Bears settle for field goals -- and a loss
Clearly the Chicago Bears' offensive formula of dinking and dunking the ball down the field, piling up yardage and settling for field goals isn't working.
A change at quarterback is needed and is expected soon.
Fill-in Brian Hoyer produced his fourth consecutive 300-yard passing game without an interception, but the Bears have now lost three of those games.
The latest and most irritating was Sunday's 17-16 gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who came in 1-3. The Jags also had the dubious distinction of having lost 17 of their last 18 road games -- but they found cloudy and clammy Soldier Field more hospitable than any of their other recent travel destinations.
The Bears plummeted to 1-5 because they settled for Connor Barth field goals of 36, 24 and 32 yards after reaching the red zone. That led to a fourth-quarter collapse in which the defense, which played well most of the day, couldn't hold a 13-0 advantage.
"We have to find a way to score those touchdowns down there," Hoyer said. "We have to figure it out and quickly."
It was the first time the Bears lost a game they led by 13 points heading into the final quarter since 1999.
The fatal blow Sunday was Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' 51-yard TD pass to Arrelious Benn that capped the scoring with 2:49 remaining. Benn made the catch as he and cornerback Tracy Porter slipped to the turf around the Bears' 30-yard line. Benn, who was untouched, got up first and sprinted to the endzone for the winning points.
But the Jags wouldn't have been within striking distance were it not for the Bears' red zone ineptitude.
"We need to get better at it," Bears coach John Fox said. "Those are big swings. We have to execute and make plays when we need to. Our margin for error is very, very minimal right now, and I think our record is kind of an indicator of that."
Once again it was the failure of the Bears' offense to turn yardage into points. The Bears outgained the Jaguars 389-317. A week earlier the Bears outproduced the Colts 522-396 in yardage but came away with 6 fewer points.
That inability to make a greater impact on the scoreboard almost always means a quarterback change, and this is no exception. Regardless of his numbers, Hoyer cannot remain under center when injured starter Jay Cutler's sprained thumb is healed.
That may not be in time for Thursday night's prime-time game in Green Bay against the Packers, but expect Cutler to be running the offense in the Week 8 Monday night game against the Vikings at Soldier Field.
"We have to score (freaking) touchdowns," Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said. "That's it. Period. Touchdowns win games. See what 3 points gets us?"
Hoyer threw for 302 yards but required 49 passes to get there, averaging just 5.9 yards per pass play, which resulted in, by far, his worst passer rating of the season, just 78.8. He did not throw a TD pass after tossing 2 in each of his first three starts, when his passer rating was over 93.0 each week.
Late in the third quarter, leading 10-0 with a chance to make it 17-0, the Bears had first-and-goal from the Jaguars' five-yard line. Jordan Howard lost 1 yard, Hoyer threw to Zach Miller for no gain, then threw incomplete to Jeffery. Barth hit the 24-yard field goal.
With a 13-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Bears had first-and-10 at the Jacksonville 12 after Willie Young's sack-strip had given them the ball at the Jaguars' 28. Howard ran for 3 yards, Hoyer threw an incompletion and then took his only sack of the day, leaving them to settle for a 32-yard field goal.
"The defense does a good enough job," Hoyer said. "We can't put them in that position."
After a couple weeks of being criticized for failing to incorporate Jeffery into the attack, the 2013 Pro Bowler was targeted seven times in the first half and caught 6 for 90 yards. He was targeted six times in the second half but caught just 1 pass for 3 yards.
"They didn't do anything different," Jeffery said. "Just stuck with the game plan. They played their game plan; we played ours."
Theirs was better.
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