Week 12 Final : Tennessee Titans 27 Chicago Bears 21
Going into Sunday’s game at Soldier Field, most Bears fans were pumped to see 1st time starting QB #12 Matt Barkley. As it turned out, their excitement about Barkley kept building as he almost led the Bears to a comeback win over the Tennessee Titans. However, it wasn’t meant to be as Barkley’s last 4 passes were all incomplete and the Titans escaped with a 27-21 victory.
It’s hard to blame the QB for the loss though as Chicago receivers were dropping passes all day, at least 10 including 2 of the last 4 (Various counts of dropped balls have been reported: Chicago Tribune said 10, ESPN Stats said 8, I claim 12 according to the CBS game telecast statistics). Nonetheless, if either of those last 2 were caught by WR #11 Josh Bellamy on 1st and Goal or WR #14 Deonte Thompson on 4th and Goal, the Bears would’ve probably won, as all they needed was a PAT conversion to take a 28-27 lead in the last minute.
Needless to say, this game was more interesting than the usual game the Bears have played this season. After trailing 27-7 with 13:45 left in the game, Barkley and the offense started humming. It was enough to get one’s mind swirling towards the future of the Bears quarterback position. Could Barkley be the answer? Pump the brakes my friend. He COULD be but it’s too early to make a comprehensive analytical evaluation.
Meanwhile, the Titans “are who we thought they were, and we let ’em off the hook”. That infamous quote from the late Dennis Green about the 2006 Bears after they beat his then-Arizona Cardinals after a miraculous Monday Night Football comeback rang true regarding yesterday’s game. Except this time the reflection would be from the opposite sideline. The Bears are the ones eating sour grapes as the Titans’ porous defense almost blew a game that Tennessee desperately needed to remain in the thick of the AFC South division Championship race. With Houston losing at home to San Diego, they fell to 6-5. Tennessee rises to just a half game behind their division leaders at 6-6. From my viewpoint, the Titans have a chance to win that division but as good as they are on offense, that’s how poor they are on defense. They were oh so close to blowing a 20 point lead in the 4th quarter because they simply can’t cover anybody. They can’t rush the passer or stop the run very well either. The Bears, with a 4th string QB (no Cutler, Hoyer, or Shaw), none of their top 3 receivers (no Jeffery, White, Miller), and at least 2 of their top 5 OL missing (Sitton and Long) were able to move the ball at will in the 4th quarter and most of the day. Without the +/- 10 dropped passes, undermanned Chicago would’ve probably upset Tennessee.
Offensively, the Titans are the real deal. QB #8 Marcus Mariota was everything we knew he was since he arrived in the continental United States from Hawaii. He went 10-14 for 139 yards and 2 TD in the 1st half as the Titans built a 21-7 lead. Their 2nd half performance wasn’t that astounding as Mariota went 5-9 for 87 yards. Their running game was impressive as #29 DeMarco Murray had 43 yards on 17 carries, #22 Derrick Henry (2nd round draft pick, #45 overall as the ’15 Heisman Trophy winner) had 8 carries for 60 yards and their 1st TD of the game, an 11 yard run in which both OLB #49 Sam Acho and S #26 Deon Bush lost outside containment. Tennessee also has a solid receiving corps starting with TE #82 Delanie Walker who impressed with 3 catches for 50 yards and 1 TD (all in the 1st half). After studying Tennessee’s team for one game, it seems obvious that they need to work on building their defense as they march toward the future. Their young offense has superstar potential but their defense is lacking. It’s hard to even recognize many names on their defense. Look for them to draft impact defenders next April. Make no mistake though, they are on the rise under Coach Mike Mularkey. That isn’t a bunch of malarkey either.
