Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky walked gingerly off the field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum following the Bears’ 17-7 loss to the Rams Sunday night.
In a way, it was an analogy for the Bears’ 2019 season. The team is wounded and defeated and limping toward the exits.
What can be made of the Bears’ most recent defeat? It was their fifth loss in six games, and the seventh time all season in which the defense held the opponent under 20 points.
Bears offense just can’t score points
No matter what silver linings appear in the storm clouds of the Bears’ 2019 season, one simple, regrettable fact remains.
The Bears offense just can’t score enough points to win.
Trubisky actually threw the ball a little better on several occasions against the Rams. He developed a nice rapport with Anthony Miller. He swung the ball nicely to Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel and allowed them to make some plays in space. He continued to use Allen Robinson as a security blanket.
And yet, the Bears scored just 7 points. Why?
Well, two drives stalled and resulted in missed field goals by Eddy Pineiro. Most of the others came from questionable decision-making or misthrows downfield.
Trubisky’s timing and downfield accuracy remain suspect
Although Trubisky developed a rhythm on underneath routes that enabled the Bears to retain possession and sustain some drives, the struggling quarterback just couldn’t connect on the big play when it was needed.
Trubisky underthrew Cohen on a wheel route that could have gone for six, or at least resulted in a big gain. He threw underneath to Robinson when the receiver actually had a beat on his defender and was looking for the ball up top. And, perhaps the most egregious, he underthrew Miller on what was all but a guaranteed touchdown early in the game.
These are the types of plays that an NFL quarterback has to make. You can only dink-and-dunk your way down the field for so long before the defense forces you to make a big play.
In three seasons in the league, we have not seen Trubisky’s downfield accuracy improve. And, in fact, we might have seen it regress.
Bears’ defensive efforts continue to go to waste
The Bears defense is not without its blame. No matter how good a unit might be, there’s always room for improvement.
For the defense, it was in the run game.
Without two of their top wide receivers, the Rams offense fed the ball to running back Todd Gurley early and often. Despite running behind a banged-up, patchwork offensive line, Gurley rushed 25 times for 97 yards and a touchdown.
If those numbers seem underwhelming, it’s because the Bears actually played much better run defense in the second half. In the first half, Gurley rushed 12 times for 64 yards (5.3 yards per carry). In the second, Gurley rushed 13 times for just 33 yards (2.5 YPC). Clearly, the defense adjusted and stepped up its game.
But how do you fault the defense for allowing just 17 points? The Bears are allowing on average 17.4 points per game, which ranks them 4th in the NFL.
One time, loudly from the cheap seats: you cannot play much better defense, nor can you ask much more from them!
The defense is still young and mostly under contract, so they have a Super Bowl window for that side of the ball. But how much longer will the offense keep their own window closed and locked?
Bears need to play rest of this season with the next in mind
Although they won’t publicly acknowledge it until mathematics say so, the Bears do not factor into the playoff picture.
Which means, everything they do for the remainder of the season must be with an eye toward the future. And if this is the case, it makes little sense to switch to quarterback Chase Daniel.
I can only make one argument for inserting Daniel into the starting lineup. It is awfully difficult to gauge your skill position players when a quarterback cannot find them and deliver the ball accurately. Thus, if Daniel “knows the system” and can throw the ball better than Trubisky can, he might be able to test such young players as Miller, Javon Wims, and maybe even Riley Ridley. Perhaps the Bears bring up one of the young tight ends on their practice squad and let them audition for a role.
I also think the Bears need to show us a heavy dose of David Montgomery — assuming his ankle injury improves. The Bears have fared well out of the I-formation and while using a lead blocker for Montgomery. I’d keep handing Montgomery the ball in a similar fashion to what the Rams did with Gurley in the first half. Keep running until the defense stops you.
No more of this “run for 7 yards, run for 5 yards, run for 8 yards and then pass it the next 15 plays.”
Where the Bears go from here
The Bears have two more “favorable” games in the month of November before hitting the Murderers’ Row December stretch.
They first head home to take on the New York Giants in a very winnable game. Then they head to Detroit for a rematch with the Lions on Thanksgiving morning. Feel free to eat turkey and drink wine until you pass out on the couch after that one.
The Bears legitimately can win both of those because neither of those opponents are all that dominant on offense. And, as we’ve just discussed, the defense continues to play well.
After that, the Bears face a December stretch which includes the Cowboys (6-4), the Packers (8-2), the Chiefs (6-4), and the Vikings (8-3).
It is the NFL, and there’s always a hint of “anything can happen” on any given Sunday. But the Bears can’t be concerned with games that far ahead. The first goal is to take what they do well and use it to the best of their ability next Sunday against the Giants.