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A bad last drive and amnesia about Jordan Howard doom Bears

It’s an existential question that might make you wonder what the point of it all is: Are the Bears that good a bad team or are the Lions that bad a good team?

What we can say for certain is that the Bears played hard Sunday in Detroit, which sounds a bit patronizing though it’s not meant to be. They also played well enough to win. But thanks to a late drive that was an ode to human error, they ended up losing 20-17.

What does it all mean? That quarterback Matt Barkley has a future with the Bears? That Dowell Loggains ought to have his offensive coordinator license revoked for letting Jordan Howard run the ball just 13 times? Or that you’re born, you live a life of quiet desperation watching the Bears and you die? Maybe all of the above.

First, that final Bears drive. Down by three late in the fourth quarter, Cameron Meredith turned Barkley’s short pass in Lions’ territory into a 27-yard gain. But a holding call against tackle Charles Leno Jr. brought it back. On the next play, a hold by guard Ted Larsen wiped out a 23-yard catch for a first down by Daniel Braverman.

Running back Jordan Howard vs. the Lions. (AP)

It’s very possible neither of those big gains would have happened without Leno and Larsen’s holds, but dumb mistakes late in a game are the kinds of things that happen to a 3-10 team. As if to put a holiday bow on that idea, Josh Bellamy couldn’t handle a catchable pass on fourth-and-11 with 13 seconds left in the game. If this season had a logo, it would be either an injured knee or a Bellamy dropped pass.

That’s a shame because Barkley was good Sunday. He was smart, and he was accurate. Despite the butterfingerness (trademark pending) of his receivers, he throws soft, accurate, eminently catchable passes. There has been no indication he has a powerful arm. There isn’t much zip on his intermediate passes, and he has not been allowed to throw deep. But he has been good enough with a decimated roster.

That being said, what was Loggains thinking? Howard averaged 6.6 yards a carry Sunday. He had runs of 28 and 31 yards. The Bears were not fighting to come back from a huge deficit. They didn’t need to throw the ball 32 times (to 17 runs). Loggains continues to forget about his best weapon, choosing instead to put the game into an inexperienced quarterback’s hands. That’s fine if you’re trying to put yourself in the best position in next year’s draft but not so fine if you’re trying to win football games.

Loggains looks like he has preconceived ideas of what an offense should look like rather than two eyes that can see the obvious in front of him. And where is head coach John Fox, old blood and guts, yelling into his headset for Loggains to knock it off already and run the football?

Jordan came into the game with five 100 yards games this season. He rushed for more than 100 yards in all three of the Bears’ victories. He finished with 86 Sunday. Give him 10 more rushes and maybe he breaks another big gain. And perhaps we’re discussing a Bears victory right now. With 3:17 left in the game, three timeouts left and only a field goal needed to tie, the Bears started their last drive with seven straight passes. Jordan Who?

But back to life’s bigger questions. What’s the difference between good and bad?

The Bears continue to play hard despite a miserable season. That will mean something moving forward only if lots of the players are talented enough to stick around. At this point, it looks like some indeed have potential, but there are no guarantees. What we can say for sure is that the Bears have young, driven players. The team isn’t good, but it tries hard. Bartender, participation trophies all around.

The Lions, on the other hand, are headed toward the playoffs, but nothing in their two performances against the Bears this season would give an indication as to why. Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions Sunday, the second a bad pick-six to Bears rookie cornerback Cre-Von LeBlanc in the fourth quarter. Everybody was waiting around for the Lions to cave in the way they historically have, and they seemed to have every intention of doing so against a struggling team.

But the Bears are fighting so many issues – injuries, suspensions, a lack of talent – that they can’t survive mistakes. When they put themselves in position to win Sunday’s game, they needed flawless play down the stretch to pull it off. Didn’t happen.

One team is playoff caliber, and the other isn’t. At least that’s the rumor.