Back to Chicago’s side of things, what in the world……I say “WHAT IN THE WORLD?” was up with Coach John Fox’s timeout with 2:06 left in the game? Did you catch this faux pas? The Titans were trying to run out the clock starting their drive with exactly 3 minutes left. Chicago had already used one timeout on offense so they had 2 remaining. Tennessee ran for 5 yards on 1st down. Fox used his 2nd timeout of the 2nd half with 2:52 left. On 2nd and 5, the Titans ran again, this time for 3 yards. ILB #59 Danny Trevathan was injured on this play, and it sounds like it is a serious knee injury (what would a 2016 Bears game be without a season ending injury?). So the game was halted with an “official’s injury timeout”. However, the clock was re-started with 2:47 left on the game clock and 38 seconds left on the play clock as Head Referee Ed Hochuli announced. Fox should have called his 3rd timeout right here OR he should have held onto it to be used in the last 2 minutes. Instead, he used his last remaining timeout with 2:06 left after DT #91 Eddie Goldman held Murray to a short gain on a huge 3rd and 2 play. If Tennessee gets that 1st down, the game is virtually over. But he didn’t get the 1st down which gave Chicago a chance for a 2 minute comeback. Back to the point, you can’t use a timeout there. You don’t need to. You have two clock stoppages coming up: the 2 minute warning and the stoppage on a change of possession. After Tennessee’s punt, the Bears took over with 1:56 left. The clock was stopped at this point, for the 2 minute warning AND/OR the change of possession. Basically, two stoppages were combined into one, thus “wasting” one clock stoppage. As it turned out, lucky for Coach Fox it didn’t matter. Barkley drove the Bears into scoring position with plenty of time. I believe 1st and Goal was with 47 seconds left. Let’s say Chicago needed that timeout? If Bears fans are keeping a list of Fox’s blunders, this would have garnered a bold check mark in permanent marker.
Head Coach John Fox
Bears Receivers – After committing just 11 drops in the season’s first 10 games according to Stats, Inc., Chicago dropped about 10 passes against the Titans. Not all drops are created equal of course, but at least 3 drops were in the end zone in a game the Bears lost by 6 points.
- WR #11 Josh Bellamy: 4 catches, 3 drops
- WR #81 Cameron Meredith: 2 catches 3 drops
- WR #10 Marquess Wilson: 8 catches, 2 drops
- WR #14 Deonte Thompson: 5 catches, 1 drop
- RB #24 Jordan Howard: 3 catches, 1 drop
RB #24 Jordan Howard – Howard had yet another solid game. He rushed 18 times for 84 yards. He caught 3 passes for 43 yards. He showed surprising speed on several plays too, which might previously have been seen as one of his biggest weaknesses. Now it is apparent that his biggest weakness is receiving. He dropped his 7th pass of the season in this game. According to STATS, Howard had 6 of the 11 Chicago drops on the season coming into this game. Howard was tied for the league lead with his 6 drops, tied with WR’s Brandon Marshall/Jets, Marvin Jones/Lions, and Mike Evans/Buccaneers (according to sportingcharts.com). Of course, those guys are receivers that have caught at least 42 passes on the year with a minimum of 77 targets. Now Howard has 7 drops and 25 catches out of 41 targets. He needs to work on this part of his game.
WR #10 Marquess Wilson – He caught 8 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. Sure he had 2 dropped passes, but at least he caught 8 spirals. Plus, he had a sweet kick of the loose ball into a Soldier Field security guy on what should have been his 14 yard TD with 3:38 left.
OC Dowell Loggains – Loggains called a good game on Sunday. He called some well-timed screen passes that, when caught, went for good gains. He seemed to catch the Titans off guard with his play calling. He used his personnel well, outside of not targeting #19 Eddie Royal for more than 1 catch for -6 yards (1 target out of 53 targets all game???). Nonetheless, we actually saw a competent offense despite 6 of 11 offensive starters missing the game. Give credit to Loggains.
Player of the Game
QB #12 Matt Barkley – In his 1st career start, Barkley grew. You could see his confidence grow with each and every drive toward the end of the game. He certainly has an NFL arm. He threw solid, tight spirals all day. He moved the team. He led the team and got the plays called correctly from all accounts. I can’t recall one false start. Could he be the answer to Chicago’s never-ending Quarterback question? It’s too early to tell. He did commit two costly turnovers on interceptions, one in the end zone on a poor throwing decision. However, it was Barkley’s 1st NFL start and he completed his 1st NFL Touchdown pass. His final stats were 28-54 for 316 yards, 3 TD and 2 INT. Nice job by #12. I’m looking forward to seeing him for the rest of this season at least.
Recap of Predictions
I was close this week. I predicted Tennessee to win 31-13. Final score was Tennessee 27-21.
Bears record : 2-9 (Lost 3 in a row)
My record : 5-6 (Won 2 in a row)
Next week Chicago hosts San Francisco (1-10) at Soldier Field in a big game…… big in helping determine the NFL Draft order.