Growth from the offense but Bears still find a way to lose

Another week, another frustrating loss for the Bears. They’re close, but not close enough and seem to excel at finding different ways to lose. At least there was signs of progress from the offense this week…

I suppose if you want to clutch at straws, this loss could be a good thing in the long run. We saw a lot of growth from Mitch Trubisky and the offense and he delivered late on when the pressure was on. Ultimately what happened was the Lions kicker made one from over 50 and the Bears kicker missed one from under 50. That’s the only difference between a win and a loss.

A win would have felt good, they always do, but how much would it really matter in the long run? It would be helpful to Trubisky and his development as winning is a good habit to get into it, but you could argue that getting a higher draft pick is just as important though.

I get that picking higher doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make a better pick, and previously I always put wins over draft position as it’s no fun losing all the time. It’s not that straightforward though, I mean look at last year when the Bears beat the 49ers at Soldier Field. That game proved to be the difference between picking second and third. Why was that significant?

Because GM Ryan Pace, rightly or wrongly, thought San Francisco were going to take Trubisky and he gave up picks to trade up. Had the Bears lost that game the trade would not have been necessary, although Pace would probably have convinced himself the Browns were taking Trubisky and given up the farm to move up to number one.

Anyway, if this loss to the Lions moves the Bears up a spot or two in the draft, so be it. The main thing this year is not wins, it’s seeing progress from Trubisky and the other young offensive players. If that also results in wins then great, but they can also grow while not winning.

We saw that against the Lions, as this was definitely a big step forward from the offensive unit. The line play was way better than a week ago when they were pushed around by the Packers, and having Kyle Long in there makes all the difference, even if he is operating at about 30% health. The running game was effective and the passing attack looked the best it has all year. All of that comes down to the play of the o-line.

The Bears actually looked like a legitimate NFL offense for the first time in ages. I genuinely can’t remember the last time the offense looked this accomplished. They were good. Not great, not even ‘very good’, but good. And considering the low bar they’ve set these last couple of years, that’s a big leap forward.

They were into it right from the opening drive which saw them get down to the red zone before having to settle for a field goal. Still, I’ll take it as the Bears never do anything on their opening drive so this felt like Christmas come early.

Last week was a horror show from the coaching staff and the players. This week, Dowell Loggains mixed things up nicely. The running game was productive, with Jordan Howard going for over a hundred yards as well as finding the end zone despite limited carries. Tight End Adam Shaheen finally saw some balls thrown his way and he was productive, also picking up a TD for himself, while Tarik Cohen was on the field a hell of a lot more than he has been of late, and he made it count as he too found the end zone.

There were some designed QB runs too, with Trubisky running some zone read and also showing incredible scrambling ability to convert a late 4th and 15. An offense that had been painfully predictable a week ago against the Packers was a lot more varied and kept the Lions guessing. It was the best offensive display of the season so far, but it didn’t lead to a win because this team has zero margin for error.

For example, they can’t afford to have Trubisky fumble a snap and have it retuned for a TD, and they can’t afford their young QB to miss a wide open Benny Cunningham (I like him a lot) on the goal-line. And it goes without saying that they can’t afford to have their kicker missing from inside 50 yards as frequently as he does.

There were a number of plays Mitch would like to have back but the encouraging thing was how he bounced back from the bad plays. After the fumbled snap he marched his team down the field on a TD scoring drive. That’s progress.

So as disappointing as it was to see Connor Barth shank away all of Trubisky’s good work, does it really matter as long as the offense are improving? After the bye week the Bears had hopes of possibly finishing 7-9, maybe even 8-8 if things went their way. That unforgivable loss against a sorry Packers team last week (they were shut out at home by the Ravens this week) changed everything though.

There’s still the Browns and Niners to come, so you’d expect the Bears to end the season with four, five and possibly even six wins, but really it’s all about what we see from Trubisky now. The offense is young and has potential, and seeing that growth between now and the end of the season is far more important than however many wins John Fox can put on the board in what should be a doomed attempt to save his job.

So it was an encouraging day from the offense and for the most part the defense was good too. Unfortunately they took the second quarter off and allowed Matt Stafford to move the ball up and down the field at will. Those two quick TD’s turned a ten point Bears lead into a four point deficit that they were never able to claw back.

In the other three quarters the D did a good job keeping Stafford in check, but that’s the Bears for you. As Chris Spielman said on commentary, they’re an ‘almost’ team.

Fox nailed it afterwards when he accused his team of “taking siestas” and not playing for 60 minutes. He’s right, especially with the defense. The offense has struggled all year and it’s a lack of talent and experience holding them back, but the defense often looks great only to inexplicably have a stupid, costly breakdown.

This week the offense did enough to win but the defense didn’t deliver in the way they usually do. Still, if Barth had kicked the field goal to send it to overtime then who knows what would have happened.

Barth’s latest miss has cost him his job as he was cut and replaced by former Chief, Cairo Santos. A case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Santos was in for a try out last week, but for reasons known only to themselves, the Bears stuck with Barth and this is what happens.

It’s difficult to blame the kicker when it was clear to everybody except the Bears coaches and front office that he should have been cut last season. Had Santos been active for this game then perhaps it would have been a different story. That’s the Bears though, an ‘almost’ team.

Dave Usher

David Usher (112 Posts)

Day job is writing about footy for 'the Liverpool Way' and ESPN FC. Love the Bears and Bulls too though, which is why I'm here.

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