You can look to what the Bears did on third downs versus Green Bay, converting only four of 14 chances. But it’s what happened on first downs that put them in untenable situations most of the afternoon. Prior to the two-minute drill at the end of the half, the Bears ran the ball eight times on first down, netting 4 yards or fewer on seven of them. They also had those two early false starts on first downs, consistently putting them behind the sticks.
“Our goal was stopping the run first,” Clark said, “then getting third-and-longs and being able to rush the passer. Guys running around the edge, making plays. That’s what we did.”
The first, first-down throw the Bears attempted netted their second-longest pass play of the game, a nicely designed 31-yard completion to tight end Adam Shaheen. Their second pass play on first down was a sack with just over five minutes before halftime.
“The biggest impact on the game yesterday is we were able to win first down probably the highest percentage since Week 1 this year,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Monday. “What it did was put them in a lot of second-and-long situations.”
On the season, the Bears rank eighth in the league in rushing attempts (131) and 13th (508) in rushing yards on 1st-and-10. But they’re dead last in pass attempts (77) in those situations, and second-to-last in passing yards (530) on 1st-and-10s.
The inability to convert early drives has become maddening. The Bears are now the only NFL team to not score a touchdown on their opening drive in any game this season. They’ve scored only 19 first-quarter points the entire season, and they’ve scored one first-half offensive touchdown in Trubisky’s five games.
How much of that is the Bears’ coaching and play calling, and how much of it is a function of the blocking up front? We also must account for Trubisky’s limitations five starts into his NFL career, plus the lack of quality among his pass catchers. With the season-ending injury to Zach Miller and Sunday’s deactivation of Dion Sims, the tight end group was suddenly thin.
Tarik Cohen’s role as a backfield pass catcher also has mysteriously been reduced. Dontrelle Inman has been on the team two weeks, and he was tied for the most-targeted receiver in the Packers loss. Josh Bellamy, who hadn’t seen a pass thrown his way since Week 4, was targeted seven times as well.
Short term, there are issues almost everywhere offensively for the Bears. The offensive line isn’t the bulwark some thought it to be. That’s going to hold back the effectiveness of Trubisky and the run game and make it tougher for an embattled coaching staff to find solutions as they fight for their jobs.
Long term, those concerns might not be as great. But it’s clear that the talent and depth concerns still must be addressed, as well as who still figures into the picture beyond this season. Long, Sitton, Massie and Leno alone are set to count for almost $30 million against the 2018 salary cap. Those players currently make up four of the Bears’ 10 biggest cap hits next year, and that includes obvious-cut candidates, such as QB Mike Glennon.
Like everything else this coming offseason, there will be changes. And there could be a few big ones, surprising or otherwise.