The Chicago Bears are on a three-game losing streak, but something about this one just feels a little different from times before. In a game that the Bears largely controlled for the first three quarters, they were severely out-coached and out-played in the final 18 or so minutes of the game. That resulted in a 33-22 loss at Soldier Field.
Things started out promising, but it quickly turned into the same old story when the Bears couldn’t find the end zone and kept settling for field goals. Then the Bears defense started giving up big plays. As a whole, it was a bad look game for the entire team and coaching staff. At (3-5) and one more game before the bye week, it’ll be very interesting to see how this team responds in the coming weeks as their season slowly slips away.
1. For all of the bad that happened in Sunday’s game, Justin Fields was one of the lone bright spots for this team and that means something.
The results have not been as good as fans had hoped it to be when Fields was named the starter. It’s been an up and down performance from week-to-week, but this type of game showed exactly why Bears fans should still be excited for the future.
Fields’ numbers in the passing game weren’t anything impressive as he threw for just 175 yards, a touchdown and a last minute interception. He also became the Bears first 100 yard rusher at the quarterback position since 1975 and added an impressive 22-yard rushing touchdown to keep the team in the game.
The reality is simple. Fields isn’t getting much help. His pass catchers aren’t making the plays they need to, the offensive line is still a mess and the offensive play calling only works for so long. Despite all of that, I truly believe Fields had his best game of the season. He was poised in the pocket and while he wasn’t perfect, his full skillset was on display. Even with a loss, this was still a good day for Fields’ development and one you have to hope he can build on.
2. Despite missing head coach Matt Nagy due to COVID protocols, the team’s same coaching issues showed up in a big way at the worst times.
One of the common threads in the Nagy era has been their lack of halftime adjustments. That shined bright once again on Sunday where they were outscored 24-9 in the final two quarters of the game.
Offensively, things became stagnant. The offensive line started giving ground, their run game stopped working and the 49ers were able to figure out their passing game. The predictability of this offense has been an issue from the start and regardless of who is calling plays, it doesn’t seem to be getting better.
The biggest disappointment of the day? A second straight poor performance from the defense. Yes, Khalil Mack did not play. No, that does not excuse the Bears not getting to the quarterback or giving up a ton of big plays. It started with the deep ball to Debo Samuel at the end of the first half and continued with a basic tunnel screen to Samuel in the second half that ended up going for an 83-yard touchdown on a third and 21.
At least for me, this is starting to look like the team I had projected coming into the season. Their depth is being challenged, their talent is in question and their coaching as a whole is not where it needs to be.
3. There’s still nine games left in the season, but this feels like the beginning of the end for this Bears’ regime.
Like I said at the top, there’s something that just feels different this time around. Yes, the Bears lost six straight this time last year, but they had an easy schedule and a weak division to fall back on. This year, they the second toughest remaining schedule and a lot of injuries to contend with.
With just nine games left, it’s hard to see how Nagy can do enough to save his job. Especially with the reports going into this year saying that the Bears needed to make the playoffs to save his job.
At least for me, this was somewhat predictable. On paper, this team has always had a ton of issues. Those issues didn’t magically go away when they lucked into Fields. Now we are seeing developmental concerns with the rookie from a coaching standpoint and a losing record. More importantly, they are being out-coached regularly (in game) and have looked completely outmatched in more games than not.
4. The Bears should be sellers on Tuesday, but I have a feeling they still won’t be and that’s the issue with keeping a regime and giving them an ultimatum to win.
Going back to January when team Chairman George McCaskey and team President Ted Phillips announced that both general manager Ryan Pace and Nagy would return, most fans were upset and rightfully so. They allowed a mediocre finish and an (8-8) playoff appearance fool them into overlooking the multiple concerns this team has had since their (12-4) 2018 campaign. Despite making the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine what could have covered up their six-game losing streak and them blowing a (5-1) start.
Because of that, they allowed Pace to act recklessly again this off-season. He pushed even more future dead cap space down the road and the overall roster got worse. Ownership even allowed Pace to trade a future draft pick for return special Jakeem Grant. It’s pretty clear this regime was facing a “win or go home” type year and with each passing game the “go home” part of things is becoming more real. So, why would Pace sell off now when he’s fighting for his job?
These are the types of issues you run into when instead of making the obvious calls, you do nothing. Now because of that, the Bears won’t be able to recoup draft picks or save cap space by dealing veterans on expiring deals. While I hope I’m wrong, I can’t see Pace waving the white flag and do what’s best for the organization, when there’s a growing chance he won’t be here past January. And frankly, why would he? It’s likely not his problem in just over two months.
