Bears have ‘a ways to go’ after three-phase loss to Patriots

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There wasn’t a single aspect at which the Bears excelled in Sunday’s 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots. All three phases faltered, as neither the offense, defense, nor special teams carried its weight in the defeat.

The Bears were even granted the gift of not having to face tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the game due to ankle and back injuries. But not even that could help their defense.

I tweeted just before kickoff that for the Bears to have any chance at upsetting the Patriots, the pass rush would have to get to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

On the day, the Bears managed just one sack when rookie linebacker Roquan Smith broke free into the backfield and grazed Brady with a free arm before the 41-year-old hit the deck.

Aside from that, Brady hardly received any more pressure than he might expect during a training camp session from his own scout team defense.

Bears defense has been exposed

I can’t fault the defense to any great extent. There are two reasons why the Bears failed to generate a pass rush.

First, Brady is the master of getting rid of the ball quickly. He utilizes the short and intermediate routes as well or better than any quarterback in the league. It’s why he’s always had a dominant, hard-to-defend slot receiver, be it Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, or Julian Edelman. (Gronkowski fills that role as well.)

The best way to neutralize a pass rush is to dump off the ball before the pressure closes in on the quarterback. Brady did that effectively, just as Brock Osweiler did the week before and Aaron Rodgers did in the second half of Week 1’s loss.

The second reason the pass rush failed on Sunday was a byproduct of the first.

It didn’t make any sense to send blitzes at Brady because he was dumping the ball so quickly. Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had Khalil Mack dropping back in coverage to help defend the pass. Between that and his bum ankle, Mack was largely held in check and rendered ineffective.

Not that blitzes would have helped much anyway. Brady’s field awareness and uncanny accuracy help him dissect blitzes with precision.

Bears offense couldn’t cut the mustard

It was obvious early on that the defense wasn’t going to win this game by itself. After witnessing firsthand how effective the Patriots’ offensive game plan had been, I tweeted about the need for the offense to raise its level of play.

On most days, 31 points would be enough to win. That is, unless the defense (and special teams) give up 38.

As was the case last week against the Dolphins, the failure of the Bears defense necessitated more production from the offense. But Mitch Trubisky and his clan just couldn’t keep up with their counterparts.

Trubisky, who entered the game with the league’s 7th-highest passer rating, put up a 69.8 against the Patriots.

Trubisky tossed two picks and was nearly intercepted twice more — in the end zone, no less. He completed a season-low 52 percent of his passes and continued to misfire on deeper throws.

If anyone is seeking a silver lining, it’s that I’m fairly positive Matt Nagy has an offensive system that can win in the NFL. Yes, he makes his fair share of controversial calls — such as neglecting Jordan Howard on first and goal from the five-yard line. Every play caller in the NFL is second-guessed.

But the fact that so many receivers are getting open and are an accurate throw away from breaking a big play is a good sign. It shows that Trubisky needs to hone his field awareness and deep-ball accuracy more than it denigrates the offensive system.

Bears run game nonexistent in loss to Patriots

The Bears finished the day with 134 rushing yards, which actually exceeded the 108 from the Patriots. But 81 of those yards came from Trubisky, who continues to marvel with his ability to escape the pocket and make plays with his legs.

That means Howard and Tarik Cohen accounted for 53 yards on 18 carries, an average of 2.9 yards per attempt.

Unless the Bears’ passing game is humming, that’s not good enough most Sundays. And when you have a quarterback the caliber of Brady standing on the other sideline, you need to be able to run the football to keep him cold and off the field.

The Bears were never more than a touchdown behind on the scoreboard, until the beginning of the fourth quarter. Thus, they had no reason to neglect the run for as long as they did.

Special Teams were anything but special

Giving up points on special teams is the last thing you need to do when you already have your hands tied with a strong offensive opponent.

Teams shouldn’t ever allow special teams points, much less against a formidable opponent.

The Bears allowed 14 such points on Sunday.

The first seven of which came immediately following a Howard touchdown run that had given the Bears a 17-7 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Cordarrelle Patterson returned it 95 yards to close the gap to 17-14.

The Patriots then blocked a punt and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown, putting them ahead by 7 in the middle of the third quarter.

If there is anything more maddening than watching Brady celebrate touchdowns on the field, it’s watching Brady celebrate touchdowns on the sideline.

Bears have ‘a ways to go’ to be contenders

I think Nagy said what most Bears fans were thinking following the team’s second loss in as many weeks.

“It just goes to show that we’ve got a ways to go with where we’re at,” Nagy said after the game.

Following a strong first quarter of the season, the thought was that the Bears’ defense was championship caliber and was capable of carrying the team most weeks.

After consecutive losses out of the bye week, the landscape has certainly shifted. Suddenly, the defense has been exposed and a blueprint for beating it has been sketched. The defense can and will still win games but it’s increasingly imperative that the offense continue to score at the rate they have been during this losing streak — if not more.

The encouraging sign for the offense is that it’s entirely possible to improve upon their 28.3 points per game average — presently sixth-highest in the NFL. With as many “missed plays” as they’ve encountered at this early point of the season, it wouldn’t be impossible to bump that average north of 30 if they executed a little bit better.

Blue skies are on the horizon

After leading the NFC North for a cup of coffee, the Bears are back in the cellar for the moment. But help could be on the way.

The Bears have dates with the New York Jets (3-4) and Buffalo Bills (2-5) coming up next on the schedule. It’s never fair to assume victories, but let’s do so for the sake of argument. They could be 5-3 at that point heading into a 3-game stretch against divisional opponents Detroit (twice) and Minnesota.

And division games are what make or break a team’s chances at a playoff run. We’ll find out during that stretch if the Bears are contenders or pretenders heading into the final month of the season.

Former high school and college kicker. Lifelong Chicago Bears fan. I've been writing about the navy blue and burnt orange since 2007. You can follow on Twitter, like it on Facebook, or email me.