The Chicago Bears offense reared its ugly head once again in Week 6 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While it was Chicago’s defense that gave up a 51-yard touchdown with just more than three minutes left, it’s the offensive struggles that are making headlines for a 1-5nteam.
The Bears were in control for most of the game on Sunday, taking a 13-0 lead into the fourth quarter. They dominated in time of possession by more than 10 minutes against the Jaguars, finishing with 35:47 minutes of possession, a season-high for Chicago.
But the club's red-zone struggles limited them to just 16 total points on a day where it felt like they should have won by double-digits.
“When you lose a game by a point, and we've been in some close games, they are big swings,” head coach John Fox said. “It happens every week in our league, not just to us. But it's an area we've got to get better at. We have to execute and make the plays that we need to. Our margin for error is very, very minimal right now and I think our record is kind of an indicator to that.”
The struggles are nothing new for the Bears offense as they have failed to score 20 or more points in all but one game this season. Their only 20-plus point performance came in a Week 5 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Chicago reached the red zone four times on Sunday but converted just one of those opportunities for a touchdown, giving them a red zone efficiency of just 25 percent.
“We’ve got to score [bleeping] touchdowns,” an angry Alshon Jeffery said after the game. “That’s it. Period. Touchdowns win games. You see what three points gets us.”
Just a week after Jeffery was targeted only six times, he saw a season-high 13 targets in Week 6. Yet QB Brian Hoyer failed to look Jeffery’s way in the red zone again on Sunday and failed to find open receivers on a few attempts near the goal line.
“It’s like we talked about last week, we’ve got to find a way to score touchdowns down there,” said Hoyer. “The defense did a good job and we can’t put them in that position. If I had the answer, then we wouldn’t be here talking about it. We’ve got to figure it out quickly.
Hoyer had another turnover-free game, throwing for 297 yards but failed to throw a touchdown pass.
Chicago out-gained the Jaguars with 389 yards of total offense to just 317 but failed to put the game away late. They took over up 16-10 with 4:59 to play but were unable to seal the game, as they had to punt following a three-and-out.
The Bears went with Ka’Deem Carey on that drive as he split time with rookie Jordan Howard. It was the first time the Bears really used the “running back by committee” method this season.
A busted play on 2nd-and-short, where Hoyer lost five yards after bobbling the snap, was one of the plays that really hurt the Bears. Another came in the third quarter when Carey had a key drop on third down, with nothing but open field ahead of him.
“I got too happy and too excited,” Carey said. “You have to catch that. I mean that’s the six points that could have won the game. I’m going to have to go back to practice and catch a thousand balls. Because that’s unnecessary.”
Chicago not only struggled in the red zone but with penalties as well. It’s another reoccurring theme for a team that has continuously shot itself in the foot, and Sunday was no different.
The Bears committed 10 penalties for 87 yards, doubling the Jaguars who committed 5 penalties for 50 yards. It was the second week in a row the Bears committed 10 penalties.
Even on Chicago's scoring drive that resulted in a touchdown, they had to overcome three penalties. That drive went 86 yards and 16 plays, as it was no doubt their best of the season thus far.
The task doesn’t get much easier for the Bears either.
They have two-straight prime time games against division opponents beginning with Green Bay on Thursday Night Football. After that they will host the undefeated Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football in Soldier Field -- the Vikings have of the league’s best defenses, which is a big reason why they are 5-0.
If the red-zone struggles continue, the Bears could very well be looking at 1-7 going into the Week 9 bye.