Different week, same story for the 1-5 Chicago Bears after blowing yet another lead to lose a close game they should have won.
With the playoffs all but out of the picture, it’s hard to find real reasons for any sort of optimism. As if things couldn’t get any worse, the Bears will now head into Green Bay on a short week to face a Packers team in need of a victory.
While Chicago's playoffs hopes are in the toilet, the Bears can put the reeling 3-2 Packers in a large hole with a win Thursday night.
Here are five things to watch for in tomorrow's matchup.
Pernell McPhee was placed on the PUP list at the start of training camp and may finally see his first action of the season Thursday night. Couple his potential return with the recent resurgence of Willie Young, who has five sacks and a forced fumble his last two games, and it might give Chicago's defense a big enough boost to mask a very questionable secondary, which could be without two starting cornerbacks.
Against Aaron Rodgers, the Bears will need consistent pressure, something they have not been able to accomplish consistently this year. Another failed effort on passing downs will likely lead to another notch in the loss column.
Health is a big key for this unit.
For the second week in a row, Meredith lead the Bears in receptions (11) and receiving yards (113). He now has two straight 100-yard receiving efforts in his two starts since Kevin White was placed on IR.
Cameron's immediate production is a substantial development for a team that has no real clarity at the receiver position going into 2017, with Alshon Jeffery set to hit the open market again and White having played just four games in two seasons.
At 6-3, 207 pounds, the former Illinois State quarterback has the measurables teams want in a top-flight receiver and he continues to show reliable hands and play-making ability in big situations.
The Packers secondary is banged up but a prime time road contest against a division rival will surely test Meredith. If he continues to excel, Bears brass might reconsider the necessity of re-signing a far-more-expensive Jeffery.
Rushing Attack/Play Calling
The lack of balance on offense has been a glaring weakness of this struggling Bears team all season.
To me it seems simple: Run the ball and control the clock, which leads to fewer turnovers and reduces the time your defense is on the field. This seems to be a concept offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains struggles to grasp week in and week out.
The Jaguars last week were able to limit the impact in the run game and Loggains went pass-heavy again, having Brian Hoyer throw the ball a season-high 49 times. Loggains is asking a quarterback -- who is a questionable starter in the first place -- to throw the ball 49 times and carry the offense? Hoyer has limited downfield capability, which cuts down both the playbook and the areas of the field in which the Bears can attack through the air.
Jordan Howard struggled to get going, so the Bears abandoned him in favor of Ka’Deem Carey. The same running back who rushed for back-to-back 100 yard games in his first two career starts was benched at the first sign of struggle.
Coaching has been an issue for the Bears all season but it’s fair to question if Loggains is in over his head. He’ll have the next 10 games to prove that notion wrong but, barring a serious change, it’s hard to see Loggains back in 2017.
In his fourth start of the year, Hoyer finally showed serious flaws, especially down the field. He became the first passer in franchise history to throw for four straight 300-yard games but Sunday's outing was more about what he didn’t do.
Hoyer has yet to throw an interception but it’s starting to reach a point where many are wondering if he's afraid to throw an pick? He’s not taking many risks, which is fine to a certain extent, but with an offense that ranks seventh in total yardage and dead last in points, something doesn't add up.
Jay Cutler won't play this week, so it’s going to be Hoyer again Thursday night. If he plans on keeping the starting job throughout the season, he needs to start taking chances and get the ball in the end zone at a much higher clip.
One of the selling points of head coach John Fox has always been his ability to land top-notch coordinators that can help build a consistent on-field product. After somewhat overachieving last year with a 6-10 record, the results have been much different this season and seem to be trending in the wrong direction.
His conservative approach -- coupled with poor clock management and an undisciplined team that has incurred 28 penalties the past three weeks combined -- has warmed up Fox's seat.
Alongside Fox is Loggains, who has struggled mightily to build on the strides Adam Gase made last season, and Fangio, whose snake-bitten defense can't string together consistent performances, particularly late in games.
It's still far too early to call for an immediate coaching change but it's time for this coaching staff to live up to expectations. Beating a division rival would be a good step in the right direction.
A Few Thoughts
- The offensive line continues to perform at a much higher level than they did in the first two weeks of the season. Consistency is a key for them but the front five is shaping up to be a nice building block moving forward.
- After highlighting both Connor Barth and Pat O’Donnell as keys to last week’s game, following rough starts to the year, both performed well against the Jaguars. Can they follow it up with a second straight week of quality special teams play?