By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Bears are who we thought they were.
Ten years to the date since from the Bears’ epic comeback against the Cardinals in 2006 — the one that had the late Dennis Green ranting and slapping his microphone — those words stand true again. Chicago’s 17-16 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday at Soldier Field might seem like rock bottom, but contests with Green Bay and Minnesota loom.
The Bears certainly let the Jaguars off the hook, too, blowing a 13-0 lead through three quarters. This Bears team is a far cry from that 2006 bunch that stormed back down 20-0 at halftime in epic fashion.
Frankly, there’s not a lot to be said about this Bears team.
“We got to score a (bleeping) touchdown,” Alshon Jeffery said. “That’s it. Touchdowns win games. We see what three points gets us.”
A penchant for settling for three points tagged the Bears with their fifth loss of the young season, a brutal 1-5 start in John Fox’s second year as coach. Connor Barth hit three field goals, and the offense could only muster up one touchdown.
The Bears led 10-0 and had the ball before the half. Fox botched the clock management, and the team went to the locker room with three timeouts and no points to show for it. For the game, the Bears posted 389 yards and had just 16 points to show for it.
For a rather fitting indictment, Brian Hoyer became the first Bears quarterback to throw for 300 yards and zero interceptions in four consecutive games — and yet the Bears are 1-3 in that stretch, averaging just 18.3 points.
“We got to figure it out,” Hoyer said, “and quickly.”
Three quarters suggested that the Bears defense could carry the listless offense to victory. The Bears picked off Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles twice, including once in the end zone from a brutal bounce off the hands of Allen Robinson.
Then, it all fell apart in the fourth quarter. Chris Ivory punched it in from a yard out to make the score 13-7. After the Bears were forced to punt, Willie Young came up big with a strip-sack of Bortles, and Akiem Hicks recovered.
Once again, the Bears had a chance to put the game away with a touchdown. They moved just 14 yards and were forced to into a chip-shot field goal. Their lead was 16-7 after Barth’s kick, but 8:28 seemed like an eternity for this team.
With their lead at 16-10 and 4:59 on the clock, the Bears were still looking for that drive to put the game away. Instead, they lasted barely a minute with the ball and punted after three plays and three yards.
Bortles then found former Fighting Illini standout Arrelious Benn on a quick strike that saw the Soldier Field turf monster take out the receiver and Bears cornerback Tracy Porter. Untouched, Benn got back up and took it for a 51-yard touchdown.
Standing at his locker, Young was asked about countless examples in which the Bears failed.
“Anything you guys ask or say or want to know, at the end of the day, they were the better team,” Young said, offering the all-encompassing answer to the Bears’ latest loss.
The Bears can pin this one on a coaching staff that failed to adjust and a quarterback whose flaw was exploited. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, a defensive mind, didn’t do anything special. He simply dared Hoyer to challenge his defense, and the Bears declined.
Unlike previous games, Jeffery didn’t get double coverage. He was facing rookie Jalen Ramsey, a talented athlete but a young player worth testing. Hoyer couldn’t get the ball to Jeffery during the second half. Cameron Meredith broke the century mark in receiving yards again, but he’s just the second progression for Hoyer based mostly underneath the defense.
Far too often, Hoyer threw short of the marker on third down. Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains never adjusted. Fox refused to step in and force change. Then, the defense finally caved and a lead that was 13-0 to start the fourth quarter vanished.
It could only get worse for the Bears, who face the Packers at Lambeau Field on Thursday and then the Vikings to follow. They could easily be looking at 1-7 heading into their bye week. Then, one can begin looking toward the top five of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Hello, DeShone Kizer or Deshaun Watson?
That’s for general manager Ryan Pace and the folks upstairs to deal with. Inside the locker room, the Bears vow to keep fighting. But this team’s heart was never in question.
“It’s not a lack of heart, lack of trying — our guys battled,” Fox said. “We just don’t play well enough right now and that’s on all of us.”
Indeed, the Bears are who we thought they were.