It was yet another Packers Week that ended in a loss for the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon, as they dropped their Week 6 rivalry matchup by a score of 24-14. Although they did keep the game close for a long period of time, it was still clear that the Green Bay Packers are still the best team in the NFC North. Despite having a chance to take over first place, the team’s offense mustered just 14 points and failed to garner 300 yards of total offense for the fifth time in six games this season.
Now at (3-3), they head to Tampa Bay to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game where they could really use a win. So what now? Can this offense be fixed? Are the Bears going to be able to stay Wild Card contenders as the season moves on?
1. A new starting quarterback yields the same result, but wasn’t that to be expected?
Earlier in the Week, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was asked if he could name all the starting Bears quarterbacks he’s faced over the years. Needless to say he could not, but it was yet another symbolic look into how lopsided this rivalry has become during the Rodgers era.
With Sunday’s win, the veteran quarterback is now (22-5) against the Bears throughout his career including his playoff win. Yet, most of the focus in Sunday’s game was placed on Justin Fields as fans hoped he would turn the tide in what has been quite the lopsided matchup over the last 17 years.
I think the more important thing here to remember is simple. Fields is a rookie in an offense that has struggled to put up points and yards for the better part of four seasons. As we’ve seen across the league for quite some time, rookie quarterbacks will have their ups and downs. Simply judging any rookie quarterback on a game-to-game basis is not going to work.
This may end up being Rodgers’ last start in a Packers uniform at Soldier Field. This will be the first of many starts for Fields against the Packers. Or at least that’s the hope. So, while may wanted to use this game as a measuring stick for Fields’ growth just four starts into his NFL career, it’s far too early to make any proclamations.
2. The Bears may have a new offensive identity but we’re also seeing that the ceiling for this type of offense is not high and likely not good enough.
A few weeks back, head coach Matt Nagy finally came out and named Fields as his starter. The week prior, he failed to divulge his plans for who would be calling plays, but we all knew it would be offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Since that point, the offense has finally seen some consistency from both the quarterback spot and the play caller.
Even so, it has not produced the results that many had been expecting, but how could it? The Bears are relying on a 1990’s approach, which is run the ball early and often and not put a young quarterback in too many tough spots. While that may work well against lesser teams, most top-end teams have top-end offenses. This approach (and the Bears offense) are not designed to play from behind. More importantly, they aren’t designed to win offensive shootouts.
The Bears are dead last in yards per game. They have also had just one 300-plus yard offensive performance through six games. They are 30th in points score and simply put, just don’t have the horses on offense to show much improvement.
This offense isn’t going to make any big strides and that’s fine. The focus needs to be simple and that’s Fields’ development. As we’ve seen across the league so far this year, rookie quarterbacks are normally full of ups and downs. Enjoy the rollercoaster ride and hope for bigger changes this off-season. That’s about all fans can do through these next 11 games.
3. While one game or results against one team will never fully decide a regime’s fate. The Bears’ consistent failures against their top rival cannot continue to go unnoticed.
Back when Lovie Smith was hired, he said his primary focus was beating the Green Bay Packers. To his credit, he has had more success in doing so than his replacements have, but Rodgers’ record over his 17 year career speak for themselves.
It’s also worth noting that Nagy has won just one game in four years against the Packers and general manager Ryan Pace has seen just two wins in seven years against this same team.
These are the types of failures that will be in the minds of the McCaskey family at the end of this year. While there are many other critiques that can be levied against both Nagy and Pace, this is one that has historically stuck out more than anything else to team Chairman George McCaskey.
I cautioned last week that the season is far from over and many things between now and the end of Week 18 will lead to a resolution in this regime’s job status. That still remains the case, but with a .500 record over the last two and a half seasons and no wins against the Packers, it’s hard to see how “progress” is being made as we head to the midpoint of this season.
4. This may end up becoming a weekly reminder, but fans need to stay patient with Fields.
I know that emotions ride high after each Bears game. I also know that they run even higher after a big game against the Packers. Even so, I had a surprising amount of Bears fans in my Twitter mentions that are already ready to give up on Fields after just four starts.
Did Fields play well on Sunday? No. It was yet another mixed bag of results, but he did show flashes. Has any first round rookie quarterback played consistently well this season? Also no.
Like I said on Twitter earlier in the week — There’s some recency bias with how well Justin Herbert played last year, but he is the exception, not the rule. It’s also worth noting that quarterback development is not linear. Each of these rookies have vastly different situations and have different skill sets.
We all got our wish to see Fields start, now we must be patient enough to ride the rollercoaster of ups and downs. This is all part of the development of most rookie quarterbacks.
5. Speaking of rookies, Khalil Herbert’s ascension over the past two weeks has been impressive.
Two weeks ago, the Bears placed starting running back David Montgomery on Injured Reserve with a knee sprain. Early last week, the team placed veteran running back Damien Williams on the COVID/Reserve list after a positive test. That left the team with Herbert, Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce. Instead of the team panicking and signing another veteran off the street, the simply elevated both Nall and Pierce. Some wondered why there wasn’t more urgency, but we quickly saw their confidence in the rookie was not misplaced.
