Oh, how far the mighty have fallen.
It was somewhat apparent that the Bears weren’t as good as their 5-1 record. However, almost nobody expected that they would collapse to the extent that they have.
Six straight losses later, and the Bears find themselves on the outside looking in of the NFC playoff race, and many key members of their staff risk losing their jobs by the end of the 2020 season.
Though such a development has been progressing on a weekly basis, the dysfunction within the Bears organization accelerated with their 34-30 loss to the Lions at Soldier Field on Sunday.
Here are some takeaways from this week’s loss.
All things considered, this week saw one of the Bears’ best offensive performances of the 2020 season.
Mitchell Trubisky wasn’t perfect, but he finished the game 26-for-34 with 267 yards and a touchdown. The game resulted in his highest totals in passing yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt, and quarterback rating. He proved able to stretch the field vertically and hit receivers in stride more often than not, and that helped the Bears tie their season-high in points.
His fumble late in the fourth quarter played a big role in the Bears’ collapse and gave the Lions perfect field position to take the lead, but Trubisky wasn’t the main reason they lost on Sunday.
This week also brought about one of Chicago’s best rushing performances of the season. David Montgomery scored two touchdowns in a 17-carry, 72-yard game in which he looked powerful and elusive and was able to squeeze into open lanes downhill. He also contributed for 39 yards on four receptions, using his seemingly improved agility to evade defenders and help out in the passing game, as well. Cordarrelle Patterson was also explosive and determined coming out of the backfield, rushing for 59 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in addition to his lone 45-yard kick return to begin the game.
Kudos to the Bears’ offensive line for a solid outing on the ground. Though they had some issues in pass protection, they did a pretty good job of sealing off running lanes for Montgomery and Patterson throughout the day.
Chicago’s weapons through the air put together a decent game as a collective unit. Allen Robinson had six catches for 75 yards in an overall solid outing, even though his decision to step out of bounds short of the first-down marker in the fourth quarter was a baffling one. Anthony Miller proved to be a solid complementary piece across the middle of the field, and Cole Kmet was a nice checkdown option on shorter routes. None of the Bears’ pass-catchers tore the house down, but they got the job done more often than not and proved able to get open.
All told, the Bears played a solid offensive game on Sunday, but they stalled out when it mattered most. Their last four offensive drives consisted of two three-and-outs, a strip sack, and a failed fourth-down conversion. Chicago’s decision to pass twice in a row coming out of the two-minute warning up by 3 set them up for disaster that eventually resulted in Trubisky’s fumble.
The Bears did fall apart late in the fourth quarter, but they did a solid job on offense overall this week. They weren’t perfect, but there were several more factors that played into their loss more than their offense. One of those factors was...
For once, the Bears’ defense was what cost them the game.
Matthew Stafford exploded for 402 yards and three touchdowns against a passive Chicago defense, and Adrian Peterson finished the game with two rushing touchdowns. Even with Kenny Golladay and D’Andre Swift out for the game, the Lions were able to march down the field on a consistent basis throughout the afternoon.
The Bears seemingly struggled all day in coverage, as their defensive backs got beat fairly often when tasked in man coverage, and their heavy reliance on zone coverage resulted in a fair share of blown assignments and open wide receivers. Marvin Jones torched basically every Bears defender he went up against, as he beat the likes of Kyle Fuller, Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine on his way to 8 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. T.J. Hockenson also beat the Bears across the middle of the field all evening.
Much of Chicago’s struggles in coverage came as a result of their zone-heavy, conservative scheme, but their personnel did have some issues with stopping a somewhat depleted Lions group of weapons.
Their lack of plays in coverage was hurt by a nearly nonexistent pass rush. Though Bilal Nichols picked up a sack—in addition to his impressive interception of a Stafford screen—the rest of the team failed to record a sack and tallied just three quarterback hits on 43 dropbacks. Neither Khalil Mack nor Robert Quinn recorded even a single tackle, and Akiem Hicks continued his eight-game streak without a sack. The pressure off the edge was essentially absent all afternoon, and that lack of penetration into the backfield helped Stafford accurately strike down the field.
The Lions didn’t run the ball very often, but the Bears were still able to hold them to 2.7 yards per carry on 22 rushing attempts. Roquan Smith led the team with 9 total tackles, while the likes of Danny Trevathan and Bilal Nichols also contributed quite a bit in run support. Save for Peterson’s two touchdowns, it was actually one of Chicago’s better performance against the run, but Detroit’s dynamic passing attack practically nullified that.
For a defense with as much talent as they have, the Bears had no reason to turn out such a lackadaisical performance on that side of the ball. Their collapse in the fourth quarter played a big role in the team’s loss, but they weren’t really playing all that well to begin with, either.
Three and out
3. In the frustration surrounding Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy and their respective roles in the Bears’ recent struggles, there should be more blame placed on Chuck Pagano than there currently has been.
Chicago’s inability to adjust on a week-by-week basis, show willingness to stray away from their passive, zone-heavy philosophies, and an inability to dial up pressure when three- and four-man rushes aren’t working have all plagued them in recent weeks. Pagano is sticking with his scheme and is failing to make changes to his game plan in order to put his team in the best possible situation to succeed. Regardless of whether or not Nagy gets fired, Pagano’s job as defensive coordinator is all but gone after this season.
2. The Bears appear to have made a switch at the tight end position.
Jimmy Graham has had just three receptions in the past three games and did not tally a single catch all afternoon against Detroit. On the flip side, Cole Kmet finished with five catches, 37 yards and a touchdown this week. His playing time has seen a considerable uptick in recent weeks, as well.
With the season close to being “over”—if it wasn’t already—the Bears would be wise to continue to see what they have in their younger talent. Giving Kmet more playing time and aiding an apparent transition into the tight end starting role
1. This loss could very well be for the best.
A 6-6 Bears team would still be deep in the playoff race and would have the opportunity to sneak into the postseason as a Wild Card team. Two postseason appearances in three seasons would presumably have been enough to save Nagy’s job and likely would have saved Pace, as well.
Now, a 5-7 Bears team stands little to no chance of making it into the postseason. Given their collapse and their presumably finishing below the .500 mark, it appears to be incredibly likely that Pace, Nagy, and numerous other members of the organization will be fired at the end of this season, if not sooner. That hard reset is encouraging in the fact that it gives them the opportunity to avoid their state of purgatory and make a meaningful change to their franchise.
This loss, especially considering the opponent and the choke-job nature of the loss, should all but seal the deal for this current regime. It is time to look towards the future.