By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) There’s no such thing as a moral victory in the NFL. A team either wins or loses, and we can find countless reasons why that happened.
As the Bears fell 29-23 to the Colts on Sunday, we saw a lot of positives, but there weren’t enough for Chicago to come away with a victory. The biggest problem the Bears had was the inability to take advantage of opportunities to score. When you miss opportunities to score seven points and walk away with just three points, a team sets itself up for a loss.
That’s what happened to the Bears, who had several opportunities to get touchdowns only to make mistakes in the red zone and end up with a field goal.
The first mistake was on the Bears’ opening drive. They got inside the Colts’ 5-yard line, but a holding penalty on a bubble screen cost them a chance at a touchdown. A drive that started with 2:46 left in the third quarter ended at the Colts’ 6-yard line with another field goal when the Bears again couldn’t get a touchdown. It was another lost opportunity.
On the Bears’ final drive, they again were in the red zone, but quarterback Brian Hoyer didn’t see a wide-open Alshon Jeffery in the left middle of the end zone. That meant there were three opportunities to score touchdowns, and it didn’t happen. Winning teams score those points. Losing teams don’t.
There were various reasons why the Bears didn’t score in these situations, notably penalties and the poor execution. Either way, it doesn’t matter. This team has to become more disciplined when it gets in these situations.
Have we seen the last of Jay Cutler in Chicago?
Over the last couple of weeks, there have been various reports saying that if Brian Hoyer keeps playing at a high level, he will hold on to the quarterback job. I haven’t put much stock into these reports mainly because Cutler isn’t able to play at this time.
On Sunday, there was a report on the FOX pregame show from Jay Glazer saying basically repeating that refrain. When Cutler is ready to play, he will be the backup. I put stock into this report because when Glazer comes out with something about the Bears, you can take it to the bank.
Bears coach John Fox doesn’t give media much information, be it local or national. The exception to that is Glazer, a close friend of Fox’s for 20 years.
Hoyer doesn’t have the natural physical traits that Cutler has. He isn’t the same athlete, nor does he have anywhere close to the arm talent, so he can’t stretch the field in the same way.
What he does have is excellent leadership and the ability to play within himself. In three games as a starter and a partial game against Philadelphia, Hoyer has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 1,094 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating is 108.5, something we haven’t seen in a four-game stretch in a long time.
Hoyer doesn’t make mistakes, and he moves the chains. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains has put together a game plan in the last two weeks that plays to Hoyer’s strengths. Going forward, the Bears now have to make sure they take advantage of all their scoring opportunities.
In the last two games, two players have taken advantage of opportunities to play. One is rookie running back Jordan Howard, and the other is second-year receiver Cameron Meredith.
Howard is turning out to be a fifth-round steal. In his two games as a starter, he has run for 229 yards on 39 carries, a 5.9-yards-per-carry average. He has also caught six passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. That’s outstanding production. While Cutler may lose his job when he gets healthy, so may Jeremy Langford.
In the last two games, Meredith has 13 receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown. He has become a favorite target of Hoyer’s, and we can look for him to show more improvement as he gets more play time.
Meredith was originally a quarterback at Illinois State and was moved to receiver later in his college career. He has outstanding physical traits but is raw. When you look at his size, length, speed and overall athleticism, he compares favorably to many of the top receivers around the league. The future is bright for Meredith.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.