In the first half against the Houston Texans, the Chicago Bears played like postseason contenders. Jay Cutler completed 10-of-13 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 141.8. He was sacked once by Whitney Mercilus for a loss of seven yards, but Cutler still finished the half with an exceptional 10.6 net yards per pass attempt. That performance led the Bears to a 14-13 lead, as they headed into the locker room.
In the second half, Cutler completed six of 16 passes for 60 yards with one interception for a passer rating of 39.6. Houston’s four sacks for 24 yards left him with 1.8 net yards per attempt. With no offense, the Bears defense couldn’t hold on in a 23-14 loss to the Houston Texans.
Three issues turned Cutler’s dominant first half into a second-half struggle for survival.
The first is the Bears could never get their running game in gear. Of the 18 times Cutler handed off, 17 were to Jeremy Langford. He gained 22 yards on eight carries in the first half and could have had more, but the NRG Stadium turf did a better job of tackling than the Houston defense did.
In the second half, Langford rushed 9 times for 35 yards. Put together, he averaged 3.4 yards per carry for the game which forced Cutler’s right arm to carry the offense.
With nothing to fear from the Bears’ running attack, Houston’s defensive line concentrated on dialing up the pass rush pressure. In the first half, the Texans’ only credited hit on Cutler was Mercilus’ sack. In the second half, not only did Houston drop Cutler four more times, they hit him in eight of his other 16 second half attempts.
Without a secure pocket for Cutler to operate in, the Texans were able to eliminate Alshon Jeffery from the Bears’ attack.
Jeffery caught four passes for 105 yards in the first half. The big strike came near the end of the half when Cutler connected with him for 54 yards to the Houston 19-yard line. Cutler followed with a laser beam to Eddie Royal for the go-ahead touchdown.
In the second half, Cutler was only able to target Jeffery twice, which were in the third quarter on consecutive plays, both were incomplete.
Another issue occurred on the second play after the kickoff, Cutler targeted Kevin White just as he made his cut towards the right sideline. The problem arose when White stopped and sat back into what he thought was a hole in the coverage. The pass was picked off by Andre Hal to give Houston the ball on the Bears’ 25-yard line. Four plays later the Texans had a 16-14 lead.
Cutler lost faith in him after that play. White did catch two more passes in the game for 29 yards, but both came in desperation on the Bears’ final drive. White was open on at least two other occasions when the game was still in doubt, but he was ignored by Cutler.
Overall, the Houston Texans made the adjustments they needed to make at halftime to pull the Bears’ passing attack off the fast track and drag it through the mud. To be successful this season, the Bears’ offensive coaches better figure out how to get the second halves of their games to look more like the first halves.