Sports Xchange - Tuesday 14th November, 2017
All it took was another loss to the Green Bay Packers for Fox to come under fire. A loss to the Packers is usually enough to do the trick, and this was Fox's fifth in six games against the Packers.
Sunday's 23-16 Bears loss coming off the bye week against a Packers team that won after playing on Monday night left Fox circling the wagons.
"I've been doing this too long. I've never worried about my job security, and I won't start going forward," Fox said after the game when asked about his job security.
On Monday, Fox defended his team's effort but struggled to explain how they could come off two weeks away and commit 11 penalties, with three declined. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky called it a "lack of focus" and on Monday Fox agreed.
"You know, there's no doubt about that," he said. "But I think there's some new people out there. You know that, again, it's not an excuse, it's just a reality."
The Bears were playing without guard Kyle Long (finger), with center Cody Whitehair at guard for Long and Hroniss Grasu at center. They were also without tight ends Zach Miller (knee) and Dion Sims (illness) and on defense without inside linebacker Danny Trevathan (calf).
The offense continues to struggle, averaging 11.8 points in the five games Trubisky has played. The rest of the Bears' points in that span came from their defense.
"I think there's been challenges," Fox said. "I don't think that we've had the same offensive lineups two weeks in a row. So I think considering all that, and really no different from a year ago, just at the quarterback position, I think I see improvement with us getting our feet wet a little bit at the receiver position, the tight end position as well as the quarterback position.
"Again, we're 3-6 -- that's reality. We've got to get better."
Trubisky threw for his career high of 297 yards, including 88 yards to recently acquired receiver Dontrelle Inman. But the Bears' rookie took five sacks for the second straight game. He was especially critical of himself after the game for taking a sack on a bootleg pass, and on that one Fox agreed.
"I think one of them on the boot, I think he'd like to have had back," Fox said. "There were a couple times that maybe the next best thing might have been a check down or getting rid of the ball a little bit earlier. But all in all, he's not turning the ball over, which the next best thing is taking sacks vs. throwing picks and getting sack-fumbles.
"So I think he's growing and getting better in all those situations the more he gets exposed to it. I thought yesterday was by far the best game to date as far as passing the ball. Hopefully, he'll watch this, learn from it and get better for it and I have all the confidence in the world he will."
At least as bad as the sacks were the penalties on Chicago Sunday. The Bears had eight of them and four more that were either offsetting or declined. The most embarrassing were back-to-back false starts in the first quarter.
"We've just got to quit beating ourselves and decide enough is enough on this pre-snap stuff, and all that kind of stuff," tight end Adam Shaheen said.
The Bears' inability to stop Green Bay from running for 160 yards might have been impacted by the absence of Trevathan. His backup, Nick Kwiatkoski, couldn't entirely dispute this.
"At times I felt that way, but definitely not the entire game," Kwiatkoski said. "We definitely made some good plays among the bad ones. It's hard to say."
The Bears had known about Trevathan's injury for two weeks and had the extra time to prepare during the bye.
"Bye weeks, take them how they are," Kwiatkoski said. "They're great, getting guys back on the field, kind of getting away from football for a week, getting your body back. But at the same time, you've got to have the right mindset coming back in."
Fox knows keeping the team battling and not folding up in a bleak division picture is a key. Players see it as a no-brainer they'll continue doing this.
"The whole year has just been we haven't really quit," Shaheen said. "It's never been an effort issue."
--Tight end Adam Shaheen came into Sunday's game with just one catch on the year, but with ill Dion Sims not available and Zach Miller out for the year with a knee injury, he had to step into more of a receiver's role. He had a 31-yard catch-and-run to start the second Bears series, leading to a field goal.
"I mean a couple of early plays I was the check-down guy and just got the ball," Shaheen said. "One was wide open. Anyone could have just ran through there. Later on, once we get into two-minute, then obviously (Dan Brown) is going to be doing that kind of stuff. So he's going to get more of the opportunities there.
