THE MORNING AFTER: Barkley deserved better
DETROIT – So this is now where this season has gone. After Week 14, I feel really bad for the backup
After Week 14, I feel really bad for the backup quarterback. That man is Matt Barkley.
Give this Bears’ season credit, what it lacks in success it makes up for in narrative. That’s the best you could hope for from a 3-10 team.
So why feel bad for the Bears’ backup? Because he should have had his first signature moment of his NFL career on Sunday.
In his third consecutive start for the Bears, Barkley was doing a number of things right if not spectacular. He didn’t turn the ball over, his incompletions were scattered but not numerous. When the Bears fell behind by ten, he led a touchdown drive to get the deficit down to three and then watched his defense give the Bears the lead with a Pick 6.
After his counterpart for the day, Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, scored on an impressive touchdown run in the fourth, Barkley once again had it all together.
A pair of short passes to Daniel Brown and Deonta Thompson got the Bears to their own 36-yard line at the two-minute warning. Three more short passes got the Bears into Detroit territory.
“I was just telling myself, ‘Just stay alive, give us a chance,’ said Barkley as he led the team downfield.
Then he got let down.
Barkley hits Cameron Meredith on a pass to his left and he promptly made his way downfield for 27 yards. Penalty on Charles Leno Jr., no play, 10-yard walkoff.
Barkley hits upstart practice squad player Daniel Braverman with a deep strike over the middle for 23 yards. Penalty on Ted Larsen, no play, 10-yard walkoff.
“I just kind of clap my hands. Tell them to lock in, let’s go, listen up. They know what to do,” said Barkley of rallying the offense after the bad penalties. “They know to lock in and they help me out in the huddle to make sure guys are ready to go.”
They were and they weren’t.
After making up some of the 3rd-and-25 on a 14-yard pass to Meredith, one more let down for good measure. This time he hit Josh Bellamy in the chest with pass as he leaped over defenders, only he couldn’t hold on.
As the ball hit the turf, the Lions fans celebrated, and gone was a comeback Barkley so deserved.
“We’ve just got to make a play. That kind of defines the whole game though,” said the hard-luck quarterback when asked about the penalties. “Some of those drives were just stunted by not making plays. It starts with me. It starts with up front, everyone across the board. We’ve just got to make plays.”
Matt did on Sunday. He did last week in the Bears’ third victory of the season when he played an efficient game in the snow against the struggling 49ers. While by no means perfect, Barkley did enough to help the Bears pull off a rally against the Titans for another win in his first start.
Like Sunday, that slipped through the team’s hands as Bellamy and Deonte Thompson dropped passes in the endzone that would have given the Bears a shot at the win.
At the same time, don’t think his play – 720 yards passing with four touchdowns compared to three interceptions – hasn’t caught the eye of the man in charge.
“The conditions he played in a week ago even though it was at home, it was still tough conditions for a quarterback or anybody that handles the ball,” said head coach John Fox of Barkley. “And then really to come here on the road against a good football team in a loud environment, continues to be a bright spot in a kid’s performance and I thought it was good.”
But it should have been better for a quarterback who is making a case to stay with the organization in some capacity. Right now, he should be 3-0 as an NFL starter, but those around him let him down.
Funny, who would have ever thought Matt Barkley would be someone earning sympathy? That’s your 2016 Bears.