The Arizona Cardinals are one of the top teams in the entire NFL. They have one of the most explosive offenses and have had one of the strongest defenses.
The Bears’ 33-22 loss to the Cardinals was about what you could have expected against such a team.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, he of the 4-foot-10 frame (I kid), played like Goliath, rushing for 59 yards and two touchdowns while also throwing for two more scores and finishing with a 136.9 passer rating.
His counterpart, Bears quarterback Andy Dalton? Considerably worse. He threw for 229 yards and two touchdown passes, but he also threw four picks and finished with a passer rating of just 54.9.
We really don’t have to go into much more detail than that. When you’re beating another team in yards and time of possession and yet you’re behind on the scoreboard, something bad must have happened. For the Bears, it was a sequence of poor connections between Dalton and his rag tag group of receivers that set the offense back early.
Jakeem Grant, the primary return man, was the Bears’ leading receiver on Sunday. That should tell you all you need to know about what Dalton and the offense had to work with. Dalton had an anemic 5.6 yards per attempt because everything was short and underneath the defense. In fairness to the Bears, the Cardinals do have a good pass rush, where Chandler Jones — yes, the guy taken two picks after the Bears selected Shea McClellin — wreaks havoc in opponents’ backfields. Getting the ball out of Dalton’s hands quickly was a prerequisite.
But on Dalton’s first pick, which was the Bears’ first possession of the game, he threw it out of reach of Grant’s diminutive frame, and the receiver tipped the ball into the defender’s waiting arms. Four plays and 28 short yards later, the Cardinals scored a quick touchdown to secure a lead they would never give up.
The Bears moved the ball better on their second drive, going 55 yards on 10 plays in 7 minutes. But for the second time in as many possessions, Dalton was picked off when tight end Cole Kmet fell to the ground and bobbled the ball right into the hands of a Cardinals defender. They returned the ball 77 yards to the Bears’ 15-yard-line. Five plays later, the Cardinals offense punched in another score to go up 14.
Kudos to the Bears offense for not giving up at that point. Once more, Dalton engineered a sustained drive, marching the Bears 77 yards on 13 plays in just under 8 minutes. David Montgomery, who had a terrific game, punched the ball in from one yard out to cut the lead in half.
The momentum was short-lived, though, as the Cardinals scored their third touchdown in as many possessions to take a 21-7 lead midway through the second. That’s how the first half ended.
After a Cardinals field goal to open the second half, the Bears drove the ball 73 yards on 13 plays in just over 7 minutes to cut the lead to 10. Jimmy Graham showed up in the red zone for the score.
From there, it went downhill.
On the Bears’ next two possessions, despite moving the ball well, Dalton was picked off two more times. The Cardinals scored 10 points off those turnovers and essentially put the game out of reach at that point.
Remarkably, the Bears offense was incredibly productive from a yards and time of possession standpoint. But when you turn the ball over 4 times, stats don’t really matter. Their 22 points still weren’t enough and very few teams will find success when losing the turnover battle. Just ask Lovie Smith; he was on to something.
With one more loss, the Bears will assure Matt Nagy finishes with his first losing season as head coach. And yet, it’ll also go one step closer to his dismissal at year’s end.
The Bears have a big game Sunday night against the Packers. And another embarrassing, nationally-televised prime time loss to the franchise’s biggest rival will almost assuredly seal Nagy’s fate.