Gabriel: Grading Bears position-by-position after loss to Packers
Last night’s 24-23 Bears loss to the Green Bay Packers was the tale of two halves.
The first half was dominated by the Bears on both offense and defense, and it led to a 17-0 halftime advantage. In the second quarter, Bears DE Roy Robertson-Harris sacked Aaron Rodgers, who injured his knee on the play and was carted off. At that point, I felt that the Bears felt the game was over as backup QB DeShone Kizer was forced into mistakes and the intensity level of both the Bears’ offense and defense was not the same as it was earlier in the game.
The game changed in the second half as Rodgers made a miraculous return and led a Packer comeback, turning 20-0 deficit into a 24-23 victory. How did this happen? The tape, as always, tells the story, as does a critique of the coaching decisions made during the game.
Mitch Trubisky started off great. He made good decisions, got the ball out of his hand quickly and was accurate. At the half he was 11-of-14 for 109 yards. In the second half, the game may have gotten a bit too big for him, as Trubisky struggled with his accuracy (especially on the Bears’ final drive) and hurried some throws. His final stats were 23-of-35 for 171 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. His average per attempt was only 4.9 yards, which is poor. The number to shoot for is 7-plus yards per attempt.
Mitch’s decision making in the second half was average, and there were times when he couldn’t find open receivers. Basically it comes down to poise, and Trubisky’s poise was not what the Bears need to be a winning football team.
On the Bears’ final drive, twice he went for the deep ball when there were underneath throws available. The reality is that the Bears, with 1:29 left on the clock and two timeouts remaining, needed only 20-25 more yards to be in field goal range. Trubisky pressed and didn’t get the job done.
There were a lot of questions during the offseason regarding Jordan Howard’s fit in Matt Nagy’s offense. Many questioned his hands and receiving ability. Howard more than answered those questions with five receptions for 25 yards and no drops. As a runner, he had 15 carries for 82 yards. His overall game was superb. His patience and vision as a runner are second to none.
Tarik Cohen was supposed to be a big part of the offense. He made contributions, but he didn’t have nearly the amount of touches we thought he would have. He only had five carries and three receptions.
Michael Burton did a good job blocking and caught the only ball thrown to him for an eight-yard gain to move the chains.
The Bears didn’t get the production from their wide receivers that they had hoped for. The whole group finished the game with just 11 receptions for 100 yards
Allen Robinson started off the game strong with a great catch between two defenders for a long gain. Robinson got open on the Bears second drive in the end zone but Trubisky overthrew him. Overall, Robinson played well — he just didn’t get the opportunities.
Taylor Gabriel was a disappointment but it wasn’t his fault. He caught all five balls thrown to him, but Green Bay did an outstanding job containing him and taking away Gabriel’s run-after-catch skills.
Anthony Miller had two receptions for 14 yards — one an 11-yarder for a first down to keep a drive alive. In fairness to the receivers, they were able to uncover, but Trubisky wasn’t always able to find them
Just as Cohen didn’t get the touches we thought he would, neither did the tight ends. Trey Burton was thrown to six times but only had one catch for six yards. Dion Sims blocked well and had two receptions for nine yards. On a critical third down, Sims didn’t get deep enough on the route to be able to get the first down (part of the reason was a poor throw by Trubisky). The bottom line is Burton needs a minimum of five touches a game in this offense.
For the most part, the offensive line played well, but there were some breakdowns. On a first-down attempt after a long punt return by Tarik Cohen, Kyle Long got caught holding, negating a 10-yard run by Howard. That was a costly penalty in that drive, as the Bears came away with no points after being given great field position.
Eric Kush proved to be the weak link on the line. He wasn’t able to sustain blocks on a consistent basis. He also lost his man on a loop stunt. On a key run down late in the game, he whiffed trying to block Mike Daniels, and Jordan Howard was stopped for no gain.
Cody Whitehair blocked well, but his two poor snaps created problems for the Bears. One led to a sack and the other disrupted the timing on an inside run by Jordan Howard.
