It was ugly, exciting, and ugly again as the Chicago Bears simply couldn’t muster up enough magic to beat the Oakland Raiders in London on Sunday. Khalil Mack’s “revenge game” was made a dud by strong offensive line play and smart playcalling from Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who said in the locker room in a pass at the Bears’ Club Dub, “I don’t have a disco, but let’s all start dancing.”
And dance they did after a weird game in which the Raiders led at halftime 17-0. The Bears came out of the gates continuing a maddening trend of offensive ineptitude, mustering up only 29 yards through the first two quarters. They caught big breaks in the third, recovering a botched pitch to Raiders running back Josh Jacobs to start their second drive of the half from the Raiders’ 14. The Bears forced a Raiders punt on the next drive, now down 17-7, and went on a 12-play, 89-yard touchdown drive that included a miraculous 32-yard catch by Anthony Miller over Lamarcus Joyner.
Down 14-17 with 1:58 left in the third, Tarik Cohen took a Raiders punt 71 yards to Oakland’s 16, setting the Bears up once again with a short field. Chase Daniel found Allen Robinson in the end zone for the wide receiver’s second touchdown of the day, and in one quarter, the Bears had built a 21-17 lead.
“Any time you’re down in the NFL 17-0, it’s always hard to come back,” Matt Nagy said postgame. “They’re good teams. But when we went in at halftime there was no panic. There was cool, calm, let’s go make a play, and the whole thing was one-play-at-a-time mentality, and I thought we really did that for the most part.”
Oakland responded by marching all the way to the Bears’ three-yard-line after starting from their own 35. A screen pass to Trevor Davis seemed sure to result in a touchdown, all he had to do was navigate traffic. Sherrick McManis, channeling his inner Charles Tillman, popped the ball out on the goal line for a Bears takeaway. Surely, after mounting such a comeback and forcing this caliber of a fumble, this was a game the Bears were just meant to win. The script was just too perfect for a Bears defeat to be its end.
This is a movie without a happy ending for Bears fans, however.
Pat O’Donnell delivered a magnificent punt nine plays after the fumble, downing it to Oakland’s three. Derek Carr had 7:49 to lead an improbable 97-yard drive to take the lead. The Raiders, who had spent the time since the Khalil Mack trade as the league punchline, could get the last laugh.
The Raiders were forced to punt on a 4th & 6 from their own 22 but were granted five amnesty yards after linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis was called for running into the kicker. They faked the punt on the next play for a run up the middle, gaining a first down after a fumble call was reviewed overturned.
From there, Oakland did what they’d done all day: Chop up a flat Bears’ defense, control the line of scrimmage, and run the ball down their throats. A 23-yard pick up by Foster Moreau after a hard play-fake brought the Raiders to the Bears’ 37, where they continued chipping away until they hit paydirt.
The Bears had 1:57 on the clock to make something happen, but any hope dissipated when Chase Daniel threw his second interception of the afternoon essentially icing the game.
“We didn’t start early enough,” Nagy said on Monday. “I want to give credit to Oakland for the way that they played, and that’s a part of how this thing goes. So, we’ll have to lick our wounds and be able to come back stronger and use this bye week to get better.”
“That’s one of our stable plays,” Chase Daniel said of his last-minute interception. “We made a check and at the end they made a better play.”
“It’s completely on me… There’s no excuses for it. You’re 16, 17 yards away with a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime, and I like our chances the way we’ve been playing really in the second half. It’s unfortunate, just we didn’t get a lot of chances in the first half, and when we did we turned the ball over. I took a sack. We couldn’t stay on the field. We weren’t very good.”Chase Daniel
Chase Daniel is right. The Bears were not very good, to put it mildly. Starting up front, on both sides of the ball, they were completely outplayed. The offensive line, which was a strength of the team headed into the season, was once again completely unable to protect their quarterback. Daniel looked out of tune with his line and looked to break pocket way too often, but it’s hard to blame him for happy feet given the protection he was given; NFL’s Next Gen Stats tracks average separation from pass-rusher to quarterback and the league average is 4.49 yards. The Raiders had three players under 3.7 yards of separation from Chase Daniel on Sunday. Daniel ended his day 22/30 for two touchdowns and two interceptions, while also getting sacked four times.
The Bears’ defensive line, a ferocious unit all season, was kept without a sack. For all the talk about a Khalil Mack revenge game, he was completely nullified by extra blockers and quick throws.
The loss of Akiem Hicks early on was difficult for the Bears, but they did not miss a beat without him last week. They just did not look like themselves: Save for McManis’s forced fumble at the goal line, the Bears’ defense had no sacks and no takeaways. Mack was taken care of, sure, but that means there is one and sometimes two fewer blockers for the rest of the defense to face.
The Raiders could run the ball at will, with Josh Jacobs averaging 4.73 yards per carry for 126 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears’ defensive line was completely bullied by the Raiders, as Josh Jacobs had room to run on many of his carries. The defense was due for a dud after their fast start to this season. Miami and New England carved them up with ease last year. There is empirical evidence to suggest that they will regroup and figure things out after the bye.
The offense… that’s another story. The Bears’ offense has been bad with or without Mitchell Trubisky. They are only ahead of the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, one of whom is actively trying to be bad, in yards per game. They rank 28th in points, 29th in passing yards and 26th in rushing yards. The story of the Bears heading into this season was that if their offense could at least be average to above average, they were legitimate Super Bowl contenders because of how dominant their defense is. So far, they’re among the league’s worst offenses.
Nagy pointed to reason for optimism on Monday: “We were 3-2 last year, and we ended up 3-3. And then went a run. So, my only experience as head coach is pulling from last year and seeing that where we’re at now is the same spot. So we’re 3-2, we have a winning record, we’ve been in every game. I love the attitude of our guys so that when you hit a little adversity we know that we’ll pull together and use these losses to make us better.”
They have a chance to right this ship coming out of the bye, hopefully with a healthy Mitchell Trubisky who has had time to improve since his first three performances. But Sunday is what happens when their defense is unable to bail them out. Right now, the Bears have an awful lot of question marks.
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