The loss was frustrating, but at the end of the day, we're 3-3. And every loss has went down to the wire. There is no reason for anyone to be underwhelmed about this team. Bears just out-played us, but Rhule/Brady/Snow is proving to be a very good coaching trio.
I thought Joe Brady called an excellent game. Yes, the offense struggled, but it wasn't scheme-related. Turnovers and red-zone efficiency killed what had the potential to be a 30-point day. We were moving the ball well, got into the redzone a couple of times. I thought we did a good job of getting Moore more involved. Better concentration from Moore and better accuracy from Teddy, he probably has a 150+ yard day. We took our shots downfield when needed.
What I also loved is how we never got away from the run game. Anyone remember how, despite having a bulldozer like Cam and effective RBs, that in the Rivera era we CONSTANTLY would get away from the run once we got down? It's why we'd get blown out so much. But we kept at it this game, even if it wasn't always efficient. Bridgewater and Davis combined for 26 carries. Cannon had 3 as well. If it wasn't for Bonnafon and Samuel being out, I think we try to run it even more. When you consider our poor field position throughout the day, the commitment to the run game helped us keep it close.
I am still not ready to crown Phil Snow yet, because I still want to see a great all-around performance from them. I wouldn't call the Cardinals game that, if only because I think that had more to do with Kingsbury's offense being terribly schemed. However, there is no denying this defense has FAR exceeded expectations. I would have liked to see us be more aggressive in the Bears game though. Whether that's through blitzing or playing tighter coverage, I wanted to see them force Foles to hold the ball and push it downfield more. But I get the hesitancy. It was a close game and you don't want to risk giving up a big play.
I will say though, I think the narrative about us having "bad DBs" is starting to get shredded. We may not have a true #1 corner, or a top cover safety, but these guys can play. Chinn is all over the field, Douglas is having a VERY good year thus far, and Pride may be inconsistent but dude is a late-round rookie. He's playing as well as you could expect from him, and I'm starting to think he has a bright future with the Panthers. I never know quite how I feel about Donte Jackson, but I don't think it's fair to write him off either. I'd say Burris is having a solid season too... at the very least, he's much better than some safeties we have had in the past.
Outside of the Falcons game, I think our run defense has been solid for the last month or so. Bears only had 63 rushing yards. Cardinals had 81 rushing yards outside of Murray's 48 yard scamper. Chargers only had 117. Bucs only had 76 outside of Fournette's 46 yard run at the end of the game. Yes, those runs count, and you want to eliminate the big ones more than anything else, but the run defense is a lot better than it was a year ago even if the #s don't reflect that yet. Brown is coming on STRONG. He's made a lot of splash plays behind the LOS, and his bull rush in the pass game has gotten better every week too. Pass rush in general was solid in the Bears game late in the 2nd quarter and most of the second half. Foles did a good job getting the ball out though, which goes back to my point... I wish we would have started playing tighter coverage. Probably could have gotten a couple of sacks. But ultimately it didn't hurt us too much.
The biggest problem with this team currently, by far, is red-zone efficiency. Christian McCaffrey SHOULD help with that, but we shouldn't have to be so dependent on one player to be better than bad in the red-zone.
Rhule said something that I kind of agree with though. And why I'm not blaming Brady. It isn't necessarily that there is a play or something we aren't running in the red-zone... we just kind of don't got the guys (or as Rhule phrased it, we ain't making the plays). Teddy B is most effective when the field is spread out and he can read the coverage and find the open man in 1, 2 seconds. That's not the kind of stuff you're gonna get in the red-zone though. The field is shortened and you almost always have less time in the pocket than you would otherwise. So Teddy's struggling down there. Then you have our WRs, who again are most effective when the offense is spread out. OL has shown improvement, but they simply aren't talented enough to consistently move the opposing DL in the run game. And while people think this offense doesn't include a tight end only because of scheme, I disagree. I think Joe Brady absolutely would use a TE, if he had one good enough to warrant getting a lot of time on the field. I think it's time for us to accept that maybe Ian Thomas just isn't that good. He's shown flashes, but never put it all together. And Chris Manhertz is what he is. This offense needs a Jimmy Graham kind of tight end. IIRC, Saints never used a tight end much either until they drafted him.
Overall, it was a tough loss, and the Panthers could easily knock off the Saints next week. I think the offense is gonna have a great game. Curtis Samuel should be back (I haven't heard anything else, so I'm assuming his knee wasn't a major thing), McCaffrey might be back, and hopefully Teddy bounces back.