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Inside Slant: Offensive problems hurt Bears in defeat

The Bears offense has had its ups and downs during the 2017 season, but no week had a greater apex than Week 14. Last Sunday against the Bengals, Chicago recorded 482 total yards, 29 first downs and scored 33 points in a decisive road victory. Head coach John Fox said after the win that he was pleased with how the team executed on the offensive side of the ball.

Six days later, that offense was nowhere to be found. On Saturday in another road contest, the Bears offense sank again, struggling to consistently move the ball in a 20-10 loss at Detroit. Injuries, penalties and both physical and mental miscues cost the Bears, as the team failed to capitalize when presented with offensive opportunities.

An offense can't do much when it's giving the ball to the other team, which the Bears did frequently versus the Lions. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky came into the contest with just four interceptions on the season, but he added to that total, throwing three on Saturday alone. The rookie had some bright moments in the game, but not enough to overcome the errors.


Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky talks with coaches during a break in the action while playing the Lions.

No play was costlier than the second of Trubisky's three interceptions on the afternoon, which came at the start of the fourth quarter. The Bears trailed by 17 at that point, but had the ball on the Detroit 5-yard line. On third down, Trubisky looked to hit wide receiver Dontrelle Inman on a post route in the back end zone. Inman ran past the cornerback who was defending him, but Trubisky failed to see nickel back Quandre Diggs dropping in a zone. The quarterback fired a quick pass, but Diggs leaped in front of Inman and picked it off, ending the Chicago scoring chance.

"Lack of rhythm on offense, penalties," Trubisky said when asked about the offense's lack of production. "We've got to eliminate penalties and then me taking care of the football, so we just need to do better at those things. Take care of the ball in red zone, be better on third down, obviously, and just execute better on offense all the way around. So, last week we had a little juice, executed, had things rolling. (Saturday,) it seemed like the opposite, so just got to go back, be critical on film to see what I can get better at and continue to push my teammates to get better."

Turnovers weren't the only issue for the Bears at Ford Field; the offense wasn't moving the ball particularly well even when it didn't give up possession. The first four drives of the game all ended in punts, and in only one of those drives did Chicago gain more than 15 total yards. Though Trubisky had 314 passing yards, he needed 46 attempts thanks to a struggling rushing attack. Chicago had only 43 rushing yards on 15 attempts, making the offense one-dimensional for much of the second half.

Penalties also set the Bears back, as the team had 13 infractions for 97 yards.

It also didn't help that the offense was short-handed after its explosive performance last week against the Bengals. Tight end Adam Shaheen, who had a touchdown versus Cincinnati, missed the game because of a chest injury. During the game, guards Tom Compton and Josh Sitton both had to come out because of various ailments. Injuries are never an excuse in the NFL, but the changes in the lineup didn't help the Bears on Saturday.

The Bears eventually did reach the end zone, on their ninth drive of the game. It took 13 plays and 92 yards (actually 104 yards because of penalties) before Trubisky hit Benny Cunningham for a 9-yard scoring pass. It proved to be too little, too late, however, as Trubisky's third interception on the final drive of the game ended things for good.

"You look at the box score, and people talk about the three picks, but I don't know exactly what happened on all of them," Fox said. "I've loved how he's grown and matured, and even today with his screen pass. You know, he spiked it in the dirt. He's had steady growth. I think he's improving every week."

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