The Chicago Bears weren’t able to get off to their first (4-0) start since 2006 and frankly, they didn’t look remotely good taking their first loss of the season. Even so, this is still a team that sits at (3-1) heading into a crucial matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on short notice this Thursday night on prime time.
It was evident out of the gate that the Bears offense was going to have issues with Football Outsiders’ top rated DVOA defense, and they scored just three points before their last-minute TD with under two minutes left to go in Sunday’s game. While the defense isn’t at that same elite level as 2018, they still did more than enough to get a win. Which begs the question — How concerned should we be with this offense moving forward?
Let’s dive into that and much more on this week’s 10 takes.
1. The team’s long-term answer at quarterback isn’t on the roster but we already knew that
Let’s be honest with ourselves here. For as exciting as Nick Foles’ comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3 was, concerns about the long-term outlook of this team’s quarterback spot was still looming large. On Sunday afternoon, all we did was realize that the “magic” Foles brings won’t be enough to force the issue with the organization in terms of him becoming their unquestioned starter past this season.
Make no mistake, Foles was not good on Sunday. He was inaccurate, his decision making was questionable at times and his lack of mobility was perfectly obvious. Even for as little as I think about the team’s quarterback situation, I expected better from Foles, even against a top end defense.
Even so, this is what Bears fans should have expected when they chose to trade for a familiar face in Foles instead of being more aggressive in Free Agency.
Is this game a direct reflection of who Foles is on a weekly basis? Absolutely not, but it is a stark reminder that this team’s quarterback situation is still very much a question moving forward, even when Foles plays better.
2. You don’t have to excuse Foles’ play in order to understand that Mitchell Trubisky still isn’t the answer
On Sunday, there were plenty of people who could not help but to compare what Trubisky could have done to what Foles actually did. I get it. It’s human nature, especially in this type of situation where the team is choosing between two not-so-good options.
With that being said, Trubisky had many chances and he blew them all. To pretend that the outcome would have been any different with him under center seems selective and simply not an overly fair assessment. Foles played bad, but Trubisky wouldn’t have done any better.
Regardless of people’s feelings on the quarterback situation, Trubisky will be playing for a different team in 2021. The Bears made it very clear they were done with him the minute they benched him. That doesn’t magically change after one rough outing from Foles.
3. From an offensive standpoint, 2020 is sure starting to look a lot like 2019
It would be just the Bears luck that the one offensive coach they got from the Andy Reid tree ends up being the one who just can’t run an NFL offense effectively. For me, I’m not ready to declare Matt Nagy a bad offensive coach. He’s shown flashes and clearly understands what he is doing wrong. The bigger issue is that he has failed to fix these issues and seems to revert back to problem areas very quickly.
For example in Week 1. Nagy ran the ball consistently, mixing in both inside and outside zone runs. He used all three backs consistently and kept the Detroit Lions defense guessing. His commitment to the run was unquestionable but most importantly, the predictability we saw in his first two years was gone. Since that point, he has quickly reverted back to his inside zone approach and the numbers are suffering because of it.
Things still look broken in the passing game. Now, obviously he’s working with a bad quarterback situation, but wasn’t the entire point of the Foles acquisition to have a quarterback that could effectively run his offense?
Luckily the team is (3-1) and there’s still plenty of time to get things fixed, but from an offensive standpoint, this is the third year in a row they are leaning on the defense. Out of all three years, this is probably the year the defense won’t be dominant enough to win many games in spite of poor offensive performances.
4. Assessing the rookie class so far
At least as of now, the 2020 draft class was the last time for a while we should see the Bears without a first or third round pick. Even so, that didn’t stop general manager Ryan Pace from making moves and still drafting for quantity this past April.
So far, both Jaylon Johnson and Darnell Mooney have looked very good in general and especially for rookies. In every draft class, you’d like to find a pair of good starting caliber players and hopefully hit on another pick or two that can help you in the future. A lot of that for the Bears is going to depend on the development of tight end Cole Kmet who has been minimally involved in the passing game thus far.
It’s worth noting that most rookie tight ends don’t produce in Year 1, but through their first four career games, both Kmet and Adam Shaheen have the same amount of catches (one). I’m not saying Kmet is Shaheen because it’s far too early to make that type of judgement. What I am saying is that there was plenty of Week 1-ready talent on the board when the team took Kmet and it doesn’t look great to compare even for as early as it still is.
