By Greg Gabriel--
(CBS) Soon after the Bears' 26-6 domination of the 49ers on Sunday, the narrative surfaced that Chicago just lost because it won. The thinking behind that statement was the Bears (3-9) hurt their chances of nabbing a two-two or top-three draft pick by beating the woeful 49ers (1-11).
That's off base. With four games left to be played, there's much to be decided regarding the draft slots. Second, don't ever tell a player, coach or administrator that they lost because they won. Anyone who makes that kind of statement doesn't understand what football is about.
Football is the ultimate team game and players, coaches and administrators need some success during the season. They're all evaluated on success, not failure. I've been around the game in some capacity since I was eight years old, and losing never helped anything. The players and coaches couldn't care less how high a draft choice the team has.
Every player who ever played the game gets evaluated every time he steps on the field. If he plays poorly, his career won't last long. Players, coaches and front office members need to win in order to keep their jobs. So don't ever tell them that they "lost' by winning. It goes against every bit of competitive spirit they have.
For most of the first half Sunday, the 49ers were dominating. They were playing a more physical game and controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That changed in the last two minutes of the first half.
Until that point, the Bears had had attempted only two passes, with one completed -- but it was nullified because of a penalty. Needing 81 yards in the final two minutes meant the Bears had to throw in order to score. Matt Barkley completed four of five throws for a total of 64 yards on the drive that lead to a Bears touchdown and a halftime lead of 7-6.
That final drive of the half gave the Bears confidence that they could throw the ball in the horrific weather. From there, they had a wonderful mix of the run and pass, which allowed them to win easily.
If that final drive of the first half hadn't been successful, there's no telling how the game would turn out.
After the Bears' loss to the Titans in Week 12, I stated that regardless of his stats, Barkley was no better than a No. 3 quarterback in the league. After Sunday, I've changed my opinion. He could become an adequate backup.
Against Tennessee, Barkley was playing against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. The Titans played soft coverage, and the Bears receivers were wide open. The throws were there, and it was a matter of completing the passes.
On Sunday, the Bears played one of the two worst teams in football. The 49ers play poor defense and have a tendency to fold in the second half when the going gets tough, and that's exactly what happened.
That said, Barkley played with poise and did what he had to. He showed a calm demeanor and leadership. From a physical viewpoint, he has limitations. He has an average arm and can't drive the ball. He also has limited mobility when trying to avoid pass rushers. Still, he plays with confidence. It will be interesting to see how he plays the final four games, all against teams that are trying to earn a playoff spot. Those games will go a long ways in saying how long a career Barkley will have in the NFL.
Development of young players
Seldom does anything good ever come from losing and injuries. This Bears team has had as many injuries to key players as I have ever seen. Because of the injuries, young players who wouldn't ordinarily get to play have gotten a chance to show what they could do. Many have shown they just may have a bright future in the NFL.
Josh Bellamy was the goat of of the loss to the Titans with his key drops. He came back Sunday to catch four passes for 93 yards, and all of the catches were big plays when the Bears needed them. That tells you a lot about the competitive nature of Bellamy.
Players like offensive lineman Eric Kush, linebacker John Timu, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and defensive back Cre'Von LeBlanc are only playing because of injuries to the starters. Each has come up big. Kwiatkoski lacks speed and range, but he has great instincts, finds the ball and is physical. LeBlanc lacks size, but he has good quickness, shows he can play man or zone and has good ball skills. Like Kwiatkoski, Timu has some limited physical attributes, but he's also instinctive and can find the ball. Kush came from a Division-II college program and has bounced around the league, but he has shown that he can play with strength and power and has position versatility.
While these players may never be top-level starters, the playing experience they get helps the Bears create quality depth for the future.
Rookie players this year who have really played well are running back Jordan Howard, center Cody Whitehair and linebacker Leonard Floyd. If the rest of the rookie class can develop as expected, it will go a long way toward providing the Bears with quality depth in the future.
While we can't expect much from the rest of the season, we know that this coming offseason will be important in regards to finding four or five quality players to fill help with the weak areas of the current roster.
General manager Ryan Pace has a difficult job in determining what veterans stay or go. If players like receiver Alshon Jeffery and quarterback Jay Cutler aren't brought back, the Bears will have more than 30 million in new cap space to use on future acquisitions. That money can help bring in three or four quality veteran players in needed areas.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.
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