Winners and Losers of Chicago Bears' Week 3 Performance
The word gritty might be the best descriptor for these Chicago Bears.
Sunday, a day of near-disaster turned into triumph for the Bears, a 23-17 overtime home dismissal of the Pittsburgh Steelers on the back of a strong defensive performance and unforgettable effort by running back Jordan Howard despite a shoulder injury.
The Bears had an odd offensive approach, mostly ignoring wideouts. Cornerback Marcus Cooper made a gaffe that will go down as one of the worst of the season, though the win saved him from being infamous as a scapegoat.
Yet there were the Bears, getting the first win of the season via an overtime rush by the hurt Howard. The defense upheld its end of the bargain, limiting Le'Veon Bell to 61 rushing yards and Ben Roethlisberger to 235 passing yards.
The interesting thing about the surprise win for Chicago is how easily the team can improve on the negatives. Below, let's weigh the good and the bad by identifying some winners and losers.
Loser: Zach Miller
So much for Zach Miller seeing a bigger role.
On a day when quarterback Mike Glennon let wideouts go ignored, the veteran tight end didn't see much in the way of action.
The total? Miller received three targets, of which he grabbed one for 17 yards.
A tough day at the office for a guy who looked ready to be the main pass-catching option for the offense (mostly because he's the best pass-catching option) a week removed from nine targets.
Granted, this sort of output tends to happen when a team passes it 22 times compared to 38 rushes. But even then, Miller falling to tied for second in terms of targets on the day pegs him as a loser.
Winner: Jordan Howard
Few players had a better performance than Howard in Week 3.
A shoulder injury explained the running back's limited numbers over the course of the first two weeks of the season. Despite wearing a sling after the Week 2 loss, he went through the paces and suited up Sunday against the Steelers.
Though his running was visibly impacted at times, Howard finished with 23 carries for 138 yards and two touchdowns—including the game-winning score in overtime.
The 22-year-old talked up his tandem with fellow running back Tarik Cohen after the game, per Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times: "We're trying to be the best duo in the league."
If Howard can stay healthy and keep running like this, more wins could await.
Loser: Marcus Cooper
Marcus Cooper was a big addition for the Bears over the offseason.
Sunday, he made one of the worst plays of the season—for any team.
With time expiring in the second half, the 27-year-old found the ball in his arms after a blocked field goal. He did the right thing, returning the ball up the field for a touchdown.
Except the cornerback slowed to celebrate and got hit, costing the Bears seven points.
"I did think I had made it, but obviously I didn't," Cooper said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Potash.
Cooper is still a nice addition to the secondary, but he's going to have a hard time getting people to forget about this one.
Winner: Kyle Long
Welcome back, Kyle Long.
It's no coincidence the Bears had their best rushing game of the season once he returned on Sunday.
Playing in his first game since last year's ugly injury, Long slotted right in and took care of business against a game Pittsburgh front, paving the way for Howard's 138 yards and 220 overall on a 5.8 per-carry average.
It should go without saying, but the 28-year-old easily remains the best offensive lineman on the roster. He's the glue guy, though the unit desperately needs every starter to be healthy alongside him.
Regardless, Long is a big reason the Bears stood a chance on Sunday, controlling 33:59 of clock getting a win. With Glennon struggling, the team needs more monster performances from him in front of the backs.
Loser: Kendall Wright
Kendall Wright falls into the same category as Miller.
Wright put on a show a week ago, fully assuming the role of No. 1 wideout in the wake of season-ending injuries to Cameron Meredith and Kevin White. He tallied 10 targets, catching seven of them for 69 yards.
For a moment, the long-awaited reconnection with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains seemed ready to pay off for the Bears in a big way.
Then he received zero targets on Sunday against the Steelers.
Granted, Wright had a shoulder issue during the week leading up to the game. He also fell victim to the odd game plan on a day Glennon only completed one pass to a wideout.
Still, the 10-to-zero turnabout is hard to ignore.
Winner: Sherrick McManis
Here's a name Bears fans don't hear often.
Sherrick McManis blocked the field goal Sunday that turned into the gaffe by Cooper, which is all the play will really be remembered for. Well, outside of the Bears locker room, that is.
The coaches know full and well what McManis is capable of, hence him still being on the roster and named a captain.
Now 29 years old and in his eighth season, the 2010 fifth-round pick joined the Bears in 2012 and has managed to stick for a variety of reasons, all of which were on full display Sunday.
Loser: Mike Glennon
Not too surprising given the tone above, right?
Glennon executed the safest game plan fans have seen in years Sunday, mostly ignoring wideouts and only hitting backs on surefire throws or looking to tight ends for easy connections. This isn't saying none of targets went down the field, but it is saying it was an odd day.
As Josh Norris of Rotoworld noted, Glennon completed three passes beyond five yards.
This might sound weird after a victory for the team, but the Bears really have nothing else to lose when it comes to the idea of starting rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
At the end of the day, the Bears drew up Sunday's game plan because of Glennon's limitations as a quarterback. It got them a win, but this is far from something that will work on a weekly basis.
Reducing the playbook and field is fine for a week or two, but when the Bears have to open it back up again because opponents adapt, the team will go back to looking like the one that lost the first two games of the season.
With Trubisky, everything is on the table thanks to his arm and athletic ability. Win or not, Sunday stressed this point in a big way.
Winner: Tarik Cohen
There might not be a more exciting player in football than Cohen.
All of 5'6" or not, Cohen has routinely put defenders on skates and swollen a handful of ankles once the adrenaline wears off the next day thanks to his shifty play. He also happened to carry the offense on his back over the course of the first two weeks with Howard struggling.
Not bad for a rookie.
Sunday, Cohen took 12 handoffs and turned it into 78 yards, good for a 6.5 per-carry average. He caught another four passes for 24 yards and happened to have an explosive touchdown called back.
The threat with Cohen on the field isn't just his speed, but the fact he's so versatile he could do anything. If he can keep playing like this as the complement to Howard, it takes pressure off the quarterbacks and should have the Bears winning more games than last year.