The Chicago Bears have been without their top two quarterbacks, Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer, for much of the season. This has left Matt Barkley, in his first year with the Bears, as the starter.
Barkley hails from Newport Beach, California and he has the surfer-boy looks to match. Once touted as a potential first-round draft choice out of USC, he waited until being drafted in the fourth round by the Eagles in 2013. Now in his fourth year in the league, Barkley played sparingly for the Eagles, not at all for the Cardinals, and not much for the Bears – until three weeks ago.
He got his first start in a 27-21 loss to the Titans, his second in a 26-6 win over the 49ers, and last week the Bears lost a heartbreaker to the Lions, by a 20-17 score. Chicago has had chances to win all three of the games Barkley has started.
His quarterback rating has been respectable: 72.8, 97.5, and 92.2. Barkley’s most impressive outing was last week’s game at Detroit. In the final minute, Barkley was in position to have the Bears kick the winning field goal, except for a fourth-down pass that bounced off the chest of receiver Josh Bellamy and two consecutive holding penalties by Bears’ linemen.
For the three games, Barkley has averaged 240 yards passing and completed 57 percent of his passes. He has thrown for four touchdowns and two interceptions.
It’s notable that of his 59 completions, the longest has only been for 31 yards. It could be that the Green Bay Packers’ defense will crowd the line of scrimmage and try to smother the Chicago receivers and their short routes.
The problem, however, is that Alshon Jeffery is returning Sunday from a four-game suspension. Jeffrey is the Bears’ big-play threat. In his nine games on the year, he has 40 catches on 73 targets, for 630 yards and an impressive 15.8 yards per catch. Nine of his catches have gone for 20 or more yards. Even with the four missed games, he ranks 49th in the league in receiving yards.
With Jeffery returning, the team coming back home after a near-win, Barkley taking advantage of his starting opportunity – and having nothing to lose – the 3-10 Bears could be primed to upset their rivals to the north.