First-down production problem for Chicago Bears
For an offense that struggles to move the ball and to score points -- like the Chicago Bears -- success on first down is critical.
That much was evident in Sunday's 23-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers, a mediocre defensive team.
On each of the Bears' five possessions that ended with a punt, the offense struggled on first down, leaving them with unmanageable second and third downs.
The Bears ran six first-down plays on their possessions that ended with a punt, and they resulted in a total of minus-8 yards.
That was largely responsible for the lack of success on third downs, as the Bears converted just 4 of 14 for a 28.6 percent success rate. They came in averaging 36.1 percent; the league average is 38.9.
The Bears' only touchdown, a 46-yard Mitch Trubisky to Josh Bellamy pass, came on a first-down play.
Their first score, Connor Barth's 45-yard field goal, started with Trubisky's 31-yard pass to rookie tight end Adam Shaheen. Their last points, which came on Barth's 49-yard field goal, came after back-to-back first-down passes of 17 and 12 yards.
But when they didn't have success on first down, the offense, which came in 29th in total yards and 27th in points, fizzled.
There also were questions about the Bears' use of personnel on the offensive side of the ball.
Rookie running back Tarik Cohen, considered by coaches the most explosive player on the roster, played just 13 of 57 snaps and had only two touches against the Packers. He carried once for 1 yard and caught 1 pass for 10 yards.
"I think defenses are doing more to take him away," coach John Fox said. "I think there were situations in that (Packers) game where he was doubled, so we had to go to somebody else."
Cohen's 10-yard reception came on a third-and-4, but his most explosive play, an 11-yard sweep, was nullified by a holding call on Bellamy.
That run would have given the Bears a first down at the Packers' 18, but they wound up settling for a field goal.
Penalties were another problem for the offense, especially in the first half.
The Bears were penalized four times for 24 yards, including 3 false starts, an almost unheard of number in a home game. They committed 4 other first-half penalties on offense that were declined.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains did a good job utilizing recent trade acquisition Dontrelle Inman.
The 6-foot-3 wide receiver was targeted eight times and led the Bears with 6 catches and 88 yards in his debut. But on the Bears' final possession, Inman failed to corral a slightly high throw from Trubisky in Green Bay territory that would have resulted in a gain of at least 20 yards.
Speedy wide receiver Markus Wheaton was active for the first time in more than a month because of a groin injury, but he was on the field for just two snaps.
Even though he had a full practice last Thursday and was removed from the injury report Friday, Wheaton was conspicuous by his absence.
"He's got to practice full speed for a period of time, no different that Dontrelle Inman, who's been here for a couple weeks and had some time to practice and prepare," Fox said. "The more he's out there and can show coaches what he can do, the better for him."
Coaches haven't seen much yet. Wheaton has 1 catch for 9 yards this year.
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