By Chris Emma–
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (CBS) — Confetti over Lucas Oil Stadium had hardly begun its descent as Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery began his long strides to the tunnel.
He waited on the far end of the visitors’ sideline, with the nearest angle to make a break for the locker room. When Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s knee hit the turf to clinch a 29-23 loss and 1-4 start for the Bears on Sunday, Jeffery was gone. Long after the final whistle, he sat head down in his locker still suited in pads as if he had another chance to win the game.
The Bears posted 522 yards of offense — including 397 through the air from Brian Hoyer and 118 on the ground from Jordan Howard — and somehow lost.
“We should’ve won this game,” Bears guard Kyle Long said.
There were 127 total plays run from scrimmage in Sunday’s contest in the Circle City, all of which factored into the outcome of this game. That’s not how a competitor views it, though. It’s certainly not what Jeffery was thinking as he sat in his locker with the feeling of despair.
Jeffery was thinking about a touchdown to win the game — the ball that wasn’t thrown his way.
On fourth-and-8 with 1:02 remaining in regulation and the Bears trailing by six, Hoyer dropped back in the pocket and failed to notice his top receiver — one of the NFL’s best targets — was wide open for the winning score. Hoyer thought the Colts would play two-man coverage, as did Jeffery. He assumed double coverage and looked to Cameron Meredith over the middle. Assuming any kind of coverage is a major mistake.
Hoyer and Meredith couldn’t connect. Jeffery stood there in the end zone with his arms raised to the air. He was open, and he knew it.
“They disguised the coverage,” Hoyer said after the game. “You just try to go through the progression. Obviously, a play that you’d like to have back.”
Jeffery was relaxed when he met the media but acknowledged he was there for the score.
“You’ve seen the play just like I’ve seen the play,” he said.
Hoyer seems set as the Bears’ starting quarterback moving forward, with Jay Cutler becoming the backup. He was terrific again Sunday, going 33-of-43 for 397 yards and two touchdowns. With the Bears trailing in the fourth quarter, Hoyer led an eight-play, 96-yard scoring drive, which was capped by a well-designed pass to Howard, who took it in from 21 yards.
Sunday saw the Bears have no problem moving the ball down the field. Their issues came with moving it into the end zone. It’s pretty hard to post 522 yards and just 23 points, but the Bears did so in their latest loss.
So long as Hoyer is leading the Bears’ offense — perhaps for 11 more games — Jeffery may not be a big factor.
Hoyer’s game is efficiency. He’s yet to turn the ball over through three games, part of the reason the Bears have turned to him over Cutler. With that, Hoyer hasn’t taken many chances. Jeffery has been mostly doubled in coverage, something that’s proved to be true with and without Kevin White lining up wide.
With coverage tight on Jeffery, Hoyer hasn’t taken many risks. He connected with Meredith nine times for 130 yards and a touchdown Sunday, targeting the second-year receiver 12 times. Eddie Royal (nine targets) and Zach Miller (eight targets) each had seven receptions on the game.
Jeffery, the Bears’ top receiver, had just five receptions for 77 yards and was targeted six times. Does Jeffery miss Cutler’s big arm?
“All I know is that we didn’t win the game,” Jeffery replied. “I’m not concerned about who got me the ball or none of that. We didn’t win the game. That’s all that matters. As long as we win, that’s all I care about. I don’t care about getting the ball or none of that.”
Jeffery shouldn’t expect to see the ball much from Hoyer. Fantasy football players, go pick up Royal or Meredith for your squads.
By starting Hoyer, the Bears are going to play this kind of game — they’ll move the football well and minimize mistakes. Hoyer is an accurate quarterback and smart leader for the offense. The issue is that he just hasn’t taken enough chances and probably won’t as long as he’s playing.
The Bears had a terrific game plan and racked up yards but couldn’t finish drives in the end zone.
“If we don’t win the game, that shit don’t matter,” Jeffery said of the stat-sheet stuffing.
Through five games, Jeffery has zero touchdowns. Even with their offense clicking under Hoyer’s watch, he’s hardly gotten the opportunities. While winning is what’s most important for Jeffery, his prove-it franchise tag deal must be in mind, too.
As the Bears watch the film Monday and evaluate their struggles to score, they shouldn’t have to look far. All Hoyer had to do was look to his left, where the Bears’ top target was wide open for the win.
As the confetti fell for a Colts win, Jeffery was already gone.