Bears fumble, throw away game to Buccaneers, 29-7

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Early Sunday morning, I woke up feeling optimistic about the Bears’ chances at a victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, especially given their Week 1 success against the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

Realizing that the Bears were probably not the better team, I was fully aware of the need to play sound, fundamental football on the road in order to come through with that win.

So much did I believe that feeling that I tweeted out a reminder about the need to protect the football.

It seems former Bears coach Lovie Smith’s philosophy holds a lot more water than some might like to give credit to, as the Buccaneers took the ball away from the Bears four times, which helped bury them in just one half of play. The Bucs went on to win the game, 29-7.

As expected, calls by Bears fans to bring in the rookie Mitch Trubisky to replace Mike Glennon came faster and stronger than Hurricane Irma ravaged the Southeast coast — too soon? — but the Bears stuck with the veteran for the entire game. Glennon may have had a pretty solid game if not for the turnovers, throwing for 301 yards and a touchdown on 31-of-45 pass attempts. But the two interceptions he threw — one of which resulted in a pick-six — completely changed all discourse about his performance.

Head coach John Fox’s philosophy — and really, it’s the same for every football coach, but specifically for those who focus on solid defense and a ball-control offense — requires quarterbacks to take care of the ball, and Glennon botched that rule badly on Sunday.

Before we pile too much on Glennon, there was a lot left to be desired up and down the roster against the Bucs.

Rookie phenom Tarik Cohen, who set the fantasy football world on fire with his Week 1 performance, learned a hard lesson against Tampa Bay. Cohen inexplicably tried to pick up a bouncing punt in the middle of several Bucs special teamers and wound up fumbling the ball away. On the next play, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston connected with Mike Evans on a 13-yard touchdown to put them up 10-0.

That ultimately would be all the scoring Tampa Bay would need for the afternoon, but the fun was just beginning for them.

On the very next possession, Glennon was sacked and lost a fumble that was recovered by Tampa’s defense and nine plays later, Jacquizz Rodgers plunged into the end zone to give the Buccaneers a 17-0 lead.

Glennon’s performance was bad, yes. But he sure didn’t get much help from his receivers. The Bears’ receiving corps, ravaged by injuries and led by fringe roster players, continued to drop passes at an alarming rate.

The Bears couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Jordan Howard rushed for just seven yards on nine carries and Cohen added 13 on seven attempts. A total of 20 net rushing yards will almost never win you a game.

The Bears’ run defense wasn’t awful, holding the Buccaneers to 117 net rushing yards, which would have been less had they kept the game closer. Meaning: because the Bucs put the game out of hand early, they focused on the run game to wind down the clock. Likewise, the Bears held Winston to just 204 passing yards, but it’s difficult to gauge Winston’s overall performance given that he was gifted generous starting field position by the Bears due to the turnovers, and he had a cushy lead from which to play the entire game.

Normally the Bears optimist, I’m just very sick to my stomach right now. You’ll rarely — if ever — see me throw in the towel or turn in my Bears Nation membership card, but I’m struggling to find the rays of sunshine right now. And it’s not just their performance on Sunday that is leaving me feeling this way. One performance doesn’t make a season. It’s more a combination of the ravaging injuries to starters combined with the lack of talent at skill positions on offense that’s giving me a murky feeling.

I’m not amongst the crowd with flaming torches and pitchforks demanding that general manager Ryan Pace or head coach John Fox get fired, nor am I amongst those calling for Trubisky to be inserted into the lineup because I think Glennon is a worse quarterback than Jonathan Quinn. I don’t make decisions based on emotion.

But, I will say I’m getting closer to calling for Trubisky to play simply because I feel the Bears are getting closer to rebuilding this season than competing. Yes, there are some skeptics who have felt the Bears would be rebuilding all along this season, but that was not the case in Week 1. After the first week, I felt they were in contention to at least split the first four games of their difficult schedule.

Now, I’m fearing they’ll go 0-4 to start this campaign and might only win one or two games before their bye in Week 9. They’ve got games against the Vikings, Ravens, Panthers and Saints after their Week 4 battle with the Packers.

And I have a hard time believing there’s any valid reason for trotting Glennon back out onto the field to start Week 10 against the Packers the second time around if the Bears are a 2-win team at that point.

Barring injury, I feel confident the Bears will be starting Trubisky in November. At least, they probably should be.

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