In hindsight, I almost would have preferred Sunday’s Bears-Texans game had been played in the closed, weather-controlled climate of Houston’s Reliant Stadium. A road game it’d have been, sure, but I’d be willing to bet the Bears would have been more competitive and successful than they were in losing 13-6 on the rain-soaked playing surface at Soldier Field.
For one thing, there would have been fewer turnovers in the dome than the six — four by the Bears — that occurred Sunday night. Were the conditions the only reason the Bears lost to the Texans? No, of course not. The Texans had to play on the same wet field and made their fair share of mistakes. The Bears lost because they couldn’t block on offense and couldn’t stop the run on defense.
Jay Cutler completed just 7 of 14 passes for 40 yards and two interceptions before leaving the game at halftime with a concussion on a hit to the head that was penalized. On the play, Cutler was supposedly over the line of scrimmage when he released the pass, which he was also penalized for, which meant the penalties were offset and the Bears got nothing out of it. So, essentially, the Texans got away with taking out the Bears quarterback without any repercussions. Doesn’t sound fair, does it?
Backup Jason Campbell stepped in for Cutler in the third quarter and was efficient, but not quite productive. He completed 11 of 19 pass attempts for 94 yards. I was satisfied with his own performance but not of the offense’s in the second half. I was a little surprised this morning to read some complaints about Campbell’s play — including a web poll asking whether Bears fans still had confidence in Campbell as the backup quarterback — but I think those are misguided. For a guy who gets hardly any practice reps throughout the week to step in on a rainy night behind a bad offensive line against one of the best defenses in the league, I don’t think he could have played that much better.
It took adverse weather conditions for the Bears to finally stay committed to the run game. Unfortunately, the Texans, who have a solid run defense, bottled up Matt Forte, who finished with just 39 yards on 16 carries. Michael Bush did well in spelling Forte and finished with 34 yards on 3 carries. However, Bush fumbled the ball away at the end of one of his runs and that nullified any momentum the Bears had at that point.
Brandon Marshall was his usual dominant self in hauling in 8 catches for 107 yards. He did, however, drop a touchdown in the end zone at a crucial point in the game. I prefer to look more at the good things he does on the field than the bad, but I think it’s only fair to point out that in the Bears’ only other loss of the season — against the Packers in Week 2 — Marshall dropped another would-be touchdown. I’m not ready to proclaim that he’s not a big-game receiver, though. I don’t overreact and panic like much of Bears Nation does. Let’s see what he does with a greater body of work.
Aside from Marshall, the rest of the receiving group failed to step up. Backup tight end Matt Spaeth had three catches for just four yards. Devin Hester and Matt Forte both added two receptions, and Earl Bennett and Kyle Adams each had one catch.
This would have been the perfect game for the Bears to utilize the tight end. Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Tice apparently agreed. Tight end Kellen Davis evidently did not.
Davis caught one pass for six yards and coughed up the ball at the end of the play. It was a turnover the Bears could ill afford to lose. He was targeted a few other times but had some costly drops. By the end of the game, the boos from the Bears crowd were raining down on Davis harder than the precipitation was.
Davis’ act is getting old and tired. He can’t block. He can’t catch. He can’t protect the football. Heck, he can’t even stay on his feet in a dry environment. He’s a glorified special teams player at best. And if I were the Bears, I would cut him today. And that’s not even me being a meatball fan who is overreacting. Davis literally offers nothing advantageous to the Bears offense, and they’re actually worse — or have the potential for disaster — when he’s on the field. At this point, Davis has worn his welcome. I don’t see how he recovers from his career up to this point. Any good plays he makes from here on will probably be greeted with sarcastic applause from the crowd rather than elation.
Moving on to the defense, they certainly didn’t play flawlessly. The Bears’ normally stout run defense allowed Texans running back Arian Foster to gather 102 yards on 29 carries for an average of 3.5 yards per attempt. Backup running back Justin Forsett gained 27 yards on 4 attempts.
But the defense held one of the most potent offenses in the NFL to just 13 points. And the one touchdown that the Texans did get — a 2-yard reception by Foster — was actually great coverage by Lance Briggs, but an even better throw and catch by the offense.
The Bears held Texans quarterback Matt Schaub to just 14 of 26 passing for 95 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Cornerback Tim Jennings added to his league-leading total by securing those two picks. Charles Tillman didn’t punch any balls free this week but he had admirable coverage on one of the game’s best receivers, Andre Johnson. And the defensive line generated a fair amount of pressure on Schaub, gaining penetration into the backfield on a number of plays but only recording one sack.
No, the game certainly wasn’t lost by the defense. They could have played better, of course, but when your defense holds an opponent to 13 points, particularly when your offense turns the ball over four times, that’s about as good as you can play against a strong offense.
If there were any positives to come out of Sunday’s loss for the Bears offense, it’s that they held in check Defensive Player of the Year candidate, J.J. Watt, and the line protected just well enough to prevent Cutler or Campbell from getting sacked. However, not letting your quarterback get sacked is hardly an indication of success. The amount of time to throw the ball is the ultimate indicator, and there just didn’t seem to be enough of it. That, paired with errant throws by Cutler and poor execution by the receivers ultimately led to a failure in the passing game. The run game couldn’t produce enough success to make up for the failures in the passing game and the rest is history.
Moving forward, the biggest question heading into next week’s Monday night showdown with the 49ers is whether Cutler will be medically cleared to play. And if he cannot go, will Campbell get enough preparation in one week’s time in order to face another of the league’s top defenses on the road in prime time?
Before the season started, most had predicted two losses for the Bears against the Texans and 49ers. And those who predicted a split knew it was more important to beat the 49ers — a conference opponent — than the Texans. But even a loss next week won’t completely derail the Bears’ season. What will derail it will be if the offense can’t figure out how to help the defense win games by moving the ball and putting points on the board.
And by this point in the season, one has to wonder if it’s too late for that correction to occur.
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