Brian Hoyer was sacked only once Sunday and even that seemed like a prudent move.
Under pressure on a third-and-seven play from the Jaguars 9-yard line, Hoyer didn’t risk losing the ball or throwing an interception. He took his sack and kept Connor Barth in chip-shot field goal range. Barth’s 32-yarder gave the Bears a nine-point lead with 8:28 left in the fourth quarter and forced the Jaguars to score twice to win.
That they did, as it turned out. And therein lies the tale of the 1-5 Bears’ woe after a 17-16 loss at Soldier Field — a prudent, steady, risk-averse and productive Brian Hoyer just isn’t good enough to consistently lead this team to victory. Hoyer threw for 302 yards. He wasn’t intercepted. And he was sacked just once. And the Bears found a way to lose. Again.
“It’s like what we talked about last week — we’ve got to find a way to score those touchdowns down there,” Hoyer said after the Bears scored one touchdown in four trips inside the red zone. “The defense does a good enough job, we can’t put them in that position.
“If I knew the answer, we wouldn’t be talking about it. We’ve got to figure it out — and quickly. We’ve got a quick turnaround [before playing the Packers on Thursday night]. We’ll look at and figure out what we need to do, whether it’s execute better, go down there and score touchdowns. That’s what we’ve got to expect of ourselves.”
Hoyer had the Bears’ offense in a groove briefly Sunday — a 16-play, 86-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter that used up 7:31 of the clock and gave the Bears a 10-0 lead on rookie Jordan Howard’s one-yard touchdown run. It was a Hoyer-run offense at its best: The Bears converted five consecutive third-down plays in that drive — all very manageable situations of one, four, eight, three and seven yards to go. Fullback Paul Lasike bulled up the middle for one, and Hoyer hit tight end Zach Miller for 10 yards, Alshon Jeffery for 26, Cam Meredith for five and Meredith again for 16 to the 1-yard line.
But after extending the third-down streak to six with a 17-yard pass to Jeffery on the next drive, the magic vanished. The Bears failed to convert their final eight third-down situations, including all seven in the second half.
Ka’Deem Carey had a bad drop on a third-and-three swing pass. Hoyer threw wildly under pressure with a blitzing linebacker bearing down on him. A third-and-goal pass for Jeffery in the end zone typified the Hoyer experience — last week in a similar situation he missed a wide-open Jeffery in the end zone. This time he tried to force a ball to a well-covered Jeffery. Both ended in failure for the Bears.
In the end, Hoyer had another manageable situation to emerge a winner after Tracy Porter’s slip led to Arrelious Benn’s stunning 51-yard touchdown that gave the Jaguars a 17-16 lead —a whole 2:49 left to drive the Bears into field-goal range. But a third-and-six incompletion intended for Meredith was compounded by Howard’s holding penalty. On fourth-and-10 from the Jaguars’ 48, Hoyer’s pass for Jeffery was batted away by rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey to clinch the Jaguars’ victory.
“It’s frustrating,” Hoyer said. “[You can] look at how it comes down at the end, but we had our opportunities early. The numbers are the numbers. We have to find ways to get in the end zone and hopefully you’re not putting yourself in that situation at the end.
“That last drive we were moving the ball and you don’t get a few yards on a few completions and you’re faced with fourth-and-10 and that’s the way it goes.”
Indeed it is for the Bears this season. And the onus is on offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and the Bears’ offense as a unit to step it up, because the he Bears are getting just about all they could expect out of Brian Hoyer. Relying on him to put the offense on his back is a little much. In Hoyer’s last five NFL victories — over the Lions this season and four with the Texans last year — his defense has not allowed a touchdown. That’s how you win games with Brian Hoyer.
Timing is everything. In 2011 when Jay Cutler suffered a broken thumb — and the Bears scored nine touchdowns on defensive and special-teams returns — the Bears would have gone to the playoffs with a back-up as efficient and error-free as Hoyer. But with those days long gone, they need a savior more than a back-up at quarterback. This was the fourth consecutive game Hoyer has thrown for more than 300 yards without a giveaway — and the Bears have lost three of them.
It is what it is. And Hoyer is what he is. He’s doing the best he can.
“You’ve just got to keep pressing on,” Hoyer said. “I’m not going to lose faith in myself. I just go out there and keep playing the way I have. We have to figure out [how] to score those touchdowns and just be ahead at the end as opposed to being put in that situation.”