"I mean, Mitch had a good day passing the ball, the best day of passing the ball we've had. So I'm just glad to be a part of it in any way possible."
Shaheen's blocking has improved as the season has gone on at the point of attack.
"I look at it as the first start with both Dion and obviously Zach being out," Shaheen said. "Definitely a game to build upon, a lot of mistakes made, but something to definitely build on and keep going in the right direction."
--Running back Tarik Cohen was called possibly the team's biggest play-maker last week by offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, yet he was only on the field for 13 offensive plays, or 22 percent of the snaps. Backup running back Benny Cunningham actually was on the field for more snaps, 28 percent.
It seemed a strange choice of personnel, especially considering head coach John Fox had said during the previous week a self-scout had revealed ways teams were shutting down Cohen and the Bears could now counter it.
"You know we went through a stretch there where maybe we didn't throw it as much as some people," Fox said. "But he's involved, you know, quite big. I think defenses are doing more to take him away."
Fox said Cohen was double-teamed on some plays, including one when Trubisky threw across the middle instead for 12 yards to slot receiver Kendall Wright.
--When the Bears won the replay challenge and lost the ball on a touchback after it was determined Cunningham fumbled at the pylon, Fox was irate. He admitted Monday he wished he hadn't made the challenge. Still, he wasn't happy about the entire situation or the way the league does reviews.
"Unfortunately, I can't really respond exactly how I would like to," Fox said. "Obviously in those situations, hindsight is 20-20, I probably would not challenge that if I were given the opportunity again. And we'll leave it at that."
Asked if it was because the league doesn't want criticism of the officials or replay, Fox said, "You're really not allowed to respond. Yeah."
Like most teams, the Bears had assistants watching in the coach's booth for possible plays for replay and they were in agreement with Fox on whether to throw the red flag.
"They saw it pretty much how I thought I saw it," Fox said. "We'll leave it at that. We have to ultimately kind of go with what the officiating crew goes with. In hindsight, I would not have challenged it, because it took (away) points -- however many points we don't know -- but in my opinion, it hurt our cause."
--An unusual situation at receiver developed when Tre McBride had only seven plays one game after he had a team season-high 92 yards receiving against New Orleans. And wide receiver Markus Wheaton returned from a groin injury, but only got on the field three plays against the Packers.
Much of that had to do with Dontrelle Inman playing for the first time and making six catches for 88 yards.
"Well I think (Wheaton's) got to practice full speed for a period of time, you know, no different than Dontrelle Inman, who's been here for a couple weeks and had some time to practice," Fox said.
Wheaton practiced on a limited basis in the week leading up to the game.
"And the more I think he's out there and can show coaches what he can do the better for him," Fox added.
NOTES: G Kyle Long's status for this week against Detroit is day-to-day. There remains some confusion over whether it's the finger or another injury keeping Long out of the lineup. During the previous week, head coach John Fox had referred to it as an arm injury. Long has had to deal with an old shoulder injury and an ankle that still needs to properly heal and be strengthened after surgery last year. ... G Tom Compton (ankle) missed the game with Green Bay after suffering an injury Oct. 29 against New Orleans. ... DB Sherrick McManis (hamstring) missed his third straight game Sunday against Green Bay and is day-to-day. ... DB Bryce Callahan (knee) missed the game with Green Bay after suffering an injury Oct. 29 against New Orleans. He was replaced by Cre'Von LeBlanc, who had a sack in the game. ... LB Danny Trevathan (calf) missed the game with Green Bay after suffering an injury Oct. 29 against New Orleans. Trevathan is day-to-day. ... TE Dion Sims (illness) missed the game with Green Bay after sitting out a full week of practice. ... DL Roy Robertson-Harris (hamstring) missed the game with Green Bay. ... DB Deiondre Hall (hamstring) has been on injured reserve since Sept. 4, but Fox said it's possible in coming weeks he could be activated to the 53-man roster. ... WR Tanner Gentry was added back to the practice squad Monday after being cut from the regular roster prior to the Packers game.
