Week 12 Recap: Tennessee Titans @ Chicago Bears

Final: Tennessee 27, Chicago 21

Marcus Mariota
QB Marcus Mariota taking off against Chicago’s defense.

The Titans looked to be running away with this game, at one point leading the game by 20 in the fourth quarter, but eventually had to gut a win out in crunch time handing the Bears their ninth loss of the season.  There were a lot of moving parts contributing to the nearly completed comeback out of Chicago’s corner.  Let’s take a look at them.

To begin, the Bear’s offense got off to a slow start but finished strong.  Chicago did manage a touchdown on their second possession of the game, but were then held out of the end zone until the fourth quarter.  Matt Barkley was very inconsistent over that (nearly) three full quarter stretch until catching fire later on.  He was inaccurate with the ball at times, failed to put a lot of air under many of his passes, and he made a couple of bad decisions.  When in rhythm he was just fine, but when he held the ball for more than three seconds, there was trouble.  Barkley would force it into coverage and ended up being picked off twice.  After his second pick, which was a horrible mistake throwing late into double coverage in the red zone, the USC product was much better getting the ball out fast and not allowing the Titans to build any kind of a pass rush against him.  The Bears’ offensive line was actually quite dominant in this contest.  They hardly allowed any pressures when the Titans did not blitz, and they paved the way for some nice runs out of Jordan Howard and KaDeem Carey.  Matt Barkley was not sacked.  The weak point of the Chicago offense was their receiving corps, specifically the wide receivers.  Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Jordan Howard, and Marquess Wilson all had bad drops and the team had at least seven of them officially.  They were winning a lot of their battles as far as route-running went, but when the ball was in the air they were not going up to catch it and the Tennessee defensive backs won all of those contests.  There was almost no production coming out of the tight end spot as compared to last week when Zach Miller was dominant in the seam versus the New York Giants.  It is clear that the Bears are hurting without their regular starters in Alshon Jeffrey and Zach Miller.

Matt Barkley
Matt Barkley in action from 11/27/16.

The Chicago defense was nothing special on the afternoon.  They were gouged in the middle of the field by Delanie Walker and Harry Douglass up the seams, and were frequently beat around the edges by Derrick Henry.  The one area they were good in was stuffing DeMarco Murray, who had almost no room to run in the middle of the formation.  Willie Young had a nice game creating tackle opportunities for his teammates.  He also made one stop behind the line of scrimmage.  There was not much of a pass rush mounted by Chicago.  Like the Titans, they also did not record a sack on the opposing pass-rusher.  Danny Trevathan ended up leaving the game with an undisclosed injury, predicted to be on his leg, but once he was gone it was apparent that the Bears’ defense had almost nothing left.  There was no leadership, and there were a lot of miscommunications in the secondary on the day.  The defense did look slow at times as well because they were beat around the edges by Derrick Henry on more than a couple of occasions and Marcus Mariota had a lot of green grass to take off with the ball in front of him.  Eddie Goldman was probably the closes thing the Bears had to a pass rush on the interior line this afternoon.

For the Titans, their offense looked sharp at times in this game.  Marcus Mariota was very good, and well protected.  He was making very accurate passes and throwing the ball away when it was not there.  Out of his eight incomplete passes, five of those were throwaways.  He was attacking the Bears up the seams with Harry Douglass and Delanie Walker and was able to hit a couple of passes deep down the field outside the numbers to Rishard Matthews.  Matthews found the end zone yet again in this game on an excellent diving 29 yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.  DeMarco Murray did not find a lot of running room in this game as the Bears loaded the box when #29 was in the backfield.  Derrick Henry, after not receiving a touch of the football last week in Indianapolis, was a very effective runner of the ball in this game.  He showed off why he was the number one pick for the Titans this year flashing his speed around the edge and power on the inside finishing all of his runs in impressive fashion.  The offensive line was solid in this game as well.  It is a good thing Taylor Lewan was healthy to go because he has been a stalwart for Tennessee on the season.  He and rookie counterpart Jack Conklin were constantly cracking down and sealing the edges.  Delanie Walker pitched in with some nice blocks as well.  He also made a nice touchdown grab in the second quarter of this game.  Overall the best player for the Titans was Marcus Mariota, but he had a lot of help from his toys, unlike Matt Barkley.  That was the ultimate difference in this contest.

Delanie Walker
Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker had a nice game making some catches, a couple of good blocks, and hauling in one touchdown pass.

The Titans’ defense was probably the worst unit on the field from Sunday.  Their corners were victimized on more than a few occasions and they allowed the Bears’ limited options to beat them down the field.  It started because they were unable to create much of a pass rush.  Yes, a lot of Matt Barkley’s passes were out quickly, but some of them weren’t, and to not record a sack on 54 dropbacks is not good for Tennessee.  This allowed their back seven to get exposed.  Jason McCourty had a rough game.  He was beat deep on a couple of occasions and ended up interfering with the opposing receivers on those plays.  LeShaun Sims ended up being a liability on the back end, looking very much the part of a rookie by letting his assignments beat him across his face.  The Bears were heavily undermanned in this game, yet Dick LeBeau let his corners play a lot of off coverage.  They also did not employ nearly as many blitzes as they should have against what was the equivalent of a rookie quarterback standing under center on the opposite side of the field.  Brice McCain was the lone player who did much of anything in coverage, but his most memorable plays were those where he was able to get some pressure on Barkley.  Overall, the Titans defense was not good and they allowed a talent-poor Chicago team hang around and almost pull off a surprising win.

The Titans did manage to win the game, but it was not as satisfying as it should have been since they nearly let a 20 point lead in the fourth quarter evaporate to an inexperience Matt Barkley with almost no weapons outside.  They will hit their late Week 13 BYE at 6-6 and a game in back of the Texans, who lost this week, for first place in the AFC South.  The Bears have nobody to blame but themselves for this loss.  Their receivers dropped way too many passes, including one in the end zone from Josh Bellamy with :47 left in the contest, one that if he caught it would have put the Bears in front without much time remaining.  Matt Barkley did at least prove to Chicago that he is capable of closing out the season for John Fox under center after looking atrocious early on.  He will likely get the nod next week against the 1-10 49ers when San Fran comes to town.

Titans vs. Bears
Matt Barkley threw his first three touchdown passes of his career Sunday versus Chicago

The Skinny:

  • Marcus Mariota played well yet again and set the Tennessee franchise record for touchdown passes in a season with 25.
  • The Tennessee defensive backs were torched all day.  A lot of off coverage allowed for underneath passing patterns and the secondary was, frankly, lucky that the Chicago receivers were not sharp enough in this game because they were not good.
  • Derrick Henry was, by a large margin, the best running back for the Titans after not touching the ball a week ago he ended this game with 60 yards on eight carries, showing great power running between the tackles and speed sprinting around the edge.
  • Matt Barkley was not awful in his first career start.  He threw the ball 54 times and tossed his first three touchdown passes in the league.  The longer he held the ball, however, the worse as he made a couple of bad decisions with the ball including a costly turnover in the red zone late in the third quarter.
  • The wide receivers for Chicago cost the team dearly in this contest.  They contributed for at least seven drops and were not winning their battles at the point of attack.  The absence of Zach Miller and Alshon Jeffery was clear.
  • Chicago’s defense was soft in the middle of the field and they got even thinner at linebacker when they lost Danny Trevathan to injury in this contest.  Their secondary was also beat deep on a few separate occasions.  They were fine in stuffing DeMarco Murray on the inside.

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