I thought the tackles played well. Charles Leno was late picking up a stunt and had some trouble with wide speed a couple of times. Bobby Massie played a consistent game. As a whole, the line didn’t came off the ball well in some short-yardage situations to get the required movement, and that was a poor part of the Bears’ run game.
There were only a couple of plays the whole game when the Bears played in their base scheme and used three down linemen. The Bears played mostly nickel with two linemen inside and two outside linebackers as edge pass rusherss.
Akiem Hicks, dominant early, had a very solid game with three tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss.
Eddie Goldman isn’t a premier pass rusher, but he has showed improvement in this area. He was his usual strong self defending the run.
Roy Robertson-Harris continued the fine played he showed in the preseason, providing excellent inside pass rush. He had the sack that knocked Rodgers out of the game, and also had two other QB hits.
Jonathan Bullard and Nick Williams also played, and while they did nothing special, their play didn’t hurt the Bears.
What can you say about Khalil Mack? He missed all of camp and then only had a few practices with the Bears after he was acquired in a trade eight days before the game. He played over 35 snaps and was credited with three tackles, a sack, a fumble caused and recovered, an interception and a touchdown. Just think what he will do when he learns the scheme!
Leonard Floyd played hard but was hampered by the club on his hand. While he was able to bring pressure, he had no sacks. He finished with two tackles (1 TFL).
Aaron Lynch did not play the entire preseason yet started the game. He is big and strong and his style of play is similar to Lamarr Houston’s. He was not credited with any tackles but did have a QB pressure and hit. Sam Acho only played a few snaps from scrimmage.
Nick Kwiatkoski started in place of first-round pick Roquan Smith and struggled. His lack of top speed and quickness was very apparent in coverage as he gave up a number of receptions. The same held true when in pursuit. Nick plays hard but just lacks the physical tools to be as effective as the Bears need.
Danny Trevathan had the best game of the inside group, with seven total tackles. He got banged up near the end of the first half but was able to return. He, too, got burned n coverage once on a crossing route.
Roquan Smith did not play much, but we saw what he soon will be able to do on a regular basis. He registered a sack on his very first NFL play. He also had a tackle in coverage. In a limited amount of reps, he was credited with three total tackles.
The group played very well in the first half, only to fall apart in the fourth quarter.
I felt that the Bears coaxed good play from their safeties — both in coverage and in run support — but it was the corners who let the team down.
Bryce Callahan may have led the team with eight tackles, but he was the player beat by a quick move on the winning Green Bay touchdown. He was also beat a few other times when he failed to keep good position.
Kyle Fuller’s biggest sin was dropping a potential game winning interception. It was not a difficult ball to handle — it hit him right in the hands at chest level. He also got beat on Green Bay’s second touchdown, where he just wasn’t able to get good enough position.
Prince Amukamara played very well early on, but after getting dinged in the second half he gave up a number of big plays. One was a long third-down reception and the other was a TD. Granted, the touchdowns came on perfect throws by Rodgers, but both Fuller and Amukamara just signed big contracts to stop these type of plays.
The special teams units played well. They didn’t give up any big return plays to Green Bay, and Tarik Cohen was able to return one punt for 42 yards. Cody Parkey was perfect on three FG attempts, and his kickoffs were better than adequate. Pat O’Donnell averaged 50 yards on his four punts. The Bears will take that any game.
To put it simply, the Bears had a 20-0 lead and let it get away. That’s on the players and the coaches. For Matt Nagy, this is two games in a row (2017 divisional-round loss to Titans and yesterday) in which he got conservative with his play calling after having a big lead. You can’t do that in the NFL when you’re playing a guy like Aaron Rodgers. You have to stay with what got you the lead; the Bears didn’t.
Many were critical of Nagy when he hardly played the starters in the preseason. Following the game he said, “... Our guys didn’t get a lot of reps in the preseason.” Whose fault is that?
Going forward, the Bears have to have a strong week of practice and get a win next week in the home opener Monday night vs. Seattle. This was a devastating loss for the players, coaches and front office, but rather than dwell on it, they must move forward.