By Laurence W. Holmes-
(CBS) Time offers the opportunity for perspective, so I thought it would be a good idea to wait each week to give my thoughts on the Bears game. The idea is that 24 or so hours allows me to watch the game over and to talk a few more people. Hence, “The 24 Hours Later” blog.
Today we break down the Panthers’ come-from-behind 31-24 victory against the Bears on Sunday that left Chicago at 2-3 and searching for answers.
What I saw
This Bears team is undisciplined and poorly coached. I could stop right here and you would understand me, but let me offer some examples of what I mean.
Remember the loss to Green Bay to end the 2013 season? Of course you do. I’m not going to go over the Randall Cobb play, but there was another play in that game that was just as maddening. There was a loose live ball on the Soldier Field turf that Bears players ignored. Aaron Rodgers yelled at Jarrett Boykin to pick it up and run. Boykin obliged and sprinted 15 yards for the touchdown. That was five games ago. Not ancient history, and yet the Bears were a victim of it again Sunday.
It wasn’t a fumble this time, but it was a loose live ball off a punt Sunday in Carolina. The Bears had three busts on the play. New Bear Teddy Williams hit the returner before he had the ball. That’s a penalty. Because the ball hit Williams in the back but wasn’t downed, it was live. Bears players not downing the ball was the second mistake. Then they stopped playing altogether and allowed Philly Brown to pick up the ball and scamper 79 yards down the sideline for the touchdown.
You would think they would learn. You would think it would be drilled in their heads by the coaching staff.
Special teams have continued to be abysmal. Besides the ridiculousness of the Brown touchdown, the Bears had an offsides penalty on a kickoff and the usually sure-footed Robbie Gould missed a 35-yard field goal. With the Bears up 21-7, a made field goal may have put the Panthers away. It ended up being a 10-point swing, with Carolina cutting the lead to 21-14 before the half was done. It changed the game.
Gould’s miss wasn’t the only anomaly. Matt Forte has had close to 2,000 touches in his Bears career. On Sunday, he fumbled for only the 17th time. Forte and Gould are two players who have picked their teammates and coaches up plenty of times throughout their career. On Sunday, no one was there to pick them up.
The offense continues to stall in the second half. In the last two weeks, the Bears have only been able to score a total of three second-half points. As colleague Dan Durkin pointed out, the Bears have more turnovers in those two games than points in the second half. Right now, the concept of the Bears having a “high-powered” offense is half myth-half memory. Whatever adjustments defenses are making, coach Marc Trestman hasn’t been able to match it.
Martellus Bennett was taken out of routes because he was chip-blocking outside of Michael Ola. Brandon Marshall was supposedly 100 percent but only had three catches. In the last three weeks, Marshall has six catches for 69 yards. And in the second half, the Panthers got wise to the Bears’ screen game.
With the game on the line, Jay Cutler threw awful interceptions. One was to a triple-covered receiver, another a silly overthrow. Both were in the middle of the field. Both were inexcusable. There’s nothing left to say about Cutler that we haven’t talked about for the last five years, and perhaps anointing Trestman the “quarterback whisperer” was premature.
Keep this stat in mind: Since Week 4 of last year, the Bears are 7-11.
What I heard
“We’ve got to make sure we take control of our job and are consistent in our fundamentals.” — Trestman on offensive issues
The problem I have with this is that Trestman doesn’t seem to understand or isn’t able to correct the issues the offense has each week. With the pedigree and reputation he has, it’s disappointing that his offense has been so easily nullified lately. Second-half scoring has been an issue since last season.
“High and over the middle of the field is never good. And it happened twice today.” — Cutler on his interceptions
“I’m always leery of guys who had to do everything for their college teams. They pick up bad habits that are hard to shake.” — former NFL executive on Cutler
Zach Kruse pointed this out on Bleacher Report: Cutler is 4-18 with the Bears in games in which he throws two picks or more. Let me take it a step further. In 31 percent of his games with the Bears (22 of 72), he’s had two interceptions or more. That’s a ridiculous number.
What I was told
“Some of our formations make it hard, but you’re right, if he (Greg Olsen) gets a free release, they’ve got no chance.” — Panthers player who didn’t want to be named.
After watching the game over, I was surprised that Panthers tight end (and former Bear) Greg Olsen was getting off the line of scrimmage without getting touched. If you let him use his speed, you’re going to get beat. The only way to try and take him out of the game is to be physical with him. Most people around the NFL use this strategy against him. The Bears didn’t, and they paid for it. Olsen was the leading receiver for Carolina with 72 yards and two touchdowns.
“Yes, similar and strictly a safety-type call … can’t block back toward your end zone and hit player in head or neck area” — former NFL referee Jim Daopoulos
Daopoulos spent 11 years as a referee in the NFL and 12 years as an NFL officials supervisor. He’s a great follow on twitter @RefereeJimD. After the “blindside” penalties were called Sunday, I reached out to Jim and asked if those penalties are comparable to the “defenseless player” rule. His answer was thorough but unsatisfying. I’m not sure what the NFL is trying to do in the name of safety, but the idea that a player can’t hit another player just because he isn’t paying attention is bizarre to me. If a player isn’t hitting someone in the back on a block or doesn’t go up high, what’s the problem?
Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.