Chicago Bears: Eight Reasons This Team Is a Playoff Pretender
It’s hard to believe, but last season the Bears were sitting at the doorstep of the Super Bowl and were just a few plays short of getting there. If you didn’t know that the Bears were in the NFC Championship game last year, you would have never thought that they were previously a playoff team. This team is a mere shadow of itself now and isn’t playing up to anyone’s set expectations.
So why are the Bears playoff pretenders and not playoff contenders? What is going to make them miss the playoffs after getting to the NFC Championship last year?
Let’s look at eight reasons why the Bears are playoff pretenders as opposed to playoff contenders.
No Stability at the Safety Position
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The safety position is one of the most important positions in the Bear’s style of defense, and it's imperative that they have that position stabilized. That position has suffered this season and now the Bears are going to switch things up, by moving starters to the bench and bring rookie Chris Conte and second-year safety Major Wright in.
The problems at safety have cost the Bears and may not get any better. If that is the case, this team won’t be making the playoffs.
Receivers That Can’t Catch the Ball
Warren Little/Getty Images
Just looking at the wide receivers' performance this season, you may have noticed that almost all of them have problems catching the ball. There have been some key drops over the course of the last few weeks, and some of these drops could have led to scoring opportunities for the Bears.
With receivers who are unable to catch the ball, there is no way that the Bears can make the playoffs because their passing game is not working.
Blockers That Don’t Block
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The Bears did do much better at this in their game against the Vikings, but if they want to continue to have success they need to get their blocking going much better. Jay Cutler (as we will talk about later) has this clock in his head that’s telling him to throw the ball much earlier than he actually has to and that’s affecting the passing game. He’s getting that from the lack of pass protection that his line is giving him.
Cutler’s Internal Clock
Warren Little/Getty Images
We just talked a little bit about Cutler’s internal clock, and as we have seen, especially in their game against the Lions, Cutler is getting rid of the ball much faster than perhaps he should. He has no confidence in his offensive line’s ability to protect him so, thinking that the sack is coming, Cutler is getting rid of the ball earlier than his receivers are ready to catch the ball.
His line can help him get his clock back in order, but he has to throw the ball when the play is ready down the field.
The Pass Rush Is Broken
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
The Bears' pass-rush came back a little bit in their game against the Vikings, but if the past is any indication, it is bound to disappear again. The Bears saw some promising play out of second-round pick Stephen Paea, but it’s still way too early to crown him the king of the pass-rush just yet.
Julius Peppers has been hobbled by an injury, and that has rendered him less effective and the rest of the defensive linemen just aren’t getting the job done. Without a good pass-rush, the Bears' defense just won’t help them get to the playoffs.
The Rushing Defense Is Broken
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Teams have been able to run all over the Bears (not including the Vikings), and this is a serious problem. The Bears have had strong rushing defenses in the past, and for now, it appears as if its rushing defense isn’t working.
Looking deeper into the problem, the Bears' defensive tackles have been blown off the line by opposing offensive linemen. In one game (against the Saints), the Bears defensive linemen were being pushed five yards off the ball at times, and there was no way that they could make the play.
The linebackers and players in the secondary were making the plays. That’s not strong rushing defense.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
The Bears have suffered some injuries on the offensive line in particular that have helped keep them from developing a strong unit. They lost right tackle Gabe Carimi for a little while, holding back his development as a rookie and taking out one of their more valuable players.
Lance Louis has also missed some time with an injury. At other positions, one of Cutler’s favorite targets, wide receiver Earl Bennett, has been out of the lineup for an extended period of time, and that has given Cutler one less reliable receiver for him to throw the ball to.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The coaching staff has really been questionable over the past few games. You would think that they would want to put this team in a winning position, but with offensive coordinator Mike Martz refusing to step away from what he knows (and forcing the offense to keep on trying things that work), this signifies that the coaching staff is struggling to adjust, and struggling to adjust won’t help you win too many games.