Riding high after a 3-game win streak to open the season, the Bears fell flat in a 19-11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
The Bears may have had a new quarterback calling the shots on Sunday, but exhibited much of the same sluggish offensive production they had under Mitch Trubisky.
Nick Foles completed just 62% of his passes for 249 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He finished with a pedestrian 76.4 passer rating. But what was worse than Foles’ numbers — which were artificially inflated by soft coverage from the Colts’ defense on the Bears’ final drive of the game — was the eye test. Foles was every bit as inaccurate as Trubisky on intermediate-to-deep passes, with few exceptions.
Many will argue that Foles hasn’t had the time to work on timing with the Bears’ receivers. There is some truth to that. However, not all the throws that Foles misfired were strictly timing-based. He admitted during postgame that he could have delivered a better ball to Anthony Miller, which deflected off Miller’s hands for an interception.
Foles is not the answer at quarterback, either
I wouldn’t say I’m giving up on Foles after one start with the Bears. But you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks Foles has enough juice to propel the Bears on a playoff run.
Sure, it’s possible that against a defense less formidable than the Colts, Foles will engineer better offensive output. And it’s even probable that Foles’ play the rest of the season will fall somewhere in between that dud against the Colts and the three-touchdown performance against the Falcons — in which two other scores were overturned.
But Foles is not a miracle worker, contrary to what some might think after his one half of play against Atlanta. He might deliver the ball with better touch than Trubisky does. He might read the defense better than Mitch can and recognize the correct place to throw the ball. But he’s still limited by the weaknesses in the offense, as well as by his own talent.
Maybe if the Bears defense was playing better than it has been, I’d feel better about the Bears making some kind of playoff run — but not by much.
Defense plays better against the run, but still can’t figure out pass rush
I had serious reservations about the Bears’ ability to stop the run heading into the Colts game. The Bears were gashed by both the Lions and the Falcons to the tune of 138 and 144 yards, respectively. They likely would have suffered similar numbers to the Giants had Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley not left the game early with a knee injury.
Thus, when the Colts came to town with one of the best offensive lines in football and a future superstar in rookie running back Jonathan Taylor, I feared they would run roughshod on the Bears’ defense.
For the most part, the Bears’ run defense came to play. They held Taylor to just 68 yards on the day and kept the Colts to 103 rushing yards on 38 carries for a measly 2.7 yards per attempt.
Where the Bears failed on Sunday — and where they have failed all season — is generating pressure on the quarterback. Philip Rivers, the Colts’ 38-year-old statuesque signal-caller, was sacked just once in the game. He was hardly pressured and had time to step up and make throws downfield.
On the season, the Bears have just 8 sacks, which ranks them in the bottom half of the league. The team spent a lot of money on Robert Quinn this offseason to improve a problem area from last season. Thus far, it has not panned out.
Bears got beat in the trenches
In addition to the Colts’ offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage against the Bears’ defense, their defensive line manhandled the Bears’ offensive line as well.
The Bears had previously committed to running the football in the first three games of the season. Against the Colts, however, they tried it early, failed, and then abandoned it as the game went on. The Bears ran the ball just 16 times (compared to Foles’ 42 pass attempts) for just 28 yards and a 1.8-yard average.
That’s woefully inadequate.
The Bears’ offensive line couldn’t get any push at the line of scrimmage and the Colts were living in the backfield. Under normal circumstances, that’s an unacceptable number. But what makes it worse is that the Colts played a Cover 2 defense that is by nature susceptible to the run. The fact that the Bears couldn’t run the ball enabled the Colts to just sit back and make life difficult on Foles and the passing game.
The going gets tougher from here
Not to be an alarmist, but the Bears are heading for rough waters.
After losing to the Colts, the Bears have a short turnaround before Tom Brady and the explosive Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town for a Thursday night showdown. If you thought it was difficult for the Bears to even keep up with the Colts’ 19 points, wait until Brady’s Bunch takes the field, averaging 30 points per game on the year.
They’re not unbeatable, obviously. The one “secret” to beating Brady is to send waves of pressure at him, particularly in his face. But that’s easier said than done, particularly for a Bears pass rush that has been more of a ripple than a crashing tide.
Following the Buccaneers game, the Bears have 10 days before they take on a Panthers team that is young and rebuilding, but that has multiple weapons to contend with. I’m not sure if the explosive Christian McCaffrey will be back by then. That would be the first game he’d be eligible to play in after being placed on IR. But he’s likely out for longer than that.
If the Bears lose to the Bucs and then beat the Panthers, they’ll be 4-2 and heading into perhaps their most dangerous stretch of games of the season.
In Week 7, they travel to face the explosive Rams. In Week 8, they host the Saints, who are still high-powered despite the absence of Michael Thomas. Then they travel to Tennessee, host the Vikings, and travel to Green Bay after a bye week.
That 5-week stretch will tell us a lot about the Bears, like if they’re good enough to make the playoffs. But they can’t look that far ahead. The first step is not embarrassing themselves on national television against the Bucs.