By Chris Emma—
CHICAGO (CBS) – Perhaps there will be a day to come in which Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has a cast of game-changing players on the field with the game on the line, but that certainly wasn’t the case in a 27-24 loss to the Lions at Soldier Field on Sunday.
Facing fourth-and-13 at their own 38-yard line with just 28 seconds remaining, the Bears needed a big play to extend the game. Kendall Wright, Dontrelle Inman, Tre McBride and Daniel Brown couldn’t get open, Tarik Cohen was watching from the sidelines and Alshon Jeffery is a Philadelphia Eagle, so Trubisky was forced to do it all by himself.
Trubisky showed his terrific mobility by scrambling from the pocket and maneuvering through Lions defenders guarding the first-down marker. He went 19 yards into Detroit territory and gave his team a chance to tie.
But the efforts of Trubisky weren’t enough. In the final seconds, the Bears were let down by Connor Barth shanking a 46-yard field goal that would’ve sent the game to overtime, their last act on a day in which their shortcomings were again displayed. With the setback, the Bears dropped to 3-7 and stumbled to 8-18 in one-score games coached by John Fox.
Good teams find a way to win those close games. The Bears have yet to be a good team in the Fox era.
“Adversity is a great teacher,” Trubisky said. “Overcoming struggles is a great teacher.”
The Bears drafted Trubisky second overall with the belief they had secured their future at the most important position in the game. The early returns have been promising, with Trubisky going 18-of-30 for 179 yards and a touchdown Sunday. He has flashed the physical abilities that one could hope for from the second overall pick.
For all the pre-draft evaluations, there’s no true measurement of poise until a young quarterback is thrown into the fire of a fourth quarter in the NFL. Trubisky has shown early on that the spotlight isn’t too big for him.
“He has the confidence and the trust of the guys around him, and that’s a rare thing in this league for a young quarterback to have,” guard Kyle Long said. “We’re really lucky to have 10.”
The Bears opened the game with an excellent script that suited Trubisky well, using his mobility to create opportunities in taking a 17-7 lead. Cohen returned to a larger workload after playing just 13 offensive snaps in last week’s loss to the Packers, with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains working him in at running back and receiver on the opening series.
The early success on offense came due to a great plan, but the Bears were later neutralized by adjustments from Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
Loggains couldn’t counter the adjustments, and the Bears became exposed as what they are offensively – not good enough. Trubisky lost control of a snap in the second quarter and Lions cornerback D.J. Hayden scooped it and scored. The 10-0 and 17-7 leads eroded quickly, with Detroit responding with 21 points in the second quarter. Matthew Stafford kept finding seams in the Bears’ coverages, and the defense struggled once again.
Opportunity was knocking for the Bears as defensive coordinator Vic Fangio came out with adjustments of his own in the second half, but the offense recorded just two first downs in the third quarter and was forced to punt three times.
Once again, a game would be decided in the fourth quarter, and the Bears just aren’t good enough come crunch time.
“Another close one, another loss,” Long said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Games are won in this league by playmakers, a freakish athlete at receiver breaking free from defenders and or a stud at safety making a highlight-reel play that changes the game. The Bears didn’t have that Sunday and won’t for the season’s final six games.
There are quality pieces on this team and a few youngsters with star potential. But the Bears don’t have what it takes to make the fourth quarters theirs. They’re good enough to be within a score against quality opponents, nothing more.
“We just got to finish,” Trubisky said. “We’ve been in a lot of close games. The good teams find a way to close those out. We’re going to work towards that and we’re going to figure it out for sure.”