Hoge: New Season, Same Result — Bears Are Competitive, But Lose

John Fox looks on against the Falcons at Soldier Field. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

SOLDIER FIELD — Down six points, the Bears had four shots at the end zone to tie the game. Josh Bellamy couldn’t secure a first down pass and three more opportunities failed as the Bears couldn’t complete the comeback at Soldier Field.

That was last November against the Tennessee Titans. And Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Same situation. Different quarterback. Same outcome.

After the Bears’ 27-21 loss to the Titans last year, I wrote that the Bears needed to find their Marcus Mariota. In other words, they needed to draft their franchise quarterback.

They did. But he didn’t play in Sunday’s 23-17 loss to Falcons. Instead, Mitch Trubisky stood on the sidelines as the Bears’ backup, despite being the most talented quarterback on the team.

Last November against the Titans, Matt Barkley was the quarterback making his first start for the Chicago Bears. He wasn’t great early, but surprised everyone in the fourth quarter as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains aired it out in a comeback attempt. Operating with replacement-level receivers, Barkley got the Bears down to the Titans’ 7-yard-line with 47 seconds left in the game. On first down, Bellamy dropped a touchdown. On second and third down, Barkley failed to connect with his intended targets. And on fourth down, Deonte Thompson failed to haul in a low, but catchable pass in the end zone. The Bears lost.

Sunday against the Falcons, Mike Glennon was the quarterback making his first start for the Chicago Bears. He wasn’t great early, but surprised everyone in the fourth quarter as Loggains aired it out in a comeback attempt. Operating with replacement-level receivers, Glennon got the Bears down to the Falcons’ 5-yard-line with 21 seconds left in the game. On first down, Bellamy was held slightly coming out of his break and couldn’t secure a catchable pass in the end zone. On second down, running back Jordan Howard dropped Glennon’s pass near the goal line. On third down, Glennon failed to connect with tight end Zach Miller and on fourth down, Glennon was sacked. The Bears lost.

Not much was different Sunday at Soldier Field. Except that this time the Bears might have had their own Marcus Mariota standing on their sideline in uniform.

Was Mike Glennon the reason why the Bears lost to the Falcons? No. But Trubisky could have been the reason why they beat the Falcons. We’ll never know.

Glennon did exactly what the Bears are asking him to do while they buy time for their No. 2 overall draft pick. He managed the game. He ran the offense relatively smoothly. And, most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over.

But, as head coach John Fox even pointed out after the game when he was asked about Glennon: “Like the whole football team, we played pretty well, but not good enough.”

No disagreement there, other than the English. Glennon played pretty well, but not well enough.

Such has been the theme throughout the John Fox era. Other than a few blowouts here and there, the Bears have been competitive, but usually come up short. They’re now 9-24 under Fox.

That’s why it’s hard to accept the idea of a moral victory Sunday at Soldier Field. Big picture? The defense looks pretty good. Akiem Hicks was unblockable. They held the NFL’s No. 1 offense in check and gave their own offense a chance to win the game. But they still didn’t take the ball away and a blown coverage was just as much to blame for the loss as anything else.

Once again, a familiar story with the Bears.

Perhaps the biggest difference with the Chicago Bears team we saw Sunday at Soldier Field was the presence of rookie running back Tarik Cohen, a true playmaker on a team still lacking enough difference makers.

“Really, he helped carry our football team throughout the whole game,” Miller said.

That’s true. It’s scary to think what the Bears’ offense would have looked like without Cohen, who ran for 66 yards on just five carries and caught eight passes for 47 yards. The Bears’ wide receivers only accounted for nine catches as a group.

Then again, we did see what the offense looks like without Cohen, who was inexplicably not on the field for three of the Bears’ final four plays of the game.

But as exciting as Cohen is, the Bears are in trouble if the success of their offense rides on the shoulders of a 5-6, 181-pound running back.

That, of course, is the job of the quarterback.

Perhaps the Bears can get by with Glennon managing games while the defense keeps the score close. But if they want to win games, the defense has to be nearly perfect — it can’t give up 88-yard touchdowns to tight ends and it must start taking the ball away.

Otherwise, there’s another option: Play Trubisky, and find out if you discovered your Marcus Mariota.

Adam Hoge covers the Chicago Bears for WGN Radio and WGNRadio.com. He also co-hosts The Beat, weekends on 720 WGN. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.