Jay Cutler, your Chicago Bears playoff hopes came and went with the 26-20 overtime loss (courtesy of ESPN) to the San Francisco 49ers. Just when fans were beginning to draw some real excitement for the Bears, they were forced to leave Soldier Field unsatisfied with the result. There are some things that we can take away from the Bears loss.
There are five observations that we must take a look at. One of those observations could be used as a microcosm of the Bears’ entire season thus far.
There Is Still Hope For The Playoffs, but Everything Is Now Faint.
It is unfortunate how things evaporated so quickly. Nothing can be more exacerbating than the highs and low of football. As the hopes were created, they were quickly dashed. The ebbs and flow of football reared its ugly head for the Bears, who were a heavy favorite to beat the 49ers. A win would have made the Bears favorites next week against the visiting Washington Redskins.
Victory was expected today. Getting to.500 was the plan going into the 49ers game. After breaking even, the push for the playoffs were supposed to begin. The Bears were a freight train moving in the right direction. With a few breaks they would have been on an unexpected path. All is not lost after this defeat. The playoffs are still a possibility, but things have officially become faint after taking a look at USA Today’s updated playoff picture.
Of the teams in the wildcard hunt, the Seattle Seahawks took care of their business with a 38-7 thrashing of the then NFC North leading Minnesota Vikings. That win puts Seattle at 7-5.
The other game that the Bears needed to go their way did not. The Bears needed the Atlanta Falcons to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in order to make the Week 15 matchup about two teams, the Bears and Buccaneers looking to control their fates. Tampa Bay won instead. That win gave them an even record and the upper hand.
The NFC North is currently on shaky ground. The Bears are barely alive there.
San Francisco 49er Fans Travel Well.
There were a lot of San Francisco 49er fans in Soldier Field. During the tense moments of the game, 49er fans grew loud and refused to be ignored. There was a ton of playfulness going on in the game between Bears fans and 49er fans. As each team made a play, their fans grew louder.
This was especially true in the fourth quarter. You could not determine who had the home field advantage in the later parts of the game. Once 49ers’ quarterback Blaine Gabbert connected on the 61-yard pass to Torey Smith to clinch the game in overtime, the Bears fans were stunned. San Francisco, on the other hand, played the role of the spoilers as best as they could. They gave their faithful a show.
Robbie Gould Has Earned The Bears Trust, But The Final Play Calling Set Him Up For Failure.
One missed field goal came midway in the third quarter after the Bears offense stalled. The Bears would have gone ahead 16-13 had Gould’s kick made it between the uprights.
The second missed field goal came with two ticks on the clock. The game was originally tied on a touchdown scoring scramble by Gabbert.
The problem is not that Robbie Gould missed the potential game-winning score, it was the play-calling which set up the kick.
The Bears went with a conservative game plan on the final drive in regulation.
With 1:40 seconds to go and in field goal territory, the Bears kept calling run plays. Normally, there is no problem with a team doing this. Most teams would do this, but they went into offensive formations where only rushing plays are called. The Bears never once allowed Jay Cutler to aim for the endzone.
When you are a 5-6, middle of the road team, you play to win the game. The object of football is to score touchdowns.
Jay Cutler Must Be Used To Win Football Games At Some Point.
Jay Cutler threw a pick-6 against the 49ers. His interception was only the seventh of the season for him. Although the plan is to keep things close, the Bears were supposed to send San Francisco home with a definitive loss. The run game was working, all that was needed was some more passing opportunities for Cutler. It seems that once he threw the interception, the coaching staff put the clamps on him.
If the Bears are going to become better as a team, they have to trust their quarterback. Handcuffing him by failing to stretch the field when the defense dictated that he could exploit the holes did the Bears a disservice. What the Bears’ coaches must understand that nobody expected the team to be anywhere near the playoff hunt. They are playing with house money at this time. They have to let Jay Cutler air it out sometimes. They failed to do that against the 49ers and they will likely be watching the NFL playoffs from their sofas.
The Defense Is Two Playmakers Away From Being Elite.
Help will come in the 2016 NFL Draft and in free agency. One or two inside linebackers who can stop the run will go a long way for this Bears team.
Another hole that needs to be filled is in the secondary.
The Bears need players who can generate takeaways. Right now they do not have such players. Once they acquire the necessary playmakers the Chicago Bears will become perennial playoff contenders. Until then, they make take chances and capitalize on the opportunities given to them.
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images Sport]