CHICAGO – At least it looked pretty. Admit it, that’s probably what you were thinking on Sunday around 11 AM.
Or maybe even 1 PM after the first 15 minutes came to an end.
It was a picturesque winter day outside on the lakefront of Chicago. Snow trickled from the sky, increasing more by the quarter as the winds remained uncharacteristically light. It was heavy enough to make it look like a major storm even if it wasn’t and made for some creative pictures of the game.
That figured to be about all people would get out of the game. After all, the two teams on the Soldier Field turf (which held up OK surprisingly on Sunday) had a combined three wins on the season.
What were you going to learn out of a game like this, other than a little bit about the seeding in this spring’s draft? As it turns out, a little more that you might think.
For one, Jordan Howard is sure making his father proud in a season to remember. Wearing his special Pro cleats for “My Cause, My Cleats” in pregame in honor of his father Reginald, the rookie continues to be one of the finds of the NFL Draft as he rushed for 117 yards and a career-high three touchdowns in the victory.
His fifth 100-yard game of the season brings him up to 883 yards on the season and has him within range of Matt Forte’s rookie rushing record of 1,238 back in 2008. Plagued by injuries at times in college at UAB and Indiana, Howard is also showing the durability which the Bears may be looking for in a franchise back.
“I’m definitely ready to be that workhorse,” said Howard after a 32-carry effort on Sunday. “Even though they might know the run is coming, they still have to stop it. So, they still have to go out there and do their jobs, just like we have to do our jobs. So, it’s best man wins.”
“So, it’s best man wins.”
That’s probably the case for the backup quarterback job next season. Who will be the starter (Cue Jay Cutler debate) is yet to be decided but a heated competition could ensue once this campaign ends.
One thing is for sure after Sunday: Matt Barkley is going to have a say.
Despite a start as sluggish as the turf on Sunday, the third starting quarterback of the year for the Bears ended up with a solid 11-of-18 on the contest with 192 yards. He also didn’t commit a turnover in a game for the first time this season and came through with a passer rating of 97.5.
It show the team may have a viable option as a backup should Brian Hoyer or David Fales move up or on this offseason.
“It’s at an all-time high in this league. Just knowing that I can play, that we can make plays as an offense,” said Barkley of Sunday, his first ever game in snow in his football career. “I’m not holding back, and they aren’t holding back on what we are installing from week to week. I know what we are capable of and what I am capable of.
“Hopefully we can keep pushing this, and keep the same mentality that we did last week when we were coming off a loss of wanting to get better and striving to perfection.”
Leonard Floyd continues to do the same even after giving himself and his teammates a scare when he got a concussion going head first into teammate Akiem Hicks against the Giants. Yet the first round draft pick aggressively attacked the 49ers and picked up two more sacks to bring his total to seven for the season.
That included his first NFL safety in the fourth quarter on Blaine Gabbert – the second time his hits have gotten points on the board for the Bears.
“Once he got used to the speed again, getting back out there, I think he responded well,” said Fox of Floyd. “We did get pretty good pressure. I think we had 5 sacks and there weren’t a whole lot of pass attempts.”
Right now the team is running out of opportunities to look forward of this team. Clarity can be developed over the last month as the team makes its next move on rebuilding. At least a few players brought some clarity to their abilities on Sunday even as the visibility deteriorated on a snow day on the lakefront.