After being stuck on anger, the needle on my Bearometer has moved to pity. Is that progress?
There were three more injuries to starters Sunday, which included the sight of rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd being strapped to a backboard because of a neck injury, yet still the Bears fought on, despite a lack of talent and, in the end, a chance.
For all intents and purposes, the game ended with a Jay Cutler interception late in the fourth quarter, but by the time the Giants’ Landon Collins had picked off that pass, the Bears were down to a bunch of guys nobody had heard of. A sack of Cutler and the accompanying fumble (recovered by the Bears), along with an illegal-shift penalty, meant that his big opportunity would come on second-and-29 near midfield.
So a miracle? Not for this sad-face emoji of a team.
The Bears played hard in a 22-16 loss to a team that had come into the game winners of four straight, so give them that. It does make you wonder where that fight was last week, when they were embarrassed by Tampa Bay, but there’s no point in revisiting that, unless pain’s your thing or you’re struggling with post-traumatic stress from that defeat, which is entirely possible.
When you step back and realize that every loss is a good thing for these Bears and their 2017 draft status, perhaps the miracle is that they didn’t come back and stun the Giants. That would have been a very Bears thing to do.
I’d like to report that they’re cooperating with the tanking strategy, but if anything is clear from Sunday’s game, it’s that the players on the field, when suitably motivated, have chosen to forget they’re overmatched and are working as hard as they can. Perhaps someone should give them the memo. A top-three draft pick could be at stake, fellas.
The Bears’ record is 2-8, and it’s not Jordan Howard’s fault. At halftime, he had 72 rushing yards on 12 carries. The concern for anyone who watched last week’s game was that the Bears weren’t going to give him the ball in the second half. But with guard Josh Sitton and tight end Zach Miller (broken right foot) knocked out of the game with injuries, the holes that had been there before shrunk. Howard had five rushes for a total of five yards in the second half. A 22-yard reception was nice. Two drops in the game weren’t.
Cutler was good in the first half Sunday, and perhaps he was good because Howard was so good. It’s something offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains might want to ponder the next time he feels the urge to call pass plays on every down. He did that against the Buccaneers, with head coach John Fox claiming afterward that a second-half deficit led to the running game being scrapped. But come on. If Howard is the only thing to be excited about on offense – and he is – give him the ball.
If you have a quarterback who is as erratic as a deer in traffic and you have a young, bruising running back who can run through people or around them, just to reiterate: Give Howard the ball.
I thought we weren’t going to talk about the Tampa Bay game.
OK, OK. But that game was why the needle was stuck on anger heading into Sunday, the way the needle has been stuck there for years. And now, pity. Injuries continue to pile up like bones at a rib joint.
Floyd ran into teammate Akiem Hicks in the fourth quarter, his head compressing against the defensive end’s leg. Some players went to their knees and prayed. Scary, scary stuff. Remember when the biggest danger in football was paralysis? Concussions have totally overtaken that in terms of public awareness, but spinal cord injuries will always be lurking as long as there is football and as long as there are necks. Floyd was seen moving as he was being transported off the field for a trip to a hospital.
The Bears’ defense played decently Sunday, but it couldn’t come up with a big play. And so much for Pernell McPhee’s midweek proclamation that “we gonna sack him’’ – him being Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who walked away from the game as clean as an Easter suit.
This was a game to hide from children who want to be kickers when they grow up. Former Bear Robbie Gould missed two extra points – two! – and his replacement in Chicago, Connor Barth missed one.
“Pity’’ and “pitiful’’ have different meanings. Both words applied at times Sunday. But at least pity is better on the blood pressure than anger.