Dissecting the Bears' peculiar Week 8 loss in New Orleans

Dissecting the Bears' peculiar Week 8 loss in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 29: Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears on the sidelines during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 29, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Bears 20-12. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Watching the Bears play weekly continues to be the strangest thing.

They have moments of great success and then just flat out bad lapses.

Examples from Sunday’s 20-12 loss in New Orleans include an early offsides penalty by Kyle Fuller that led to four more New Orleans points and an ugly missed 48-yard field goal by Connor Barth (I’ll talk more about Barth later on).

At 3-5, the Bears are in last place in the NFC North behind Minnesota (6-2), Green Bay (4-3) and Detroit (3-4). But the truth is, this Bears group aren’t that far off. The offense lacks playmakers for rookie Mitch Trubisky to get the ball to and now one more veteran presence is done for the year in tight end Zach Miller.

Miller appeared to have reeled in a 25-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to four (14-10) midway through the fourth quarter. However, Carl Cheffers and his crew overturned the score. Miller suffered a dislocated left knee and the replay kept getting shown on the videoboards in New Orleans.

Cheffers explained this to the Chicago media after the game.

“He went to the ground, he temporarily lost control of the ball,” he said. “The ball hit the ground, therefore it is incomplete. The ball hit the ground out of his control. So as part of the process of the catch, he did not complete that process, and therefore it was incomplete and they overturned the call on the field.”

Regardless, the Bears battled all afternoon with one of the top teams in the NFC. The Saints came in winning four straight games and Drew Brees and his offense are always potent.

The Bears forced two fumbles late (Adrian Amos and Christian Jones) and allowed New Orleans to convert only 2-of-9 third down conversions. Brees completed 23 of 28 passes for 299 yards but didn’t have a touchdown pass.

Trubisky played better than his stat line ended up (14 of 32 for 164 yards and an interception). He also had three rushes for 53 yards. Tre McBride had his best game in his young career with three receptions for 92 yards.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains continues to ease Trubisky along. It makes sense with very little weaponry around him but one player he doesn’t know how to use correctly is Tarik Cohen. The speedy rookie running back had just five touches for eight yards and a rushing touchdown.

That is unacceptable. Outside of Cohen, McBride, Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen, Kendall Wright and Tanner Gentry represent the best passing options. To put it kindly Cohen is by far the best “receiver” the team has.

Loggains has to get Cohen in space and I think feeding him the ball at least 15-17 times makes sense. Jordan Howard is doing the bulk of the work as the top running back and he had his 10th 100-yard performance in a Bears’ uniform. His hands or still suspect in the pass game.

Note: The key moment in the game came with the Bears trailing 17-12 with just over two minutes left on the clock. Loggains called four straight pass calls including two on 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 that fell incomplete. With Trubisky having his best success as a runner to date and Howard running hard, it shocked me that a power run with one of those guys wasn’t called on third down.

Sims disappointed down the stretch with two bad drops. Expect Shaheen and Daniel Brown to earn plenty of snaps moving forward.

New receiver Dontrelle Inman will be ready to go following this week’s bye and Markus Wheaton should be healthy as well. That means two speedy targets for Trubisky to throw the ball to downfield.

Starting center Cody Whitehair (elbow) and right guard Kyle Long (finger) both left the game forcing Tom Compton and Bradley Sowell into action with Josh Sitton sliding over to center. Both players said they could have returned, but coaches didn’t want them in if they weren’t at 100 percent.

Defensively, Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd continue to play well. They each had a sack while Floyd disrupted as a pass rusher often. Danny Trevathan had a team-high 13 sacks and was flying around the field.

Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson are really sound as a tandem. The one slip up came late on a jump ball to Ted Ginn Jr. Both Jackson and Kyle Fuller had position on Ginn Jr., but it looked the veteran got away with a push off on Jackson to make the big gain.

Whatever analysts say it doesn’t matter, these Bears are improved. The coaching isn’t that great, but Trubisky and Howard give them a chance on offense and the defense is flat out ferocious. Now, to figure out the kicking issues.

Barth needs to go

Since latching on with the Bears last season, 31-year-old kicker Connor Barth has made just 2-of-5 attempts from 50 yards in beyond. In 2016, he made 3-of-4 from 40 to 49 yards out but this season, he’s 2-of-5 from that range.

Barth was seen as a younger and better replacement for longtime kicker Robbie Gould. In the meantime, in his final season in Chicago, 2015, Gould was 7-of-9 from 40 to 49 yards out and from 50 yards or more.

The ideal replacement if healthy is Cairo Santos. The 25-year-old lasted three games in Kansas City before suffering an adductor strain in warmups. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Oct. 8 that Santos was two weeks away from full health.

Santos had his best season in 2016, making 31-of-35 field goal attempts. He’s made 22-of-28 from 40 to 49 yards out since 2014 and 7-of-12 from 50 plus. The 25-year-old needs to be picked up if he is indeed healthy.

What Barth has put on film this season is not acceptable. His 48-yard miss was a complete shank and that went wide left. That shouldn’t happen to a good kicker in a dome. The Bears went into the half down 14-3 instead of 14-6. Just bad.

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Make sure to follow Jake on Twitter, @Bearsbacker and on Facebook for up to the minute news about the Chicago Bears.

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