REPORT CARD VS PACKERS
--PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Mitchell Trubisky had his best passing yardage total (297), and the defeat only goes to show what that statistic usually means. He found Dontrelle Inman for 88 yards and established a connection immediately with a new target, and got two passes to tight end Adam Shaheen, who had one catch the first half of the season. However, Trubisky held the ball far too long before deciding to scramble. It resulted in five sacks against a defense that came in with only 13 sacks on the year. Trubisky didn't commit the big mistake, but committed enough small ones to make up for it.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- Three of the first four running plays went for losses -- talk about setting the tone. The Bears lead the league in runs for loss, and they lived down to their reputation. Playing without guard Kyle Long meant Cody Whitehair had to go to guard and Hroniss Grasu played center. Whitehair has not been a strong blocker and he has been a disappointment at guard since coming into the league. He's been solid at center. Shaheen suffered through a poor game blocking as tight end Dion Sims' substitute. A 17-rush, 55-yard effort wins nothing in the NFL.
--PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Bears had three sacks and could have had a few more if Brett Hundley hadn't thrown away the ball. But Green Bay picked on Kyle Fuller with regularity and with success. Hundley was precise and looked like he'd had two weeks to prepare for this game when he had only three practices after the Monday night game.
--RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Giving up 160 rushing yards to the Packers falls directly on the defensive line of Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Mitch Unrein. They stopped only two runs behind the line of scrimmage until the final kneel-down. The Packers lost their two best options to carry the ball in the first half due to injuries. The Bears made Jamaal Williams look like Jim Taylor. Missing Danny Trevathan was critical in this area as he lines up the defense and helps with communication in run fits. But this was an opponent that runs with sporadic effectiveness. Safeties and cornerbacks did a poor job of fitting up to back up the line, and Prince Amukamara essentially gave up a touchdown by gambling to make a tackle at the line instead of playing as the last line of defense like he should have.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Connor Barth lifted this above the acceptable level with three made field goals from 44, 45 and 49 yards, a distance range he's had trouble with at times. He made them in difficult conditions for kicking, with near freezing conditions and intermittent rain. His effort helped make up for some of the worst kick and punt return coverage the Bears have had all season. The Bears gave up 10.5 yards per punt return and allowed a 34-yard kickoff return. Not surprisingly, they lost the field position battle, with Green Bay averaging the 31-yard line to the Bears' 26. The field position problem really became critical in a game without turnovers, and did so to start the second half. That's when the Packers started their first three drives at the Bears 46 and their own 43 and 42. And a delay of game penalty when trying to kick a critical extra point was just another example of sloppiness even if Barth made the kick from 5 yards back.
--COACHING: F -- Head coach John Fox's biggest mistake Sunday wasn't the replay appeal that backfired in his face. That was a call many coaches would have made because it wasn't obvious until broken down into frozen frames in the process of looking at Benny Cunningham's knee, feet and hands. Besides, if it was apparent on a quick look at replay that he fumbled, Green Bay would have been rushing to challenge that the play was a touchback and there appeared no rush by the Packers to throw a flag, and Fox waited until less than 10 seconds remained on the play clock to challenge it himself. What was ridiculous was how a team can come out and have seven first-half penalties walked off a week following the bye, against a struggling team. "Lack of focus," was what Mitchell Trubisky blamed for the penalties. That's on the coaches. Also poor was the same old game plan, running on first and second down and passing on third down. The Bears were entirely predictable against a defense that couldn't force a punt the previous Monday against Detroit. The Packers almost always find a way to run effectively on Vic Fangio's defense even though they usually have no real running attack, and they did it again. Fox is 0-3 coming out of the bye week as a Bears coach. That's inexcusable. The Packers had eight fewer days to prepare for this game, and looked much sharper. Coming into the game, Trubisky said it felt like a new season. It actually felt like any other five losses Fox has had against Green Bay even without Aaron Rodgers involved.
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