By Greg Gabriel-
(CBS) The Bears’ 27-14 loss to the Dolphins at Soldier Field on Sunday had to be the most frustrating contest of the season for Chicago fans. The Bears have played three games at Soldier Field now and have yet to get a victory. When at home, this team doesn’t play with anything close to the intensity we have seen it have on the road. Why? I wish I had the answer, but I don’t. I’m not sure the players or the coaches do either.
It’s the coach’s job to get the team ready to play both from a mental and physical level. The coaches draw up the game plan, and in practices on Wednesday through Friday, they work on the things that they feel they will need to win on Sunday.
I’m not blaming the coaches entirely. The coaches implement a plan, and the players carry out that plan. On Sunday, both failed for the Bears. The offensive and defensive game plans didn’t seem effective, but then again that may be because the players didn’t execute the plan properly. Until the tape is reviewed thoroughly, there’s no real way of telling who or what was at fault.
Trying to figure out the positives and negatives for Chicago in Sunday’s game is an odd task. There sure weren’t many positives and from what we saw, there were so many negatives. Here are a few.
A 33-year-old defensive tackle, Ratliff had his best game in a Bears uniform. He was credited with seven total tackles, including 3.5 sacks. I don’t remember the last time I saw a defensive tackle credited with that many sacks in a game. It’s an incredible feat.
Ratliff missed two games with a concussion earlier this season, but in the last two games he has played excellent football. Now he needs to get the rest of his linemates to play at the same level of intensity he is.
This is the first time all season that I have had the special teams in the positive category. The only real negative play I saw from them was when they gave up too much yardage (31) on the kickoff return following the Bears’ final touchdown. Other than that, special teams as a whole played well.
Pat O’Donnell averaged 53 yards on three punts, with two landing inside the 20-yard line. His net average was just more than 45 yards a kick, and NFL teams will take that average every game.
For the first time all season, the Bears also got some yardage on kickoff returns. Chris Williams totaled 75 yards on two returns, including a long of 50 yards. Now we need to see more of the same.
The other positive we saw was the Bears blocking a field goal attempt. With 9:47 left in the game, Lamarr Houston got a push up the middle and his hand up to block the kick. The block gave the offense some momentum, as it drove 73 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
This game may have been the Bears’ worst defensive effort of the season. Not only did they give up 27 points, but Miami controlled the ball for 37:22. You can’t possibly win a game when your opponent has the ball that long.
The run defense was poor. The Dolphins ran for 137 yards on 33 carries, an average of 4.2 yards per carry. The Bears got virtually no penetration to disrupt, and the read option confused the defense all afternoon. Players were consistently being caught out of position, allowing for big plays by the Miami offense.
As bad as the run defense was, the pass defense was worse. Yes, the Bears got four sacks, but Ryan Tannehill is an average NFL quarterback who often had all kinds of time to throw and looked like an All-Pro.
Tannehill had one of the best days of his career, completing 25 of 32 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns. This was a quarterback who was on the verge of getting benched just a couple weeks ago.
I thought that they turning point of the game was in the third quarter. The Bears opened the second half with an impressive 12-play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown. The drive used up seven minutes of clock and brought the Bears to within 14-7. If the Chicago defense could hold Miami on the following drive, the offense just might get the Bears back in the game.
But that didn’t happen.
Miami took the kickoff and marched 83 yards in 13 plays to score a touchdown and go back up by 14. The Dolphins used 7:28 of clock and basically took the Bears out of the game.
Pass coverage was basically non-existent all afternoon. Miami receivers were given far too much cushion in which to maneuver. Tight end Charles Clay wasn’t having a productive season going into the game. In six games, he had 17 catches for 146 yards and no touchdowns. On Sunday, he finished with four catches (all key) for 58 yards and a touchdown. All told, eight Miami receivers had two or more catches in the game.
In short, the play of the defense was unacceptable.
As poorly as the defense played, the offense was worse. It started with the Bears’ first possession and went downhill from there.
Chicago best defensive series was the opening series in which Tannehill was sacked on first down and Miami went three-and-out. After the punt, the Bears had the ball in solid field position with a first down on their own 38-yard line. First and second down created a third-and-1 at the 47. A first down may have given the Bears the momentum they needed. Instead of picking up the easy yard with a run, Jay Cutler threw deep to Alshon Jeffery and missed.
That series was a sign of things to come. The Bears offense was never in sync, and they attempted only 14 running plays all afternoon. Matt Forte had 12 carries for 49 yards, and Cutler ran twice for three yards. You can’t control a game without a run game.
The Bears offense committed three turnovers — one interception and two fumbles. The interception was key in that the Bears were starting to move the ball after a Dolphins touchdown.
In the previous three games, the Bears offense has averaged better than 440 yards per game. On Sunday, they had a total of 224 yards with three turnovers. Cutler was 21-of-34 for only 190 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Cutler couldn’t come up with the big plays when they were needed. That too was unacceptable.
Going forward, life doesn’t get any easier for Chicago. For the Bears to have any chance of making the playoffs, they need to finish 10-6. That means going 7–2 the final nine games. They also need to sweep all five remaining division games.
Right now, it doesn’t look as though that is a doable task. The next two games are on the road — at New England next week and then at Green Bay. The Patriots have been playing well the last few weeks, and the Bears have always had trouble winning at Lambeau Field. What looked like a bright season seven weeks ago now looks awful.
After the loss, there were reports of loud arguments in the locker room. Right now, the Bears’ worst enemy could be the Bears themselves. Are the problems they have fixable? Yes, but with the direction this team is going, I highly doubt a turnaround can happen.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who has been an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.