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In the aftermath of the Bears essentially bowing out of the 2015 season with Sunday's loss to the 49ers, dropping to 5-7, should a fan re-assess the job general manager Ryan Pace did getting spare parts for the defense and the work John Fox and Vic Fangio did coaching them up this season? In a word, no.
The guys on the field during the Bears' loss were the same Bears who somehow found a way to hang on against the Packers 10 days prior.
And while these same players gave up disappointing San Francisco drives at the end of both halves Sunday (and suffered one brutal breakdown in OT), they did more than enough to put the offense in position to take command of the game if they had converted just a couple of the almost dozen big plays that were right there for the taking in the game's last three quarters. It also would have been great if the quarterback of said offense hadn't completely turned momentum against his team by throwing a typically terrible pick six, but let's try to stay focused.
Oh, and of course the defense also would have been perceived as good enough going forward if their highly paid kicker hadn't totally choked on an absolute chip shot at the end of regulation.
The only thing the Bears coaching staff could do with their defense this year was to teach it to play well enough to give the offense a chance. They have done that and then some. This is a defense that wasn't just bad last year, it was historically bad.
So don't change your assessment of the job Pace, Fox and Fangio have done with the defense. As for perceptions of the offense . . .
Just when you were ready to slam Mr. Cutler first and foremost (in particular, why oh why can a relative youngster like Blaine Gabbert figure out that if you avoid turnovers at all costs, you just about always give your team a chance to win and Jay can't?), it became more complicated. There was the vivid example of Cutler's toughness when he was sacked in particularly violent fashion the fourth quarter. That was followed by Cutler raising his game and driving the Bears to a touchdown lead with only a few minutes remaining.
But it was the final few minutes of the first half that were most illuminating. That was when, after a half that featured the aforementioned interception returned for a touchdown and bad throws on deep balls intended for Josh Bellamy and Alshon Jeffery, Cutler pulled it together and got a drive going as the clock closed in on the two-minute warning.
The Bears faced a third-and-six and Jeffery ran a great route, broke free coming back toward the middle and Cutler put his pass right in Jeffery's gut. Jeffery secured the ball and the Bears were at least in long field-goal range (or at least what used to qualify as long field-goal range) at the Niner 32. Except a 49er defensive back dug at the ball and Jeffery, despite the fact that he was holding it with both of his huge hands, couldn't hang on.
That was followed by the defense allowing a backup Niner offense to run for a first down and kill the rest of the clock despite the fact that everyone in the stadium knew they were going to run the ball.
Hey, I didn't say the defense was perfect.
In the second half, the worst performance was turned in by the Bears offensive line and running backs. They were facing a San Francisco defense that was literally running out of linebackers due to injuries and they should have been in position to start opening the sorts of big holes that finish off games in the most satisfying way possible for a Bear fan: with an overpowering rushing game.
But just when the Bears ball-carriers should have been asserting themselves, they started spinning their wheels. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase's play-calling also didn't help.
Here's guessing the digital recording of this game will not be included in Gase's multi-media resume as he seeks a head-coaching job in the off-season.
Given Fox's history, it made sense for Bears fans to dream of the team making a quick turnaround, just like the coach's teams did in Carolina and Denver. But this team was simply too bereft of talent. And it still features a quarterback who is amazingly good at only one thing: playing just well enough to lose.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.
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Posted on Oct 11, 2021