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Chicago Bears

Hub Arkush: Bears win, but they won't fly until they learn to run

Bears running back Tarik Cohen gets outside of Giants safety Jabrill Peppers on Sunday at Soldier Field. The Bears won, 19-14.
Bears running back Tarik Cohen gets outside of Giants safety Jabrill Peppers on Sunday at Soldier Field. The Bears won, 19-14.

Picking the Bears over the New York Giants on Sunday was easy, but not quite as easy as it was to predict they’d struggle to get it done.

But before we get back to trying to figure out just how far south this season that started with such promise for the Bears has gone, let’s give a little credit where it is due.

Yes, the Giants are a bad football team, and the New York offense has struggled a good part of the year. But they do have some weapons – including one of the game’s best young running backs – and for a good part of the day Sunday, the Bears’ defense did a few things that felt a lot like 2018.

A couple of mental errors from Eddie Jackson made this one close, but Khalil Mack spent most of the second half imposing his will on the Giants. Leonard Floyd got angry. Ha Ha Clinton Dix has been playing really good football for a few weeks. Even though he may not get to go because of his club’s poor play, Kyle Fuller should be planning for his second straight Pro Bowl trip, and the defensive front spent the day telling rookie Daniel Jones, “You better beat us through the air, because we’re not going to let Saquon Barkley do it on the ground.”

All that said, overall, ugly was once again the word of the day.

To be fair, this one probably isn’t close if Mitch Trubisky doesn’t throw a pick in the end zone late in the first quarter on the Bears’ second possession, after driving 77 yards on 12 plays, if they don’t get a hands-to-the-face penalty on Cody Whitehair, wiping out a 60-yard Trubisky to Allen Robinson connection on their third possession and if Ben Braunecker doesn’t drop an easy touchdown catch late in the second quarter, leading to Trubisky’s first pick.

But in many respects, that all of those things consistently keep happening is exactly the problem with where this team is at right now.

This 19-14 Bears victory is one you can go back and watch and find mistakes by almost everyone on offense and a handful of players on defense, but fixing the problems just isn’t as simple as those players not making the same mistakes again.

Asked after the game how he balances the continued breakdowns of his offense versus the importance of getting another game in the win column, coach Matt Nagy said, “Yeah, well, No. 1, we don’t accept it, so that’s the first part is making sure, OK, how can we be better in that area?

“But I think it’s both sides, and you don’t want – coming out with the win, you’re proud of that, but we want to make sure that – I think we all pride ourselves, I know I do, on making sure that stuff doesn’t happen.”

Clearly, communication is a problem for these Bears right now, but not the whole problem.

The Bears’ running game is nonexistent, and it’s not for lack of effort.

The Bears managed only 65 yards on 26 runs, and far more damning, if you strip out longs of 13 yards for Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery and a 12-yard scramble from Trubisky, the Bears managed only 27 yards on the other 23 attempts, a 1.2-yard average.

It is practically impossible to establish an offense with that kind of ground game and equally difficult to stack first downs and give your defense a break or run a four-minute offense in the fourth quarter, which is why no matter who the Bears play, they’re always hanging around late.

It was great to see the Bears climb back to within a game of .500, but nothing got fixed or really even improved Sunday against the Giants, and we’ve been talking about failings in the ground game since Nagy arrived.

It’s hard to say whether it’s scheme, play-calling, coaching, talent or more the O-line’s fault than the backs’, or both, but it’s easy to see nothing is likely to get significantly better for this offense until they figure that out, and wins could be scarce the rest of this season.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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