At least in my opinion, Herbert was the more impressive runner between he and Williams in Week 5. The sixth-round rookie followed that up with another impressive performance in which he played (89%) of the team’s offensive snaps and had 112 total yards a his first NFL touchdown.
In a season where development and overall discovery is more important than wins and loses, Herbert is quickly becoming a “win” for this draft class. Herbert’s burst and vision have been very impressive. Even when Montgomery comes back, Herbert should still see a role on this offense moving forward.
6. Sunday’s officiating crew was one of the worst I’ve seen this year, but I can’t simply write that off as the primary reason the Bears lost on Sunday.
During the game on Sunday, I tweeted about how it’s been bad for both teams. That tweet was not well received as some fans felt like the Bears were the only team on the bad end of these calls. The reality is- Yes, the Bears were on the wrong end more often than not, but both teams saw some bad calls go their way. The phantom pass interference call in the end zone was a big one for Green Bay.
There were a few that really stood out for the Bears, but none more than the non-call that led to Fields’ lone interception of the game. It seemed very clear there was a neutral zone infraction on the plan and Fields tried to make something happen believing he had a free play. He launched the ball into the back of the end zone, which was picked off by safety Darnell Savage. The only issue? It wasn’t called a penalty on the field and ended up equating to a short punt with a touchback.
The reality for the Bears is simple — They need a lot to go right in order for them to win games, especially against good teams. They didn’t get the benefit of those calls on Sunday and it was a small factor in the game. With that being said, the Bears didn’t play nearly well enough on either side of the ball to win Sunday’s game.
7. Rodgers shouting “I still own you” after Green Bay final dagger was yet another slap in the face... But he’s not wrong.
Rodgers has more wins against the Bears than any other quarterback in franchise history. Considering the Packers’ quarterback history, that says quite a bit.
While it’s impossible to blame fans for being mad at Rodgers’ comments, it should also be yet another wake up call that the Bears franchise has not done nearly enough over the past few decades. Success is all relative, especially in a game where only one team can win a championship each year, but it’s hard to find success when you’re (5-22) against your fiercest division rival in recent history.
The good news? This is likely Rodgers’ last season in Green Bay. With that being said, the Bears still have a long way to go if they expect to flip the tables.
8. Although the defense wasn’t at its best on Sunday, it’s hard for me to find too much to blame them for as a whole this season
Obviously you can never simply take away one game in a season, but if you take away Week 1, the Bears defense has been playing at close to a Top 5 level. Even with that game, they’ve been damn-near Top 10 in every defensive category this year.
Yes, they gave up 24 points to the Packers and didn’t come up big when the team needed them to most, but they held Rodgers to under 200 yards passing and have played extremely well all things considered this season.
A big reason for that? Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn have combined for (11.5) sacks and 11 tackles-for-loss. Considering how many questions the Bears have in their secondary, the fact that they’ve been able to maintain a Top 10 unit says a lot about first year defensive coordinator Sean Desai.
9. Looking around the league, it’s hard to find a ton of good teams. It feels like the NFL’s power struggle is in flux more than I can remember in a while.
Heading into Week 7, there’s one unbeaten team and that’s the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals have been extremely impressive, but they still have some doubters, especially in such a tough division. There’s also a single team without a win yet and that’s the Detroit Lions, who have yet to play an offensive snap with the lead.
There are a total of six one-loss teams and five one-win teams. That means that there are 19 teams that fall into the category of being in the “mix” right now. For me, there are a few surprise teams like the Cardinals, Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals, but the more surprising team to me is the Kansas City Chiefs. They are coming off a blowout win against a banged up Washington Football team, but they sit at just (3-3) and their defense appears to have some serious issues.
These things usually level out over the course of the season, but if the playoffs were to start today, there would be six new teams in the mix this year. It appears that parity is at an all-time high to start this season and that’s a good thing for the NFL. At least in my opinion.
10. Don’t look now, but it the Minnesota Vikings are starting to figure things out
For as much parity as we are seeing around the league, the NFC North is shaping up to be pretty similar to last year. The Packers are the class of the division, while the Lions are heading up the cellar in the first year of a much needed rebuild. That once again leaves the Bears and Vikings to fight for second place and a possible final Wild Card spot down the stretch.
If you remember last year, the Vikings got off to a horrendous start but figured things out down the stretch and ultimately fell short. This year? Their defense is playing better and Kirk Cousins has quietly had one of the best seasons of his career. Minnesota currently owns for seventh and final Wild Card spot, but obviously there’s a lot of season left to be played.
The Bears and Vikings won’t face off for the first time until Week 15 and will see each other again in Week 18. Neither team has an easy schedule moving forward, but with the Vikings starting to play better football, it’s almost a must for the Bears to go (2-1) heading into their Week 10 bye week.