The Bears have made a habit of winning ugly in 2020. This game was just downright ugly.
The scoreboard read 24-10 after the Rams took down the Bears in Los Angeles Monday night, but from the way the game looked, the score could have read 42-0 and such a score could seem equally plausible.
Chicago still finds itself in a favorable position at 5-2, but a win—let alone a tightly-contested game—against a strong NFC contender would have boosted the spirits of the locker room and the fanbase. Instead, their momentum seems as deflated as it has ever been all year.
Here are some of the takeaways from the loss.
The saying goes that football games are won and lost in the trenches. If that’s the case, then it definitely explains why the Bears played the way they did on offense this week.
Blame can be spread to different areas of the Bears’ organization for their offensive ineptitude on Monday. Poor play from Nick Foles, poor coaching and decision-making for Matt Nagy, and poor personnel investment by Ryan Pace are all valid reasons to be upset at where the Bears are now. However, the offensive line failed to carry their weight, and they were a big reason they lost to the Rams.
In the passing game, Foles was sacked four times and was under constant duress both off the edge and up the middle from Aaron Donald and the rest of the Rams’ defensive front. On the ground, David Montgomery was unable to exploit many holes that his linemen produced for him, and while he could have been a bit better, his 3.4 yards per carry lie heavily on the guys up front.
That’s not to say other Bears players didn’t disappoint. Foles made a handful of terrible decisions, forcing throws instead of throwing the ball away en route to two interceptions thrown. They tried to stretch the field a couple of times, but outside of an incredible 38-yard grab by Cole Kmet and a 42-yard catch from Allen Robinson—the latter being the longest pass the Bears have had all year—Foles was unable to hit his targets for one reason or another. Anthony Miller was practically nonexistent, and Demetrius Harris once agains proved he has no business taking passing-down snaps away from Kmet.
Regardless of which player the Bears trot out at quarterback for next year and beyond, though, they need to invest heavily in an offensive line this coming offseason. The current unit is simply not cutting it and doesn’t have the tenacity needed to succeed on a consistent basis. That’s where the Bears lost on Monday night.
Monday’s game was heavily expected to be a defensive slugfest in which both defenses overwhelmed the other team’s middling offense. That proved to be true for the Rams, but it failed to come to fruition for the Bears.
Jared Goff threw two touchdowns and no interceptions against a porous Bears defense. The middle of the field was essentially barren for most of the game, and roll-out passes saw Chicago struggle to successfully pull off zone coverage. Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown bowled right over a Bears run defense that got bullied consistently at the line of scrimmage. All told, the Rams ran for 161 yards on 34 carries—a 4.7 yards-per-carry average. For reference, that allowed average would give the Bears the eighth-worst run defense in the league if carried over 16 games.
Two players who typically stand out put together stinkers on Monday. Akiem Hicks was penalized three times and didn’t help out much in the run game. Kyle Fuller struggled a bit in coverage. While each of them have been playing at a Pro Bowl, possibly All-Pro level this year, neither of them were incredible against Los Angeles.
In general, the run game looks lackluster: a worrisome trend that has carried on for much of the year. The defensive line got moved around easily at the point of attack by the Rams’ offensive line, which allowed the likes of the aforementioned Henderson and Brown to get wide open lanes to exploit on the ground.
It wasn’t all bad for the Bears’ defense, though. Khalil Mack looked impressive, tallying a strip sack to give him 5.5 sacks in seven games for the 2020 season. Jaylon Johnson seemed to look good in coverage and ended up deflecting a pass. Roquan Smith tallied eight tackles and made some solid plays, but further evaluations of coaches film will determine exactly whether those numbers are misleading. Eddie Jackson also had nine tackles and recovered a fumble for a touchdown—the team’s only touchdown of the evening and what should have been his third touchdown of the year instead of his first.
Sean McVay is an intelligent coach who did a good job of neutralizing the Bears’ defense by exploiting the holes in their zone-heavy coverage and mauling their run defense into oblivion. The Bears have plenty of talented pieces on their defense; they had no excuse of being beaten the way they were on that side of the ball.
I really hate to be a negative Nancy and rag on the Bears all the time, but I’m genuinely struggling to put together positive takeaways from this game. It was brutal, folks.
Three and out
3. The Rams’ defense absolutely demolished the Bears’ offensive line, but Leonard Floyd in particular had his way against them, tallying two sacks in his first game against the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2016 draft.
This tweet from NBC Sports’ JJ Stankevitz pretty much sums it up.
The cherry on top to an atrocious night of football: Leonard Floyd now has two sacks tonight. He had seven sacks in his last 32 games with the Bears.— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) October 27, 2020
Kudos to Floyd for putting together a strong revenge game, but this performance is also incredibly indicative of how poor the Bears’ offensive line has been this year. Whether they’re in pass protection or blocking for the run, they have gotten overwhelmed by basically every team they’ve gone up against. Upgrading the offensive line is going to have to be a major priority this next offseason.
2. The Bears are still in a decent enough situation from a long-term postseason perspective, as they’re sitting at 5-2 and can afford to drop a handful of games and still make it into a Wild Card spot. However, a win would have helped them get some significant leverage over some of the other playoff contenders in the NFC.
Outside of the three non-NFC East teams currently winning their respective divisions, there are five teams over the .500 mark through seven weeks. The Saints and 49ers are both on the outside looking in on the playoff race, and both have plenty of raw talent on their rosters. With the Bears facing a tough string of competition in the coming weeks, they can’t afford to lose games like the one they lost on Monday.
1. Matt Nagy is in the phase of his head coaching career where he should have enough experience to avoid making stupid decisions. Instead, he’s arguably looking worse than he did in his first year with the Bears.
From relying on Cordarrelle Patterson to convert a fourth-down run to running dink-and-dunk passing plays when down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Nagy was simply outmanned and outcoached by Sean McVay on Monday. The Bears also made some baffling choices in their timeout usage, indicating Nagy found himself rushing to make a decision multiple times.
The Bears don’t have much offensive firepower in terms of their personnel, but at a certain point, Nagy has to take at least some of the blame for how bad their offense is. For a coach who comes from an offensive background, this team has no excuse being this bad on that side of the ball, no matter who is under center.