Bears in Brief – Bears shut down by Colts’ defense, lose 19-11

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Bears in Brief is a weekly column by Opinion Editor Anthony Marsicano in which he recaps Bears games and provides his own insight

Anthony Marsicano, Opinion Editor

The Chicago Bears took on the Indianapolis Colts Sunday at Soldier Field. Originally slated to be a noon game, kickoff was pushed back to 3:25 pm following the league’s decision to move the Patriots vs Chiefs game to Monday night as a result of some positive COVID-19 tests. Entering the game, the combined record of the opponents that both teams had faced so far this season was 1-17. All eyes were on this game to determine if either of the two teams were the real deal.

 

From the opening kickoff, the game was hard to watch. The Colts set the tone early in the first quarter, dominating both sides of the ball. Indianapolis marched down and scored early. It took until the second quarter for the Bears to put together a decent drive, though they could not finish in the RedZone and settled for a 27-yard field goal. Indy responded with two field goal drives to extend their lead to 13-3 at the half. The 20-minute halftime break sparked nothing for Chicago, they came out the same team they were before. Colts kicker Rodrigo Blankenship drilled his third and fourth field goal attempts of the game, one in each of the final two quarters. Late in the fourth,  facing a prevent defense, the Bears were able to find Allen Robinson for a touchdown and convert the two-point attempt with running back David Montgomery, but it was too little, too late. One pathetic onside kick attempt from kicker Cairo Santos later, and Indianapolis was able to close out the game. The final score was 19-11.

 

Likes

 

Rookie receiver Darnell Mooney has proven to be a true value pick this year. When he was selected in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft, I don’t think anyone expected him to impact the team in the way that he has so far, earning targets over guys like Anthony Miller and Javon Wims. His play of the day was this 33-yard catch that was set up by a perfectly executed route and a great ball from Foles. Mooney finished the game with 5 catches and 52 yards, setting career highs in both of those metrics. He did everything right on his long catch, and I would even go as far to say that Mooney has the potential to be one of the best deep threats in the league

Aside from Mooney, Allen Robinson has a nice statistical game, catching 7/10 targets for 101 yards and a touchdown. Aside from those two guys, there was not much else to list as positive from this game. And even regarding the two, much of Robinson’s stats were accumulated in garbage time, and if you take away Mooney’s highlight catch, he finishes with a subpar 4 catches for 19 yards. I don’t believe that all the blame rests on the receiving corps, but dropped passes were certainly a problem that needs to be addressed.

 

Dislikes

 

Speaking of rookies, while I do think that the Bears found some gems in this year’s draft, one of my biggest grievances through these four weeks has been the absence of tight end Cole Kmet, the first player selected by Chicago In the draft. Born and raised in Lake Barrington, IL, Kmet has been not only hailed as the answer to the team’s tight end issue but as a hometown hero. Through week 4, Kmet has been targeted twice, catching one pass for 12 yards. That’s it. It’s been frustrating to see reports of him excelling in training camp and his image promoted heavily by the Bears’ social media accounts, just for him to be a nonfactor in an offense that has clearly struggled at tight end. Matt Nagy even said “15 snaps are not enough. He needs to be out there more”, as if he’s a common fan and not the head coach of the team. Does he not realize that he is the very one in charge of things like this? There could always be something going on unbeknownst to the public, personal issues, or an injury or whatnot. If that’s the case, then why did we draft Kmet? Drafting an offensive lineman in place of him could have helped resolve an even larger hole in the offense for a long time. If Kmet is good to go, then I see no logical reason why he should not be more involved in the offense.

It’s been a long time coming, but I have taken issue with the playcalling. Bill Lazor was hired as offensive coordinator this past offseason, but many speculate that head coach Matt Nagy has not fully relinquished playcalling duties. Dating back to when Nagy was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2018, he has been labeled an “offensive guru”. This title was earned by doing things like drawing up touchdown plays for lineman and experimenting with gadget running back Tarik Cohen. And it was awesome to see things like defensive lineman Akiem Hicks rushing for a touchdown à la William “The Refrigerator” Perry back in the 1980s. The novelty and excitement surrounding these plays quickly wore off once the Bears started losing as many games as they won in 2019. Fast forward to Sunday’s game where the offense looks abysmal. The play that perhaps sums up the entire performance is when the Bears, facing third down and 18, called a screen pass. They failed to get the yards needed for the first, which became a theme throughout the day, as Chicago only converted 4 out of their 14 third-down attempts. For the many wondering how an “offensive guru” only scores three points in as many quarters, look no further than third-down percentage. 

Chicago was shorthanded at the running back position after Tarik Cohen tore his ACL last game, but that is no reason to abandon the rushing game the way that they did. They rushed merely 16 times, and Foles and Mooney accounted for 3 of those carries, both ended the day with a negative amount of yards. Bears’ runningbacks only had 13 rushes. For comparison, the Colts’ RB committee split 35 total carries between three different backs. The Bears are the only team in the NFL who has yet to score a rushing touchdown. They are 26th in rushing play percentage and 23rd in attempts per game, even though they get the 12th most yards per rush attempt. Additionally, Nagy needs to get more creative in his design of run plays. Every snap Nick Foles was in shotgun, they passed, when he was under center, they ran. This was a pattern that did not change the entire game, and the Colts, like any competent defensive unit would, caught on. Before the season I was hoping that the Bears would sign a veteran running back, Adrian Peterson or Leonard Fournette would have been ideal. Those guys found teams a while ago and the Bears signed another veteran back, Lamar Miller, to their practice squad Monday. Hopefully, the former Pro Bowl RB can fill the gap left by Cohen.

 

Recap

 

This was a frustrating game to watch, to say the least. The Bears didn’t just lose, they got bullied by the Colts. The defense was nowhere to be found when we needed it the most, and Phillip Rivers made sure they heard it. For years, Rivers has been arguably the most annoying player in the NFL, known for his infamous PG-rated trash talk after almost every single play. This is a guy who threw 20 interceptions with a miserable 48.6 QBR last year stopping in the middle of a play to trash talk defenders. Not something you want to see as a Bears fan. 

The Colts’ stellar defensive play and reliable rushing attack seemed familiar, it reminded me of what I expect the Bears to be. Indianapolis came out of this game with their defense ranked as the best in the league Their secondary, led by cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Rock Ya-Sin, clamped Bears receivers all game. On the defensive line, tackle DeForest Buckner was a game-changer, the new Colt showed all day why he deserved the lengthy contract extension given to him during the offseason. The awful Bear’s offense and subpar offensive line just could not handle all this. We saw what happens when an unstoppable force meets an extremely movable object.

The Bears have a short week before facing off against the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football. The Bears played both the Bucs and Brady last in 2018 when Brady was still on the New England Patriots. Mitchell Trubisky threw for a career-high six touchdown passes to beat Tampa, and had another impressive outing against Brady and the Patriots, but Chicago came up just short of a victory. Foles is familiar with Brady too. Before you argue that History may be on Trubisky’s side entering the game, we cannot forget the last time Foles played Brady. The last time the two met as starting quarterbacks was in Super Bowl LII, where Foles won both the game and Super Bowl MVP honors for the Philadelphia Eagles, dethroning the defending champions. That was close to three years ago, Brady looks to extend his career record against the Bears to 6-0, while Chicago needs a statement win to prove they can be playoff contenders.