Talk about bouncing back.
The Bears’ struggles in Week 3 against the Browns were well-documented, but one wouldn’t have been able to tell by their 24-14 win over the Lions at home on Sunday.
Their offense looked more efficient, their ground game reliable and the passing game opened up. A strong outing rushing the passer helped the Bears’ defense put together a solid performance, as well. Many things ended up going right, surely providing those within the organization with a huge sigh of relief.
With the Bears now at 2-2, let’s take a look at some of the top takeaways from this week’s victory.
Bill Lazor runs the show now.
Matt Nagy indicated in his postgame press conference that Lazor was responsible for calling plays for the Bears on Sunday, with the former serving in an advisory role and having the final say in what play the team ran. The gameplan seemed more efficient, showing off the ability to stretch the field and make the Lions go back to the old-school philosophy of respecting the run to the point where it opens up play action.
Justin Fields had much more time to sit in the pocket compared to last week, which gave the Bears plenty of time to execute their offense properly. He looked much more poised, which is no surprise when given how little time he was given to scan the field against Cleveland. Fields did a good job of going through his progressions and making smart decisions with the football. His arm talent was on full display, and his timing looked sharp more often than not. Though he did throw an interception — which was tipped — and had a tendency to hold onto the ball too long at times, he looked the part of a quality starter and a player worth keeping in the starting lineup going forward.
Prior to his knee injury — the severity of which is unknown as of this writing — David Montgomery put together a tremendous outing. He scored twice on Sunday, pounding the ball into the end zone on 4- and 9-yard runs, respectively. He finished the game with 106 yards on 23 carries, giving him an average of 4.6 yards per carry. The third-year back did a great job of making defenders miss and churning forward to pick up extra yardage on a regular basis.
Damien Williams also had an impressive game, rushing for 55 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries, including a 23-yard run in the fourth quarter after Montgomery went down. Though one hopes for a speedy recovery for the incumbent starter, Williams’ strong outing against the Lions did inspire some confidence as a starting option going forward.
The Bears’ offensive line deserves credit, too. Fields was sacked just once and hit only four times, as opposed to the 9 sacks and 15 hits they allowed against the Browns last week. Chicago’s line did a much better job of protecting their quarterback and providing a clean pocket, and they were also able to clear some running lanes for their teammates to work with out of the backfield.
It was a quiet day for most of the Bears’ passing weapons, but the two players who made the biggest impact were Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson. Mooney finished with 125 yards on 5 catches, including a beautiful 64-yard dart in the first quarter and an over-the-shoulder snag along the sidelines off of a dime from Fields. The two seemed to have a strong connection all afternoon and appeared in sync every time the rookie threw Mooney the ball. Robinson contributed 63 yards on 3 catches of his own, serving as a reliable intermediate threat who can be trusted as a security blanket of sorts. While the former Pro Bowler was targeted just three times, he certainly made the most of his opportunities.
There was a lot to like out of the Bears on Sunday, and while the level of competition may have helped them out a bit, it was encouraging to see their offense bounce back and play in a competent manner this week. They face a gauntlet of talented teams in the coming weeks, but if their offense plays even close to how they did against the Lions, they could be able to be a formidable threat in a lot of games this year.
The Bears are getting what they paid for out of their edge-rushing duo.
Both Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn tallied a sack and two quarterback hits each, playing a major role in pressuring Jared Goff. The two edge rushers both looked explosive off the snap, flexible turning the corner and powerful when engaged with contact at the point of attack. Having reached 4 and 4.5 sacks, respectively, Mack and Quinn are providing the Bears with one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the league at the moment.
Trevis Gipson contributed to the game with the first sack of his career, as well as two tackles for a loss in a rotational role. Angelo Blackson had a hit on Goff along the interior, too. Chicago’s ability to put pressure on the former Rams quarterback allowed them to disrupt Detroit’s offense on a handful of occasions.
While the Bears did very well of generating pressure off the edge, that backfield penetration didn’t translate to the interior when defending the run. Jamaal Williams averaged 4.7 yards per carry on 14 attempts, putting together a solid outing when sharing carries with D’Andre Swift. The latter was limited to just two yards per carry, but Williams was tackled by an interior defender near the line of scrimmage just three times.
Because of the Bears’ defensive front’s struggles with stuffing the run, the linebackers had plenty of opportunities to make plays, and luckily for the team, they did exactly that. Alec Ogletree led both teams with 12 tackles, with 10 of them being solo tackles. Roquan Smith added 10 tackles of his own, one of which being a sack. Both linebackers seemed to be everywhere on the field, showcasing sideline-to-sideline range and ensuring run plays wouldn’t get past the second level of the defense.
The biggest issue with the Bears’ defense on Sunday was their secondary, as has been the case for much of the 2021 season. Goff completed 63.2 percent of his passing attempts, throwing for 299 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Deon Bush found himself getting beat in coverage a bit too often, while the likes of Duke Shelley, Kindle Vildor and Eddie Jackson seemed to have rocky performances at first glance.
Quintez Cephus and Amon-Ra St. Brown had 83 and 70 receiving yards, respectively, each performing well against a Chicago secondary that allows for pretty easy separation in their zone-heavy plan of attack. Playing zone coverage wasn’t the issue for the Bears’ defensive backs, but rather their execution of it. There seemed to be confusion with executing one’s assignments and determining when a cornerback should rub off routes onto a safety, and vice versa.
All told, though, the Bears put together a solid defensive performance. The benefactors of a strong pass-rushing performance and a few lucky breaks going their way, limiting a team to just 14 points is a result to be pleased with.
Three and out
3. Sean Desai seems to look the part of a quality NFL defensive coordinator.
There’s certainly room to improve with the Bears’ defense, but the unit seems to be playing better than it did in 2020 under Chuck Pagano. The pass rush seems a lot more dynamic and creative, with strategically-placed twists and blitzes providing confusion up front. Improved health from Robert Quinn and the usual strong play from Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks has made the unit a force to be reckoned with on passing downs. While the coverage has struggled quite a bit, it seems to the naked eye more like a personnel issue than poor play-calling. Desai’s development has been fun to watch so far this year.
2. There was plenty of be excited about from the Bears’ offensive performance in Week 4, but at what point is Cole Kmet considered a disappointing second-round pick?
To rush and say he’s a bust this early is irresponsible, but his play has been less than ideal to start off the 2021 season. He has just 59 receiving yards in four games, with 42 of them coming in Week 1 against the Rams. He has struggled with creating separation across the middle of the field, showcasing stiff hips and pedestrian speed for his position. For someone whose calling card is supposed to be his physicality, he hasn’t been all that reliable staying upright and making catches in tight windows, either.
Again, it’s premature to say Kmet is a bust, but he’s going to have to turn things around quickly if he is to prove himself as a piece worth keeping around beyond his rookie deal.
1. The Bears face a difficult stretch of games prior to their Week 10 bye, but regardless of how they play in the coming weeks, the future seems bright for them beyond 2021.
If Fields continues to put together performances similar to the way he played on Sunday, Bears fans should be pleased with the season, no matter whether they have a winning record at the end of the year or not. Though the Bears aren’t a rebuilding team per se, this year is primarily about building towards the future. Fields playing well provides an encouraging point to build off of going forward.