Here’s to hoping the Bears can get Kmet more involved in the offense because if they do, he along with Johnson and Mooney make this one of Pace’s better draft classes in a while. Which is much needed for a team that added a lot of age this off-season.
5. The defense doesn’t have the same “bite” to them, but three players along the front seven continue to stand out to me
Akiem Hicks is playing some of the best football of his career. Some (including myself) had wondered what Hicks would look like coming back off an injury filled 2019 campaign and so far, it’s been a very pleasant surprise. Although he did not have a sack on Sunday for the first time all season, he still managed to total six tackles, two for a loss and a pair of quarterback hits.
Khalil Mack is another player where his numbers may not be showing up big on the stat sheet, but his play has been outstanding. In terms of pressure numbers, Mack’s output has been outstanding. He added a few more tallies to those numbers on Sunday, along with another tackle-for-loss. I would guess sooner rather than later, his sack numbers will start reflecting his actual play.
Finally, Roquan Smith. The third-year linebacker had the game of his life on Sunday. He totaled 13 tackles, three and a half for losses and was all over the field. His play has been a bit inconsistent to start his career, but outside of Week 3, it feels like Smith is slowly morphing into the player most expected him to be. Although, he does need to be better in coverage at times.
6. If Sunday is any indication, the Bears are going to miss Tarik Cohen even more than most had thought
I know that most will look at his numbers from his first three games and wonder how anyone could believe he’s as valuable as he is, but the reality is the Bears missed Cohen on Sunday. Cordarrelle Patterson’s transition to running back is well and fine, but the team’s running game and passing attack sorely missed Cohen’s presence and it showed. Especially in the run game.
It will be interesting to see if the Bears activate undrafted rookie Artavis Pierce for Thursday’s game because they sorely miss that smaller speed option at the position.
7. This offense needs less Anthony Miller and more Mooney
I was one of Miller’s biggest fans coming out of Memphis, but it’s time to be honest with ourselves. There’s a reason the coaching staff has played him sparingly. His mistakes outweigh most of the good that he does.
Miller had two passes that he simply should have caught. One was jarred loose by a hit, but the lone Foles interception was a pass that, albeit, was not an easy catch, but it was one that he has to make. That’s something we’ve continue to see from Miller, even going back to his rookie year.
Mooney on the other hand, led the team in targets until the final drive of the game. Not only is he a better route runner (even as a rookie), but his play has been much more consistent. The rookie’s 33 yard catch down the sidelines is a glimpse into what appears to be a very bright future.
8. How much more do we need to see of Chris Tabor’s special teams blunders before they make a change?
Going back to his time in Cleveland, Tabor’s production from his special teams units was never overly impressive. When I talked to someone who covered the Browns during his time there, the one thing I was with consistency was this- Expect a lot of penalties. So far, that has reigned true.
On top of the frustrating penalties on what seems like every return, punt blocks have been an issue as well. Punter Pat O’Donnell had yet another punt (partially) blocked, but poor special teams play has been a consistent theme under Tabor and is something that they cannot afford with such an anemic offense.
At some point, Nagy is going to have to say “enough is enough” if this continues.
9. Even if Damon Harrison Sr. signs elsewhere, the Bears need to address their issues against the run soon
When you look at the team’s overall run numbers, they don’t look too bad. When you dive deeper and see how many chunk run plays they are giving up, it shows that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed soon.
We all knew Eddie Goldman opting out would hurt, but I’m not sure anyone saw their run defense falling apart like it has so far. Something needs to get fixed in a hurry because well-balanced teams are going to eventually start picking this defense apart. The only likely way that gets fixed? Adding an established veteran.
10. How will the Bears follow up a loss on a short week against an aging veteran quarterback in Tom Brady?
An argument can be made that the Bears should have some sort of advantage facing a veteran quarterback on a short week. While that may be true, this is not going to be an easy matchup and that aging veteran happens to be Brady. It appears they’ll be without receiver Chris Godwin and running back Leonard Fournette. Even so, the Buccaneers defense is allowing less rushing yards-per-game than the Colts defense and is a pretty close overall copy from a DVOA standpoint than what the Bears just saw.
Either way, the Bears are going to need a much better performance from Foles.