The Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots is another game that many Bears fans will feel they had a shot at winning. The main focus of most of the post-game analysis is likely going to fall on the following points:
Disastrous specials teams play
It looked like it was going to be a good day when Nick Kwiatkoski stuck out his left arm forcing Cordarrelle Patterson to cough up the ball on a kick return. This handed the Bears great field position and ultimately their first lead of the day on a crazy, crazy Trubisky run. Things went downhill quickly for the special teams unit though as they gave up 14 points off Patterson‘s long return and then D’onta Hightower and Kyle Van Noy combined on a blocked punt and return touchdown.
Matt Nagy’s play calling
It’s easy to question a coach’s decisions after a loss but there were a number of calls that left fans scratching their heads, for example:
- Attempting a pass to Bradley Sowell (yes, Bradley Sowell!) in the end zone when Jordan Howard was proving difficult to stop.
- Choosing to complete a short pass (7 yards to which Cohen added another 12 in YAC) instead of attempting a 58-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
- After watching Jordan Howard‘s second TD run get called back on an illegal formation penalty, calling three consecutive pass plays from the 6-yard line (the third play, a screen pass to Cohen, did result in a touchdown).
Calls like these will start to grate when a team loses games that they had a chance of winning.
Mitch Trubisky‘s low completion percentage, errant passes, two interceptions and (at least) another two near-interceptions were the low points of his and the offense’s day. There were positives too:
- Over 300 yards and two passing touchdowns for the third consecutive week
- A number of dazzling runs highlighted by an 8-yard score in which he covered 71 yards of the Soldier field turf
- Improved mastery of the offense use of cadence and changing plays at the line of scrimmage more than in previous weeks
Despite having a poor day, he stuck with it, led his team to a fourth-quarter score and was a half yard short of taking the game into overtime.
Khalil Mack is clearly injured and getting double teamed on one leg is not an easy thing to overcome. The Bears pass rush thrives when Mack is ready to go but, for a second, consecutive week, it was almost non-existent against the Patriots.
Questions will also be raised about; the amount of time that outside linebackers (Mack and Leonard Floyd) we’re being asked to drop into coverage, the number of holes in the secondary, the busted coverage that led to James White‘s second score, and, yet again, missed tackles.
Under the Radar
Aside from the major headlines, highlights and lowlights there were many other points that were not just critical to this game but that may develop into bigger stories over the coming weeks.
Hands of stone
Trubisky’s QB rating wasn’t helped by his pass catchers inability to secure routine completions. There were numerous drops with Dion Sims, Josh Bellamy, and Allen Robinson all putting the ball on the floor when it looked appeared to be easier not to.
Bilal Nichols may be a full-time starter on the defensive line before Christmas. He consistently made plays; hurrying the quarterback, making tackles in the backfield, forcing and recovering a Sony Michel fumble and lining up a sack for Roquan Smith that forced the Patriots to settle for a red zone field goal – This play also proved that the blitz can be an effective weapon – hopefully Vic Fangio takes note…
A Prince amongst men
Prince Amukamara putting a big hit on Julian Edelman and taking him down for a loss of yardage is a testament to good film study. The Patriots have a screen from a trips/ bunch formation that they like to dial-up a lot in short yardage situations. Tom Brady slings the ball to the outside receiver while the inside two block down – it’s normally good for at least 4-5 yards and it had already been called once earlier in the half.
Inside the two-minute warning at the end of the first half at third and two from their own 25-yard line, Amukamara diagnosed the play and smashed Edelman a fraction of a second after he secured the ball.
A tale of two stats
- The Bears Defense has still allowed zero rushing TDs this season. Whilst it might’ve looked like they did, James White‘s second score was a 6 inch forward pitch to White and so goes down as a pass.
- The Bears are rock bottom of the league in the fourth quarter and over-time points differential i.e. they’re getting heavily outscored near the end of games. Whilst some of this is situational as their opponent’s pad stats in “garbage-time”, the Green Bay and Miami comebacks don’t help the numbers. This is something the Bears will have to improve on if they’re to win out in tight games.
Aside from the “big stuff” on special teams, there was also a worrying trend of bad decision making. On four occasions, Benny Cunningham elected to bring the ball out from his own goal line. The gamble for a returner is that they’ll be able to “win” by bringing the ball past the 25-yard line where the Offense would have the ball in the event of a touchback. Cunningham “won” on one of his four attempts and all four looked like the wrong decision in real-time.
Despite having been torched by Patterson on his 95-yard touchdown, Cody Parkey elected to kick to him again in the 4th quarter after Trey Burton‘s score. The Bears were looking to pin the Patriots deep but Parkey’s short kick was returned to the 41-yard line which immediately eased the pressure on the Patriots – as evidenced by the final play, every inch of forward progress helps impact the result of a game.
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