The Chicago Bears are in complete free fall and in danger of having their once-promising season slip away.
The main culprit — again — the offense. It’s hard to find the right words to describe how pathetic the Bears are on offense. Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans was such an utter embarrassment (until garbage time) that it is difficult to see how the Bears can recover.
The NFL’s most penalized team, the Bears repeatedly sabotaged whatever chances they had to score by routinely self-destructing in critical moments, including, not one, but two consecutive offensive penalties on fourth-down plays.
The Titans entered Week 9 as the league’s worst third-down defense.
The Bears went 2-of-15 on third down.
All season, Tennessee struggled to stop the run. The Titans had allowed 128 rushing yards per game — until, that is, the Bears arrived in Nashville.
The Bears collectively ran for 56 yards.
Stop me if you have heard this before: The Bears wasted another solid performance by the defense. Chicago’s defense kept the game as close as it could until it predictably wore out and broke down.
The Bears are done unless the offense wakes up from its 70-year hibernation. The prospects of that happening seem unlikely.
From 5-1 to 5-4 in the blink of an eye.
Sadly, the worst may be yet to come.
QB breakdown: Nick Foles was under serious pressure all afternoon. The veteran connected on a handful of nice throws to Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Riley Ridley and Darnell Mooney, but he generally underwhelmed. There is no Plan B. Mitchell Trubisky is week-to-week with an injured right throwing shoulder. Backup Tyler Bray has appeared in one career game over seven NFL seasons. The Bears are going to have to tough it out with Foles, who cannot play well enough to put out all of Chicago’s offensive fires. Not many quarterbacks could.
Bold prediction for next week: Someone else has to call plays versus the Minnesota Vikings next Monday night. Bears coach Matt Nagy is a reasonable person. The former NFC Coach of the Year wants to win in the worst possible way. For the sake of the franchise, Nagy probably realizes it might be a good idea — even for just one week — to allow offensive coordinator Bill Lazor or quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, or maybe even passing game coordinator Dave Ragone, the opportunity to call plays. Nothing has worked on offense. Nothing. Is Nagy to blame for all the problems? No, of course not, but the head coach owes it to the team to try a different approach in Week 10.
Pivotal play: The game effectively ended when Ryan Tannehill fired a perfect second-quarter pass to A.J. Brown for a 40-yard touchdown reception that put Tennessee up 10 points. The lead felt insurmountable. The Bears were fortunate to come from behind and beat inferior opponents Detroit and Atlanta earlier in the year. The Bears cannot afford to trial in the second half by double digits and defeat quality teams, such as the 6-2 Titans. The Bears’ 5-1 start to the season proved to be a mirage.
Good luck, Nick: The Bears’ offensive line is wrecked. Already minus starting left guard James Daniels (injured reserve/torn pectoral muscle), the Bears entered Week 9 without starting right tackle Bobby Massie (injured reserve/knee), starting center Cody Whitehair (calf/reserve/COVID-19 list), backup right tackle Jason Spriggs (reserve/COVID-19 list), backup center Sam Mustipher (knee) and swing tackle Lachavious Simmons (reserve/COVID-list). Chicago opened the Titans game with just two Week 1 starters on its offensive line (left tackle Charles Leno, right guard Germain Ifedi). The results were predictable. The line struggled all afternoon. Retooling the offensive line has to be high on Chicago’s offseason to-do list — right after quarterback.
Encouraging trend: Veteran Dwayne Harris has been a clear upgrade on punt return. The Bears sent ex-returner Ted Ginn Jr. packing following a disastrous performance versus the Rams in Week 7. Ginn’s indecisiveness on punt return cost the Bears dearly in terms of field position. To Harris’ credit, he’s displayed the willingness to catch virtually every punt, even if it means taking a big hit, in order to prevent the offense from having to take over inside its own 5-yard line. Harris was a breath of fresh air on Sunday with 64 return yards.