5. Speaking of issues, this defense is falling apart in a hurry and that’s not something you want to see with a struggling offense.
Outside of Sean Desai’s Week 1 disappointment, I was actually pretty impressed with what he had been able to do with this defense. That ended last week against the Buccaneers and it seems like things are going downhill due to a few injuries.
By no means should any fan be ready to throw in the towel on the first-year coordinator, but the shock and awe of this defense’s hot start has faded. It’ll be interesting to see if Desai can figure things out again because if he cannot, things are going to get considerably uglier for this team in their final nine games. They need this defense to be at least league average and over the past two weeks, they’ve been far from it.
6. While the love for Roquan Smith is more than justified, Bears fans got an up close and personal look at why Fred Warner is the best linebacker in the league.
This is by no means a knock on Smith because he’s everything the Bears could have hoped for when they took him No. 8 overall in the 2018 draft. With that being said, Warner is on a whole different level and it was impressive to watch.
Playing sideline to sideline is one thing, but Warner’s abilities in coverage was the thing I was most impressed with. It’s easy to see why most consider him one of, if not the linebackers in the league.
7. With nine games remaining, wins are becoming less important and playing young players is becoming the main focus.
Getting back offensive tackle Larry Borom was a welcomed sight and as a whole, he played pretty well in his first NFL start. Sixth-round pick Khalil Herbert has been outstanding since taking over the bulk of the team’s carries, as well. It’ll be interesting to see what the team’s plan is for second round pick Teven Jenkins when he returns, as well.
The Bears need to start getting a look at some of their younger players. Even if that means cutting below-average veterans and calling certain players up from the practice squad. That also means giving guys like DeAndre Houston-Carson a better look at safety.
It’s pretty clear the Bears aren’t a playoff team and that’s fine. Now, the focus needs to turn to seeing what they have in some of their more youthful spots on the depth chart. The biggest issue? I’m not sure a coaching staff fighting for their jobs will agree and that’s yet another issue with keeping a regime on in somewhat of a “lame duck” situation.
8. Cairo Santos missed a kick for the first time this year and somehow, I still can’t find a reason to be anything but grateful for his career resurgence.
I’m sure every Bears fan was as shocked as I was when we saw Santos miss an extra point in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game at 23. That was Santos’ first missed kick of any kind since last season. In a year where kickers all over the league are consistently missing both extra points and field goals, Santos has been one of the few that hasn’t.
Even so, it’s hard for me to get too upset because like I said, he’s been as good as it gets in that category. It’ll be interesting to see how he rebounds from this, but my guess is that this was an anomaly and we aren’t looking at a Cody Parkey type situation.
9. The back half of the NFC playoff picture is in bad shape. Somehow the Bears are just a game back of the final wild card spot.
That seventh seed is going to come down to which inconsistent team can play the best football down the stretch. So far, that’s yet to be determined. In some ways, that should gives Bears fans hope, but from a talent standpoint and overall coaching, it’s hard to see how they are going to be able to get themselves back in it.
If the season ended today, the struggling Carolina Panthers would own the seventh and final seed in the playoffs at (4-4). Right behind them are a trio of teams (3-4) with the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons. The Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks and the Bears sit at (3-5). All of those teams are within a game of each other heading into the “second half” of the season.
Needless to say, this is a closely paired group, but one that still has six teams back in the race due to their poor (1-4) conference record that will likely decide who gets the final seed in a tie-breaking scenario. This is yet another reason why the Bears should sell off anything they can.
10. Speaking of the trade deadline, the next two days will be interesting to monitor.
Speaking of selling, the trade deadline is going to be fun to watch.
Does Deshaun Watson get traded? The general consensus is a “no” and rightfully so with over 20 civil suits still in the balance. How do the Tennessee Titans replace Derrick Henry? David Montgomery or Damien Williams could be an option but again, that would be the Bears admitting defeat and that seems unlikely.
The New Orleans Saints could be in the market for a quarterback after Jameis Winston suffered a serious knee injury. Again, the Bears could have something to sell with Andy Dalton or Nick Foles.
All in all, you’ll start to see which teams view themselves as contenders and which teams know it’s time to sell off and recoup value. Taking the Bears out of this equation, it should be an interesting 24 hours or so for many teams around the league.