Chicago Bears Snap Skid but Continue to Struggle

The Chicago Bears finally managed to snap their losing streak, beating the Detroit Lions 20-13. It was their first win in over a month and keeps their playoff hopes alive. It is still evident, however, that this team is far from turning the corner offensively and might have bigger issues defensively than previously thought.

Bears Snap Skid, Still Struggling

What Happened

Mitchell Trubisky completed just under 70 percent of his passes to six different receivers for 173 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came in the second half. The first score, a pretty 18-yarder to Ben Braunecker, came right before the break to give Chicago a 7-6 lead. The offense struggled mightily before that, punting on the three drives preceding the touchdown.

Trubisky’s second scoring throw came on the first drive in the third quarter, a nine-yard swing pass to Tarik Cohen. It was the second time in as many weeks the Bears scored a touchdown to open the second half. They would follow it with a well-placed, 24-yard toss to Taylor Gabriel on the next drive that put them up for good.

Chicago’s ground game remained stuck in the mud for much of the day. Matt Nagy sticking with it is the bigger story though, giving 17 carries to David Montgomery who gained 60 yards on them for a paltry 3.5-yard average. The Bears cut 2019 free agent Mike Davis over the weekend so the only other back to get a carry was Cohen, who had three totes for 14 yards.

The defense spent much of the day bending but not breaking. That would be great under normal circumstances but the Bears were gifted with Jeff Driskel start at quarterback for the Lions after Matthew Stafford was ruled out late. Chicago allowed Detroit to go 62 yards on 14 plays on the game’s opening drive. The Lions 357 total yards was their fourth-lowest output this season.

Eddy Pineiro’s missed extra point attempt made the game closer than it had to be but the defense did themselves no favors throughout most of the day. Detroit converted nearly 39 percent of its third downs. That is well over the 35 percent the Bears are allowing for the year and cause for concern.

What It Means

Chicago was just the second time in 2019 that Detroit’s opponent didn’t rush for over 100 yards. Week 8 against the New York Giants (a win) was the other. Matt Patricia, coming from the Bill Belichick school of defense, made a concerted effort to take away the running game and put the game in the hands of shaky passers.

Montgomery has settled in atop the Bears depth chart and while the yardage hasn’t been there, his ability to break tackles has been. He is tied for 18th in yards before contact per attempt and 38th in yards per carry but he is 11th in broken tackles. He also faces eight-plus defenders at the 15th highest rate which in part explains the lowly 1.2 yards after contact per attempt.

Trubisky is naturally a little easier to peg after this one. There is more of a track record to refer to. That track record shows Trubisky has his fifth-highest yardage per game output against the Lions; trailing the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and his breakout game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those, though, were 2018 one-offs.

So yes, Trubisky had a solid game by the numbers, including no turnovers (he recovered his fumble). But it wasn’t unexpected; he thrives against poor defenses. Don’t dismiss Detroit being without Stafford and the pressure that would have applied to Trubisky. Those field goals could very well have been touchdowns.

Defensively, things are trending in the wrong direction. Already getting fewer takeaways than a year ago, the Bears have seen opponents yardage totals rise of late. Over the first four games, the Bears allowed about 290 total yards per game; 229.25 passing and 61.5 rushing. Those numbers have risen to 346.25 total, 238.5 passing, and 107.75 rushing over the last four weeks.

The loss to the Oakland Raiders is square in the middle of the trends; a game that saw the Bears give up 398 total yards. More to the point, they gave up 169 yards on the ground. That is still the 2019 season-high and is almost wholly traceable to the injury suffered early in that game by Akiem Hicks.

Moving Forward

The Bears offense has seen their output fall as the defense has allowed more from opponents. They gained 273.5 total yards (183.25 passing, 90.25 rushing) per game the first four weeks. That has fallen to 257 total yards (177 passing, 80.5 rushing) per game over the last month. That Raiders game setting the tone for how things have gone.

An offense ranking 27th in points per game, 28th in rushing yards per game, and 30th in passing yards per game for the season is going to need to do more to prove it has staying power. It was still their second-lowest yardage output of 2019. It came against a team Trubisky usually does well against and that is ranked 30th in yards allowed per contest.

Danny Trevathan picked up a very Hicks-esque elbow injury and will miss time; another blow to the defense. Nick Kwiatkoski filled in admirably as he has done in the past and will be relied upon going forward. He is a better style fit next to Roquan Smith as the downhill thumper to Smith’s sideline-to-sideline presence.

Khalil Mack has taken flack for not notching more than one sack since Hicks went down. He is playing a higher percentage of snaps in that span. Likely an attempt to offset the loss of such a talent as Hicks, the results are less than promising. It would be helpful if someone other than Nick Williams (team-high six sacks) picked up the slack. It should be Leonard Floyd.

Pineiro’s missed kick made things closer than they should have been. But it was still his first miss on an extra point attempt this season. It does get slightly concerning that it comes two weeks after his two misses against the Los Angeles Chargers, including the potential game-winner. Through as many games in 2018, Cody Parkey had missed field goals and two extra points.

Nagy showed better balance in his play selection to go along with putting James Daniels and Cody Whitehair back at their 2018 positions. He received questions for declining a penalty that would have pushed the Lions back on a third-down attempt. But given the difficulty the defense has had getting off the field, allowing the three instead of possibly six probably wasn’t difficult.

 

Bears Snap Skid but Still Struggling

A win next week against the Los Angeles Rams puts the Bears back at .500, a mark that would be more noteworthy than it should be. Given the way 2019 has unfolded, the Bears have to feel good about where they are. It remains to be seen how long they will stay alive for a postseason berth. For that to happen they will need help and to help themselves.

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