You watched the game. Even if you didn’t you don’t need an elaborate intro to know how much the Bears were battered against the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Here are some of the key takeaways from this week’s 38-3 loss.
Well, at least Khalil Herbert played well.
For the second straight week, Herbert was the bonafide top running back in the Bears’ backfield, with David Montgomery out due to a knee injury. The sixth-round rookie made the most of his extensive workload, tallying exactly 100 yards on 18 carries for a 4.6 yards-per-carry average. He showed plenty to like out of the backfield, demonstrating impressive vision as a zone runner, burst when accelerating downhill into a running lane, and the contact balance needed to keep fighting through contact to pick up extra yardage.
While the Bears were able to generate a solid amount of push in the run game against the top-ranked run defense in the NFL heading into the week, that offensive line play did not translate into pass protection. Justin Fields was sacked four times and hit six times, having little time to sit in the pocket and let plays develop. While not quite the catastrophe showcased against the Browns earlier in the year, it still wasn’t pretty to watch.
That leads us into the aforementioned quarterback. Rookie signal-callers tend to have their fair share of rocky starts in their first year in the NFL, and this was certainly one of those for Fields. The Ohio State alumnus threw for just 184 yards with no touchdowns and 3 interceptions. While one of those picks bounced off the hands of Darnell Mooney, the other two were examples of underwhelming plays through the air.
Fields showcased a tendency to force throws to his first read, as well as a penchant for holding onto the ball too long. While the offensive line didn’t do him any favors, that doesn’t completely excuse his rocky plan against the Buccaneers.
None of the Bears’ weapons really stood out in a positive light through the air. Cole Kmet had some solid catches in a 5-catch, 43-yard game, while Darnell Mooney also had 39 yards on his two catches. At first glance, however, the lack of consistent separation from the likes of Mooney and Allen Robinson also made it tougher for Chicago’s offense to stretch the ball down the field.
There was ultimately very little that went right for the Bears through the air, and poor play in numerous facets of the offense resulted in that inefficiency. The scheme and play-calling were often questionable, and the execution was underwhelming, at best. While the run game was consistent, the Bears won’t be able to consistently beat the best teams in the league until they get their passing attack under control.
The Bears have some nice pieces on defense, but with how talented the Buccaneers’ offense is, it’s not surprising that the Bears struggled in the way that they did.
One of the most productive pass-rushing units in the league didn’t tally a single sack against Tom Brady and a dominant Tampa Bay offensive line, and they managed just one hit on the G.O.A.T. over the course of the afternoon. Khalil Mack and Trevis Gipson each had just one tackle apiece, while no defensive lineman had more than two tackles all game. That lack of pressure made it easier for the Buccaneers’ offense to put together a competent passing attack headlined by Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.
The two aforementioned wide receivers torched Chicago’s cornerbacks to the tune of 187 combined yards on 14 receptions with 4 touchdowns. The Bears’ struggles in coverage — as well as the sheer talent Tampa features on offense — made it easy for the latter team to score 35 points in the first half. Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor has flashes but were generally inconsistent, while Jaylon Johnson had some issues in coverage, as well.
In addition to the Bears’ struggles defending the pass, their run support struggled against a Buccaneers offense that trampled them in the ground game. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones combined for 144 yards on the ground on 25 carries — a 5.76 yards per carry average — thanks largely in part to the Bears getting pushed around plenty at the point of attack. Roquan Smith was mostly able to clean up the scraps with 13 tackles, but five of those tackles were on runs that gained 5 or more yards. Ideally, the Bears would have been able to eat up their gaps more efficiently and hold their ground against the run.
The Buccaneers have played better against other NFL defenses than they did against the Bears this week, but allowing 31 points still isn’t a performance to be proud of. It appeared to just be a superior Tampa offense getting the upper hand in this matchup.
Three and out
3. In case it needed to be said, Matt Nagy cannot be the head coach of the Bears for much longer.
It’s unprecedented for the Bears to fire a coach in the middle of a season, but if Nagy is the coach for a second after Black Monday comes around after the season, it would be a tragedy. This team lacks discipline, efficiency, and fire on both sides of the ball, and it’s incredibly apparent that Nagy’s presence plays a major role in where they are as a unit right now.
2. Don’t be surprised if the Bears target a wide receiver early in the 2022 draft, if not in free agency.
Allen Robinson’s play this season does not appear to warrant signing to a massive extension after the year comes to an end. Darnell Mooney has not been bad, but he has not shown yet that he could be a WR1 for a team at the next level. Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd, Jakeem Grant and Breshad Perriman are all free agents after the season, too. Regardless, the Bears will have to find at least one new starting receiver this offseason, and they may have to get creative in figuring out how to do that.
1. Rarely do you see an NFL team humiliated on both sides of the ball quite like the Bears were against the league’s defending champions on Sunday.
Even in the Bears’ matchup against the Browns, their defense was able to hold its own for a majority of the game. This was an all-out walloping that saw next to nothing go right for them over the course of the afternoon. The McCaskeys simply cannot accept this as the status quo if Chicago is to improve and develop in the immediate future.