Payton Presser: Bears start 2nd half with a loss

Chicago Bears running back Benny Cunningham (30) dives to the end zone against Green Bay Packers defensive back Marwin Evans (25) as Cunningham fumbles the ball during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

After Saturday night’s Miami Hurricanes win over the Irish, my focus shifted back to the Bears as they headed into the 2nd half of the season. It’s fitting it started out with the Packers at Soldier Field on Veterans Day weekend. As I traveled back to Chicago from Miami, I thought about how John Fox’s team would respond coming off of a bye week. Would they be well-rested and take advantage of an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team or would they fall into the trap of being the favorite coming into this game? Since Rodgers has been out of the line-up with a broken collarbone, the Packers haven’t been the same. Sunday was the perfect opportunity for the Bears to hand their arch rivals a loss while making a statement. That didn’t happen. They would go on to lose 23-16 in an all-around ugly game by Fox’s ball club. The Bears are now 0-6 when favored to win under Fox. The hope that this team would build on their success from the 1st half of the season didn’t materialize on Sunday. Fox never seems to surprise me anymore. Just when I thought that he would have his team ready for a big win versus the division rivals, his team looked unprepared and very sloppy, like the conditions at Soldier Field Sunday. Fox has just 12 wins in his 3 seasons in Chicago. It seems like there is one call every game that makes you question Fox. His decision to challenge the play when Benny Cunningham dove for the pylon and lost the ball in the process was Sunday’s call. The guys back in New York said that Cunningham lost the football before it hit the pylon and ruled it a touchback. I’m still shocked there’s no one up in the Bears booth calling down to Fox saying, “Hey John, it could be a touchback, don’t challenge that.” Not only did they lose the ball, but they left points out on the field. Fox should have never challenged the play. But why wouldn’t you challenge it if you thought you had a touchdown? I’m just playing devil’s advocate on this one. Fox took the blame for his actions and decisions. It’s what comes with the territory as a head coach. Every single loss seems to keep adding logs under his seat at Halas Hall that was already warm to begin with.

As for the Bears offense, another week goes by and still no balance with Dowell Loggains’ unit. The running game couldn’t get things going early and then, when the Bears fell behind, they abandoned the run, like most teams do, to try and catch up with the passing game. Jordan Howard ended his day with 15 carries for 54 yards. We all know that this team wins games when he has 20-plus carries. Hats off to the Packers’ run defense for shutting down the bread and butter of the Bears’ offense. We did get a chance to see Mitchell Trubisky throw the rock more on Sunday. Trubisky completed 21 of 35 passes for a career-high 297 yards and a touchdown. There were still signs of growing pains with the rookie on Sunday. We saw him make some beautiful throws like his 46-yard TD pass to Joshua Bellamy, but we also saw the youngster miss his fair share of throws as well. Even with all that, I really love the fact that he finished the game with no interceptions. The addition of Dontrell Inman is great and will add more plays downfield. But the wideouts have to help their rookie QB by making more plays for him. There were too many dropped balls in Sunday’s game and, like my old coach would tell us, “If the ball hits you in the hands, you should catch it.” The Bears offense is not exciting enough and I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. The most telling stat was the offense gained zero yards in the 3rd quarter. Not sure how that’s possible, but it happened. Another issue the Bears are having is finding ways to get Tarik Cohen more involved every week. He had 1 rush for 1 yard and 1 catch for 10 yards. I’m not saying it’s easy when teams have so much film on him. But when you have a home run hitter like Cohen, it’s the offensive coordinator’s job to find ways to integrate him into the game plan. I don’t see the Bears offense changing much as the season goes along. But if they can’t find some consistency, we could be in for a rough second half of the season.

The Bears defense also had a tough afternoon Sunday. It was not the same unit that we have seen over the past few weeks. They gave up 169 yards on the ground. Akiem Hicks didn’t want to give the Packers players much praise after the game, but they deserved it. The Pack were down to their third-string RB Jamaal Williams who came in and carried the rock for 67 of the 160 total rushing yards. The defense gave up six rushing first downs. When the Packers needed to run the ball, they did so. In the passing game, the Packers were 7 of 16 on third down efficiency. Once again, the Bears didn’t give up a lot of passing yards, holding the Packers to 182 yards through the air, but they did give up plays that changed the game. For all the talk about Brett Hundley coming into this game, the young man did his best Aaron Rodgers impression in the 4th quarter. The Bears defense is what gives me hope for the future. My hope now is that the defense that ended the first half of the season with 11 takeaways can somehow recreate that moving forward.

This was not the start to the second half of the season that I’d hoped for. I really thought we would see the Bears come out and win a game that was right there for the taking, especially with no Aaron Rodgers. With that being said, they played a sloppy game and still, and yes I said still, found themselves in the game late with a chance to tie or win the game. The Bears have really played with my emotions this season. Just when I think this team took a step forward, it’s days like Sunday that make me wonder if this team is a lot farther away then I thought. It also makes me wonder if John Fox is the man that can change things around here for the better. One thing I know for sure, the Bears are better than what they displayed on Sunday afternoon. I do have faith things are going to get better. I really want to see how this team responds with Matthew Stafford and the Lions coming to town next weekend. The Bears defense will have their hands full with the eighth-rated pass offense in the NFL and the offense faces a defense that’s giving up 102 yards per game on the ground. I know one thing. For the rest of the year, I don’t want to be favored any more. I like how this Bears team plays when they’re the underdog. See you guys next week. #Beardown