The Chicago Bears lost 35-16 to the Green Bay Packers in their Week 17 matchup. The game was closer than the score suggests, but either way, Chicago’s defense once again struggled to stop Aaron Rodgers and the dynamic Packers offense. Despite the disappointing defeat, the Bears snuck in the playoffs due to an Arizona loss, so they will have a chance to redeem themselves next Sunday against the Saints. Here are 3 Bears takeaways from Week 17.
Red Zone struggles kill the Bears
Coming into the game, Chicago ranked 22nd in red zone percent at 56.4 percent. This percentage is very unimpressive, last among all playoff teams. The Bears continued their red zone struggles against the Packers in Week 17.
Chicago moved the football well against a good Green Bay defense on Sunday. Chicago’s offense had much more time of possession than the Packers, gained more yards and limited negative plays, only being sacked once. They reached the red zone 5 times, one more time than the Packers.
However, Chicago was unable to improve their red zone percentage. The Bears went 1 for 5 in the red zone, scoring only 1 touchdown, 3 field goals and coming up short on a 4th down conversion attempt. Meanwhile, Green Bay scored 4 touchdowns on 4 red zone trips. Those numbers are the difference between scoring 35 points and scoring 16 points.
To beat playoff teams, the Bears cannot continue this trend. In their wild card matchup, they will face a Saints team that ranks 5th in red zone percentage. To win this game, Chicago must outmatch the Saints in this regard, because as shown against the Packers, the Bears struggle to score in the red zone.
The Bears defense needs Roquan Smith
With 1:55 remaining in the first quarter, Bears linebacker Roquan Smith landed awkwardly on his right arm and was forced to leave the game. He was diagnosed with a shoulder injury and did not return to the game. This was a big blow to the Bears defense, as Smith stepped into a leading role for Chicago this season.
Smith’s extreme importance to the Bears is largely due to his outstanding pass coverage. Quarterbacks have a 58.3 passer rating when throwing to him. Among regular Bears starters, this is by far the best rating for defense. Chicago’s other regular starting linebacker, Danny Trevathan, is weak against the pass, allowing a 108.2 passer rating.
Chicago immediately suffered in pass coverage after Smith’s injury. On the Packers next drive, receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling ran right past Trevathan for a 72 yard passing touchdown. The drive after that, Rodgers lofted a pass right over Smith’s replacement Josh Woods for a touchdown, who was out of position.
Woods and Trevathan did fairly well stopping the Packers in the running game, as they were Chicago’s two leading tacklers. However, without Roquan, opposing offenses can easily take advantage of the Bears poor pass coverage at the linebacking position. Against playoff teams, this hole in Chicago’s defense is a big problem, one that could ultimately cost the Bears a win. Therefore, Chicago needs Smith to play to potentially win a playoff game.
The Bears continue to miss opportunities
Chicago missed many opportunities against the Packers on Sunday. Against the best teams in the NFL, you cannot do this and expect to win games. Of course, there were the aforementioned struggles in the red zone. But these were not the only opportunities missed during the game.
Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback who only has five interceptions on the season and is known for his smart decisions, made three throws that should have been intercepted. Not to mention, all of these interceptions would have given Chicago the ball in Packers territory. Some of the potential interceptions were tough catches, but either way, missing these opportunities were part of what killed Chicago.
On the last opportunity for an interception, the ball went right through rookie cornerback Kindle Vildor‘s hands. After that drop, the Packers drove down the field and scored the touchdown that virtually ended the game. If he had caught it, Chicago would have had an opportunity to score a touchdown and gain the lead in the fourth quarter.
Just like the two previous takeaways, continuing these trends could cost the Bears a playoff game. Unlike bad teams that the Bears have recently played, Chicago will be facing the tough 2nd seed New Orleans Saints. The Bears cannot afford to continue to make mistakes and miss opportunities like they did against Green Bay.
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