Chicago Bears

Bears hit a new low with record-setting case of the drops

Bears hit a new low with record-setting case of the drops

The 2016 Bears are finding different ways each week to hit a new low.

They flipped the script on what appeared to be a blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans at Soldier Field Sunday, but a serious case of the drops by the receivers helped turn this one into another gut-wrenching loss.

Trailing 27-7 in the fourth quarter, Matt Barkley led the Bears on a major comeback, bringing the team seven yards away from a game-tying score and a successful extra point away from a victory.

Barkley threw for 210 yards in the fourth quarter alone, but he couldn't get those final seven yards, thanks to a devastating drop by a wide-open Josh Bellamy in the endzone with less than a minute remaining in the game.

"I just missed the opportunity," Bellamy said. "I beat myself up because I expect more out of myself and I know I should have made that play."

Bellamy stood at his locker after the game and answered question after question about his costly drop. He said he apologized to Barkley after the gaffe.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Barkley's fourth-quarter line is even more impressive given the Bears receivers were slapped with five drops in the final period.

As a whole, a Bears receiving corps missing Alshon Jeffery (suspension), Kevin White (injury) and Zach Miller (injury) had 10 drops — the most recorded in a game over the last decade:

"We're all upset at ourselves," said receiver Marquess Wilson. "We just gotta work at it and get better."

Wilson finished with 125 yards on eight catches and a touchdown, but he dropped another easy score in the back of the endzone in the fourth quarter. 

Barkley later threw a touchdown pass to Deonte Thompson on that drive, so ultimately there was no harm done, but Wilson admitted he should catch that ball 10 out of 10 times.

Wilson and Bellamy pointed to a lack of focus as an issue among the receiving corps.

Making his first NFL start, Barkley refused to throw any of his receivers under the bus, pointing to his own mistakes as contributing to the loss and taking the blame off Bellamy's shoulders.

"We win as a team and we'll lose as a team," said Barkley, who insisted he never got frustrated with all the drops. "During the game, I don't get wrapped up in the emotions of all that negativity. I'm trying to keep guys going, keep the tempo pressed and one play at a time."

The Bears are in the midst of one of their toughest seasons in franchise history and it's more than just the 2-9 record — it's the injuries and the suspensions adding up to an overwhelming amount of adversity.

But the NFL season is not like a boxing match. There are no refs to call it early on account of knockout.

There are still five games left and the Bears receiving corps will be without Jeffery for two more contests before he returns from suspension and won't see White or Miller stepping out on the gridiron again this year.

"Hey, the sun's gonna come up tomorrow," Bellamy said. "Just gotta keep doing it."

Jordan Howard's eye injury keeps him grounded as Bears fly to Arizona

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USA TODAY

Jordan Howard's eye injury keeps him grounded as Bears fly to Arizona

The Bears' best offensive player won't be suiting up in Saturday's preseason game. In fact, he won't even be on the sideline. 

Jordan Howard suffered an eye injury Friday, preventing him from flying with the team to Arizona. 

Although ESPN's Adam Schefter believes it's minor, that's not a good sign for an offense that relies heavily on the run game.

Joining Howard on the inactive list are more key offensive guys: 

- Kyle Long, OL

- Jeremy Langford, RB

- Joshua Bellamy, WR

- Markus Wheaton, WR

That means Mike Glennon, who is embroiled in a growing quarterback controversy, will have his work cut out for him. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears will also be missing some notables: 

- Danny Trevathan, LB

- Mitch Unrein, DL

- Bryce Callahan, DB

- Alex Scearse, LB

- Jonathan Anderson, LB

- Kapron Lewis-Moore, DL

Hopefully Howard and the team can get healthy before the real deal begins because last year's injury-plagued season was certainly no fun. 

How Charles Leno Jr. isn't thinking about the big picture heading into a contract year

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USA Today Sports Images

How Charles Leno Jr. isn't thinking about the big picture heading into a contract year

One of John Fox’s favorite sayings is that the best ability is availability. No player exemplified that line more than left tackle Charles Leno Jr. in 2016. 

Leno played all 1,010 of the Bears’ offensive snaps last year. His effectiveness may not have matched his availability — Pro Football Focus, for what it’s worth, described Leno as being a “below average” starter. The Bears like Leno, though. But enough to give him another contract?

“He’s pretty reliable and dependable,” Fox said. “But we all have room for improvement so I think he’d tell you the same thing.”

For Leno, there’s no time like the present to make those strides. He’s due to hit free agency after this season, and, unless the Bears sign him to a contract extension, will enter a market that last spring saw five left tackles (Riley Reiff, Matt Kalil, Russell Okung, Andrew Whitworth and Kelvin Beachum) sign contracts each including eight-figure guaranteed money. But Leno, who will be 26 this spring, isn’t doing a lot of thinking about what his future could look like beyond this year. 

“It’s in the back of your mind, but at the end of the day I’m trying to go out there and just perfect my craft,” Leno said. “That’s really what I’m trying to do. I’ve been doing that the last two and a half years now. It’s the same routine every day. Just trying to go out there and perfect my craft, things will take care of itself. If I do what I need to do out there, everything will follow.”

For Leno, perfecting his craft means perfecting the basics of being a left tackle. What he rattled off: Placement of hands, base in pass set, staying square, not opening up too early. Being consistent in those areas is what Leno sees as that next step in his development. 

“I think Charles Leno does a really great job focusing attention to detail within his set,” left guard Kyle Long said. “Whether it’s a set angle, his hands or his strike, he always has a plan and he’s somebody that’s athletic enough to recover if he ever does get in a bad situation. It’s a really difficult position to play out there but I think Charles Leno is one of the most athletic guys that’s been around here.” 

Practice has provided an ideal opportunity for Leno to work on all those things, given the array of pass rushers he’s facing from his own defense. 

“I got a very fast guy (Leonard Floyd), I got a very tall, long guy (Willie Young), and I got a short, powerful guy (Lamarr Houston). I mean, what more do I need on a practice field? I got the best guys in the world to go against every day.”

But the point remains: Leno does have room for growth. A fully healthy Bears’ offensive line, with a more consistent Leno, can be one of the best units in the NFL on which the team’s level of production can be based. 

And if that’s the case, Leno can expect a significant payday next spring, either from the Bears or another team. 

“I never expected I would be in this situation, absolutely not,” Leno said. “I’m very blessed, I’m thankful for the opportunity that I’ve got into. But also, it’s a testament to the work I’ve been putting in for myself and I just don’t ever want that to stop. I don’t ever want the work ethic that I have to ever go down because I’ve got some money or because I’m in a contract year. I want to keep improving whether I have the money or not.”