As if the Bears had dug themselves into a deep enough hole heading into Monday night, they found a way to reach a new low on the 2020 season with a 19-13 loss to the Vikings at home.
The offense exited Soldier Field having not scored a single touchdown, with their lone touchdown coming from a 104-yard Cordarrelle Patterson kick return. When factoring in yards lost by sacks, the Bears gained a total of 149 offensive yards throughout the night.
Despite the return of Cody Whitehair, the activation of Lamar Miller and the transition of play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, it looked like the same old Chicago offense with little to no signs of improvement.
Here are some of the takeaways from Monday’s action.
It was the same old, same old for the Bears’ offense this week.
In a poor outing that unfortunately ended in an injury, Nick Foles threw for just 106 yards, completing 15 of his 26 attempts. That 4.1 yards-per-attempt total was indicative of how the Bears’ passing attack was against the Vikings, as they were unable to stretch the field vertically, and Foles was unable to hit his receivers in stride.
Allen Robinson led the team with six catches for 43 yards and was treated as somewhat of a reliable security blanket for a Bears offense that was afraid and flat-out incapable of consistently throwing the ball beyond the sticks. After him, no Bears receiver caught more than two passes and finished with over 30 receiving yards. Darnell Mooney had just three yards on two catches—despite being the team’s most explosive deep threat—Anthony Miller caught two passes, and Chicago’s tight ends as a whole combined for just one catch for seven yards: a dump-off to Cole Kmet.
The Bears entered the game without David Montgomery, and even though he hasn’t been exactly great in 2020, his presence was missed against Minnesota. The team as a whole had just 2.4 yards per carry on 17 attempts, with Cordarrelle Patterson “leading” the way with 30 yards on 12 carries. Artavis Pierce had nine yards on three carries, Ryan Nall had a single run go for no gain, and Lamar Miller had just two touches, with both of them being through the air. Chicago’s offensive line struggled against the Vikings, but their running backs also didn’t necessarily inspire confidence.
Speaking of offensive line, the Bears had yet another disappointing game come from their hog-mollies in the trenches. They allowed two sacks, but the more telling number is the 11 quarterback hits that Foles and Tyler Bray endured, the latter stepping in late in the fourth quarter after Foles got injured. The Bears allowed pressure from essentially every gap, with Minnesota winning off the edge, along the interior, and in the blitz game.
Very little went right for the Bears offensively. But, then again, that’s to be expected at this stage of the season.
If there’s one positive takeaway from Monday’s game for the Bears, it’s that Roquan Smith is a bonafide star.
The third-year linebacker has proven to be something Chicago doesn’t have too many of right now: a young, up-and-coming, elite talent. Smith finished the game with a whopping 14 total tackles, including three tackles for a loss, a sack and a quarterback hit. His performance gives him the NFL’s most tackles for a loss with 15, and it gives him a tie for the league’s most tackles with 96 through 10 games.
He has always been athletic during his time with the Bears, but his mental processing finally looks as quick as it did at Georgia, if not even quicker. That combination allows him to read plays before they happen and close in on ball-carriers or route runners, and Bears fans saw that ability on Monday.
Up front, the Bears did a much better job defending the run than one would have expected going in. They held Dalvin Cook to just 3.2 yards per carry on 30 attempts: his worst average in what will likely be an All-Pro season for the running back. Brent Urban played a big part in that performance, as he had six tackles despite playing in just a rotational role. Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols each contributed four tackles, and Danny Trevathan did a solid job of executing run fits, tallying eight tackles.
One of the most fun defensive plays of the year also came in Monday’s loss, as Khalil Mack dropped back into coverage and caught an interception, returning it 33 yards. The All-Pro edge rusher had a decent game defensively, but that splash play was certainly a lot of fun to watch.
It wasn’t all perfect for the Bears on defense, though. The middle of the field was, yet again, left wide open throughout a majority of the night, and the Vikings took advantage of it by letting the likes of Justin Jefferson, Kyle Rudolph and Adam Thielen run rampant on crossers, drags and seams. While some of that may fall on the safeties (more so than the linebackers), a lot of that falls on Chuck Pagano’s inability to scheme zone coverages that effectively protect that part of the field, which has been showcased all year.
Jefferson exploded with 135 yards on eight catches, and Jaylon Johnson appeared to be his primary cover man. The former Utah cornerback had a pass deflection and had his fair share of good reps, but it was far from his best game. Buster Skrine also got toasted for two touchdowns out of the slot.
The Bears also struggled to put pressure on Kirk Cousins. More often than not, Cousins had a clean pocket and was given ample time to dissect Chicago’s defense. He was sacked just once—the aforementioned Smith sack on a blitz—and, although he was hit five times, was still given enough time to sit in the pocket.
Monday wasn’t the Bears’ performance defensively, but it was still a pretty good one overall. Their defense was far from the biggest reason they lost.
Three and out
3. The Bears are lucky that their bye week is coming up, because they have a lot of self-evaluating to do.
With their falling to 5-5, their chances of making it into the playoffs have severely diminished since their 5-1 start. The offense has shown no signs of life, they are down a couple of key contributors, and they have two injured quarterbacks at the moment. While the severity of Foles’ injury is unknown as of this writing, the expectation is that the Bears will likely have to return to starting Mitchell Trubisky once he returns from his shoulder injury.
Admittedly, Trubisky has not been good under center for the Bears, but with the team’s offensive line issues, maybe it will be better to have a more athletic quarterback in the starting lineup. Regardless, though, their offensive state seems to be at the point of no return.
2. Where has Robert Quinn been?
Highly touted after signing a five-year, $70 million contract in the offseason, the veteran pass-rusher has been essentially non-existent for the Bears in 2020. He has just one sack after 10 weeks and only has nine tackles as of this writing. He didn’t make his presence felt much on Monday, either, having one quarterback hit but no tackles.
Granted, the Bears aren’t giving Quinn the playing time of a full-time starting edge rusher, but therein lies the problem. He has been playing poorly when he’s been on the field, and it’s gotten to the point where it seems like even Chicago knows he isn’t making much of an impact.
The Bears are tied to Quinn until at least the end of the 2021 season, and even after that they would have to pay a considerable amount in dead cap space to let him go with a post-June 1 designation. If he doesn’t shape up and shape up soon, he could end up being one of the team’s worst free agent signings in recent years.
1. I feel like I’ve been incredibly negative throughout most of this article, and while I feel justified in doing so considering the current state of the Bears, I do want to end these notes on a high note, no pun intended.
If I had to choose which Bears would be named Pro Bowlers through 10 weeks, these are the players I would select:
- Khalil Mack: Has 6.5 sacks through 10 games, one of the game’s most recognizable defenders.
- Cordarrelle Patterson: One of four players to have a kick return for a touchdown, leads the NFL in kick return yards, yards per kick return, and total kick returns.
- Roquan Smith: Tied for the NFL’s most tackles, leads the league in tackles for a loss, now has an incredible prime-time game under his belt.
- Kyle Fuller: In the top 10 for lowest completion percentages allowed despite being targeted heavily, physical and recognizable name at cornerback.
- Akiem Hicks: Has slowed down in sack production, but still an impactful player who is top-10 among interior defenders in both sacks and quarterback pressures.
Honorable mentions go to Jaylon Johnson, Eddie Jackson and Allen Robinson.
There is a lot wrong with the Bears right now, but there have still been plenty of players performing at a high level.