Just a start? Rookie Leonard Floyd makes an impact in NFL debut
HOUSTON — Leonard Floyd’s first NFL sack was a blur, even to him.
“It felt like a dream. I can’t really remember what move I did,” the Bears rookie outside linebacker said. “I think he [left tackle Chris Clark] tried to overset me and I quickly went outside of him and the quarterback was right there.”
Floyd actually shared the sack with nose tackle Eddie Goldman, but let the record show it was mostly Floyd’s play. On a first-and-10 from the Texans’ 21-yard line in the third quarter, with the Bears leading 14-13, Floyd beat Clark swiftly to get to Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler first, with Goldman there to clean up. Clark is a back-up playing for injured starter Duane Brown, but he was a full-time starter on John Fox’s Broncos 2013 team that played in the Super Bowl. He didn’t beat up on somebody who didn’t belong out there.
Two plays later, Floyd pressured Osweiler to at least influence a third-down incompletion that forced a punt. Those plays didn’t make a difference in the Bears’ 23-14 loss in their season opener. But just that Floyd started at outside linebacker after “choppy and inconsistent” training camp and preseason and looked like he belonged out there — he also had six tackles — provided more than a morsel of hope that a Bears defense that was uneven at best Sunday will get better.
“I feel good about the plays I made,” said Floyd, the ninth overall pick in the draft. “Got some improvements to make. I believe I can impact and help this team. And I’m going to do whatever I can to help us win.”
The Bears’ defense was choppy and inconsistent. Tracy Porter intercepted Osweiler’s third pass of the game on the Texans’ first possession, which the offense parlayed into a touchdown for a 7-0 lead. But the Bears also allowed too many big third-down conversions. The Texans were 12-of-20 — including Osweiler’s 18-yard touchdown to rookie Will Fuller on a wide receiver screen that flummoxed the entire defense and gave the Texans a 20-14 lead in the fourth quarter and Osweiler’s 35-yard pass to Fuller on the following drive that set up an all-but-clinching field goal.
After allowing 102 rushing yards on 19 carries in the first half, the Bears held the Texans to 29 yards on 16 carries in the second. But the big plays in the passing game rendered that improvement ineffective.
“I don’t think we need to see the film — the scoreboard says it all,” defensive end Mitch Unrein said. “I felt like there was some good in it, but we have to build on it. It’s real frustrating right now. We know what we have. We just have to take that next step. But it’s about wins and losses. And we didn’t pass that test.”
There were overt signs of improvement from a defense with 11 new starters from last year’s opener — particularly inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman (17 tackles, one tackle-for-loss) and Danny Trevathan (11 tackles, one sack). But the loss left players lamenting what should have been.
“Leaky yardage,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “Me personally, that’s something I need to control better.”
“Got to do a better job of getting pressure on the quarterback,” outside linebacker Willie Young said.
“We came out with enthusiasm,” Porter said. “But we kind of settled in the second half and we can’t do that.”
Though this is a lot of room for improvement, but also a long way to go. This defense should get better with more snaps, and more Leonard Floyd.
“We gave up too many points. That’s unacceptable to us,” Porter said. “But we did some real good things. We forced a couple of three-and-outs. We had a turnover. We had a couple of fumbles that didn’t bounce our way.
“It just shows the direction we’re going. We just have to continue to keep working and bond as a unit. I think we’ll be just fine.”