The Bears’ futility on offense against the Eagles was at least understandable. With a rookie quarterback and a substandard receiving corps, the Bears just aren’t in that league.
But last week’s debacle against the 49ers raised arguably the biggest, boldest red flag of the discouraging 2017 season. The Bears gained 147 yards against a 49ers defense that ranked 28th in the NFL in total yards (374 per game), 30th in rushing and 26th in passing. Even the Giants, who ranked with the Bears among the five worst offensive teams in the NFL, gained 374 yards and averaged 5.9 yards per play against the 49ers.
“If you would have told me before the game that we were going to have no turnovers, the quarterback was going to have a 117 rating and only throw three incompletions, that we would be 50 percent on third down and 100 percent in the red area,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said, “I’d tell you that we were going to probably play well, score some points and beat an underrated football team. Obviously the game didn’t go the way we wanted.”
Loggains pointed to the lack of opportunity as part of the problem. The Bear ran just 36 offensive plays — about half the normal total for an NFL team. The defense shares part of the blame, allowing four drives of 11 or more plays as the 49ers dominated time of possession, 38:47-21:13. Tarik Cohen’s 61-yard punt return for a touchdown robbed the offense of a possession in the second quarter — not that anyone’s complaining about that.
As Loggains noted, the Bears’ running game often needs plays to get in a groove and wear down the defense. But with just 15 combined carries, Cohen (2-5) and Jordan Howard (13-38) never had a chance to do that.
“Sometimes it’s the 21st, 22nd carry,” Loggains said before shifting gears to the real problem. “And we left a lot of yards on the field. It goes back to a third-and-one and we make a mistake on a block. The last series of the game . . . we fall off a block, and we had an explosive run right there. That’s how the run game works. It takes one guy on defense to make [a] play. [For] the offense to get a four-yard run, it takes 11 guys doing their jobs with good technique.”
But you shouldn’t need a ton of chances to make plays in the passing game, and that’s where the Bears failed the most. Against a defense that had allowed 20 plays of 25 yards or more this season, including five of 50 yards or more, the Bears’ biggest pass play was 21 yards.
The way Jimmy Garoppolo strafed the Bears’ defense for 293 passing yards elicited an obvious question: If the 49ers can get receivers open with their mediocre receiving corps, why can’t the Bears?
Bad matchups, Loggains said.
“It’s based on coverage. It’s based on the matchup of the [defensive back],” Loggains said. “Sometimes you play teams that are long — you struggle to match up against them a little bit. Right now the way teams are playing us, they’re taking things [away]. They’re trying to push the ball outside the numbers. When those things start happening, we’ve got to win outside.”
There’s your problem right there.
“That’s something we’ve got to keep working on,” Loggains said. “We’ve got to get better with the releases and playing physical and playing through contact some.”
Indeed they do. The Bears have four games to work on that. But when it comes to improving this offense, the offseason — free agency and the draft — can’t come soon enough.
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