 yards per carry (3 rushes, 31 yards). The run game was wildly inconsistent, with Howard taking far too many shots in the backfield, but the big gainers showed some future potential with the bruising rookie toting the rock.
TE Zach Miller
Through the first two games of the year, Zach Miller had just 7 receptions for 47 yards. Against the Cowboys, Miller caught 8 passes for 78 yards and 2 TDs. With Alshon Jeffery hobbled with a knee injury and Kevin White still finding his way, Miller was Chicago's biggest weapon in the passing attack. Both of his scores were difficult catches at the goal line with a defender on his back, and he took mean shot to the head but still held onto the ball for his second touchdown. Miller also had an outstanding grab on an intermediate post pattern, snatching the ball high out of the air in traffic. Miller showed last year he can be a No. 1 tight end in the NFL but he was under-utilized by Jay Cutler the past two weeks. With Brian Hoyer under center, Miller was nearly unstoppable.
ILB Jerrell Freeman
In a game where it appeared many Bears were just going through the motions, Jerrell Freeman was playing like it was the Super Bowl. Freeman was all over the field, racking up 12 combined tackles. Chicago's defensive front struggled without NT Eddie Goldman, allowing the Cowboys to run for 199 yards as a team, but it would have been far worse without Freeman, who filled run gaps with authority all night. In my opinion, Freeman is on par with Kyle Long as the best player on this roster. The heart he showed last night, while everyone around him was sleepwalking, was extremely impressive from the team's defensive leader.
QB Brian Hoyer
Brian Hoyer didn't light it up during his first start for the Bears but he was better than serviceable. Loggains is struggling with his game plans and Hoyer missed some open targets, which is what led to some early struggles, but there were plenty of positive to take from Hoyer as the starter. He went 30-of-49 for 317 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. He did lose a fumble after a comical sequence involving RT Bobby Massie but Hoyer's ball security was a plus in the game. He didn't put the ball in harm's way and made a number of nice throws in the second half. Granted, his numbers were mostly the product of garbage time but he was efficient in the first half, completing 8-of-12 passes for 71 yards. Hoyer's 93.7 QB rating was the highest of any Bears quarterback this season. He's not going to carry a team to the Super Bowl but Hoyer is good enough to serve as a one-year starter during a bridge year if the team chooses to part ways with Cutler after this season.
OT Bobby Massie
Overall, Chicago's offensive line played pretty well against the Cowboys. The Bears rushed for 4.9 yards per carry as a team and Hoyer wasn't sacked all night, taking just one hit in the game. That's pretty solid, although Dallas' defensive line is void of playmakers. As such, Massie wasn't a liability as he's been the past two weeks, yet one play on Sunday night summed up Massie's season to this point. With the game out of hand late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys used just a three-man rush. Cowboys DE Benson Mayowa rushed off the edge and Massie just stopped moving his feet, choosing instead to lunge at the defender. Mayowa easily turned the corner and hit the quarterback, yet Hoyer was able to squirt free. Massie tried to recover but ended up tripping Hoyer to the ground, which caused a fumble that Dallas recovered. Somewhere the Benny Hill theme song runs on repeat.
WR Cameron Meredith
Cameron Meredith only played 14 snaps, catching two passes for 24 yards in the second half. His first catch came in the third quarter on an intermediate crossing route, which he fumbled immediately after getting hit. Meredith has great size and a lot of upside but that was a big fumble, as the Bears had the ball down just two scores with momentum. If they score a touchdown on that drive midway through the third quarter, cutting the lead to just seven points, who knows how the game would've ended.
CB Jacoby Glenn
Jacoby Glenn finished the game with 7 tackles, second most on the team, but that was because he allowed so many catches from Dallas receivers. Glenn was beat by Cole Beasley early and then gave up a 47-yard gain to Terrance Williams, although Glenn was able to force a fumble at the end of the play. It was clear the Cowboys and QB Dak Prescott were targeting Glenn all night and he was unable to respond. Glenn has some long-term potential but it's clear he's going to suffer through some growing pains this season.
DL Will Sutton & Mitch Unrein
The loss of NT Eddie Goldman was noticeable from the first snap of the game: a 21-yard run up the gut by Elliott. The Cowboys averaged 4.9 yards per carry, while Elliott finished with 30 carries for 140 yards. Dallas boasts one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, a group that had their way with NT Will Sutton and DE Mitch Unrein. Chicago's base 3-4 interior defenders were pushed around all game, particularly Sutton, who could not consistently hold the point of attack.null