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 Dolphins’ 27-14 victory against the Bears at Soldier Field, a setback that dropped Chicago to 3-4 on the season and sounded the alarm bells.
What I saw
A Jay Cutler-led team hasn’t won a game at Soldier Field since Oct. 10, 2013. That’s five straight losses on the lakefront. The Buffalo loss was surprising. The Green Bay loss was disheartening. The Miami loss was maddening.
Ordinarily I save the most pertinent quotes for the “What I heard” section, but let me throw one out here that is the most important takeaway from Sunday.
“We have no identity,” Bears cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We still don’t know who we are.”
There it is. It’s been seven games of high expectations and no tangible proof that this team is any good. In their last 20 games, the Bears are 8-12. They keep making the same mistakes, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. As I’ve said before, they’re undisciplined and poorly coached.
Going into the matchup with the Dolphins, one of my worries was whether the Bears would be able to deal with Miami’s zone-read looks and the up-tempo style. The Bears failed at both.
That failure may have begun with the lineup card. Lance Briggs was determined unfit to play, so why didn’t the Bears go into this game with the same linebacking corps that played so well the previous week in Atlanta? Why was Shea McClellin gifted a starting job? He blew a few assignments, and his inability to play man coverage, along with the Soldier Field turf monster, led to Charles Clay being wide open for a touchdown.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill carried the ball six times for 48 yards. His best run came on a 30-yard scamper on a fourth-and-1 play in which he wasn’t touched until the play ended. The Dolphins effectively ran the ball, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. And that wasn’t even their best weapon.
Tannehill completed his first 14 passes. Through the first half, Tannehill had two touchdown passes and posted a 155.1 rating. A perfect passer rating is 158.3. For the game, Tannehill, posted a career-high 123.6 on the Bears defense.
Offensively, the Bears were anemic. Their approach to the game was questionable, and the in-game strategy was suspicious. On their first set of downs after a Dolphins three-and-out, the Bears had third-and-1 at their own 47. Jay Cutler saw a mismatch on the outside with Alshon Jeffery and went deep. The pass was incomplete on a drive that featured no runs. Matt Forte had only two carries for the entire first half.
Marc Trestman mismanaged the clock at the end of the half as well, failing to call a timeout with 54 seconds left and the Dolphins on the Bears’ 41. If Joe Philbin would’ve been paying attention, he should’ve melted the clock down and thrown a hail mary to end the half.
Cutler followed up one of his best games of the year with one of his worst. Cutler was 5-of-14 on passes that were targeted 10-plus yards downfield, for a total of 79 yards and an interception, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s pretty simple. In games in which Cutler doesn’t throw interceptions, the Bears are 3-0. In games in which he does, the Bears are 0-4.
Each week, you’re hoping that he’ll get better. You shouldn’t have to hope with a quarterback who’s been guaranteed $54 million.
What I heard
“Geting booed at home when you’re walking off the field down two possessions is unacceptable. Especially when there’s not a lot of noise being made on third down. Period.” — Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long on the Soldier Field crowd
Long is correct in that the Bears were only down two possessions. They also hadn’t scored a point in the half. Long has been a great ambassador for the Bears, and he probably will be again. But this was a bad look for him. Those fans want the team to win. In lieu of winning, they want to see the team play well. Neither of those things happened Sunday. To be fair, Long understood that what he said was a mistake and took those words back on Lin Brehmer’s show Monday morning.
“This is a time when we all have to look at ourselves individually — like real self-checking and look at ourselves as a team … No more talk. Just do it. That’s it.” — Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff
Notice that this isn’t a player excluding himself from criticism. Also keep in mind that this is a player who had 3.5 sacks. Ratliff could win NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. In my experience covering teams, I’ve found this use of “we” in accepting responsibility to be a more effective way of handling things.
“Right now, it’s you’re just replaying on the plays in your head, thinking of what we could have done differently. Did we call the right play? Did we execute it the right way?” — Jay Cutler
The Bears quarterback is searching for consistency. It doesn’t seem like anyone can help him, which is sad. I thought the marriage of Cutler and Trestman was a good one. I’m not sure that’s the case. And maybe there isn’t any “more” there with Cutler. You’re seeing a quarterback who looks lost.
What I was told
“Less options makes it easier to cover their primary receivers or primary read. That makes it rough.” — Dolphins coach Joe Philbin
I caught up with Philbin and asked him about how the Bears tried deal with Cameron Wake.
Jordan Mills couldn’t handle Wake, so the Bears had to allocate a minimum of two players most of the time to block him. In some cases, they had to allocate three. Wake still ended up with a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Because of the guys the Bears had to keep in to protect, it left fewer guys out on a route, which hampers pushing the ball down the field.
“It was bad in there.” — a Bears source
That’s how one Bears source described to me what went on inside the locker room after the game. I was told that there was finger-pointing, players being called out and at one point players having to be escorted out of the locker room. I’m also told that there were guys trying to keep a positive outlook to fix the problem and were shouted down. Things are ugly in Bearsville.
I come back to the same question I’ve asked all season long. Do they have the people who have the answers?
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.