On Sunday Justin Fields got hurt, the Bears blew a lead at home against a backup undrafted quarterback, and they ended up losing their fifth straight game of the year.
It’s fine. Everything’s fine.
As much as Bears brass would prefer you to think that way, there were many personnel and organizational issues that showed up in the team’s 16-13 loss to the Ravens at Soldier Field this week. Some players were able to showcase quite a bit of promise in defeat, but the loss put a massive spotlight on the stagnant outlook of the Bears in the foreseeable future with their current regime.
Here are some of the key takeaways from this week’s loss.
If you like efficient Bears passing attacks, this wasn’t the game for you (apply this statement to most Bears games over the last 70 or so years).
Justin Fields looked like a rookie on Sunday, going just 4-for-11 for 79 yards while getting sacked twice. While his completions were beautiful and stretched the field significantly for the Bears, he also struggled with timing behind some of his throws and had his fair share of questionably-placed passes before suffering a rib injury. He didn’t have a “wow, this guy might be a bust” performance like the box score may indicate, but his inconsistencies were on display and made it tougher for the Bears to string together some lengthy drives.
Granted, many of his offensive teammates didn’t do him too many favors. Chicago’s pass protection struggled against a pass-rush featuring the likes of Calais Campbell, Justin Houston, Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh. This saw both Fields and, eventually, Andy Dalton not have enough time to let the play develop and find the open man.
The Bears’ wide receivers also had some shaky play. There were definitely some bright moments, like Darnell Mooney’s 60-yard touchdown that came on a screen and Marquise Goodwin’s nasty double move that got him open for a 49-yard touchdown. Mooney only caught 5 of his 16 targets, though, and while part of that can be attributed to outside factors, some mental errors and inefficiency in tighter windows made it tough for him to secure the grab on more than one occasion.
Chicago generally had issues with creating separation against man coverage, and their passing attack failed to attack the middle of the field or take advantage of the island some receivers were often placed on when the Ravens ran single-high looks. Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor love some curl routes in their offense, though, and by God, they’ve run them like they have a year-end quota to reach.
Once Dalton stepped into the game, not much changed to turn around the Bears’ offensive woes. He had a better performance than Fields at 11-for-23 and had 201 yards and two touchdowns, but save for Goodwin’s touchdown grab, the offense looked pretty vanilla and didn’t offer much in the way of explosive plays down the field. He was passable, but it was clear that a change in guard at quarterback wasn’t going to result in a huge turnaround for the offense.
The run game was nothing special, as they used David Montgomery on 14 carries and held Khalil Herbert to only a singular carry. Montgomery showcased the burst in between the tackles and the toughness after contact needed to extend a couple of plays, but his workload wasn’t massive. This was a generally pass-heavy gameplan, which didn’t necessarily work out this time for the Bears.
The Bears struggled on offense for a multitude of reasons, and while they did seem to be building a bit of momentum in the second half, there were still too many things going wrong to pull away with a win. Baltimore’s defense seemingly had an answer to a lot of what Chicago threw at them, and the coaching staff and personnel are certainly both to blame for that.
Well, two players in particular definitely showed up for the Bears’ defense on Sunday: Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith.
Quinn put up a career-high 3.5 sacks on Sunday, dominating the opposition on a consistent basis with speed off the edge. His burst off the snap and his ability to turn the corner has been on full display in Year 11 of his NFL career, and he showcased it in spades against the Ravens. Even if it was against a backup quarterback, Quinn certainly deserves plenty of credit for the constant pressure he generated out of the backfield and how he was able to finish on big plays so many times in one game.
Smith had a personal-best day of his own, notching a whopping 17 tackles in his quest to serve as an anchor at the second level of the Bears’ run support. He was a force to be reckoned with everywhere on the field, taking good angles in pursuit both in between and outside the tackles, as well as down the field in coverage. The athletic and high-motored linebacker is known for his borderline limitless range as a tackler, and his ability to get to the ball and execute his assignments with much aplomb is certainly a sight to behold.
The pressure the Bears generated up front was impressive, having tallied 6 sacks and 9 quarterback hits. Trevis Gipson had a sack and two tackles for a loss replacing Khalil Mack in the starting lineup, Eddie Goldman bounced on half of a sack in a solid pass-rushing outing for the nose tackle, and Kindle Vildor sacked Tyler Huntley on a well-designed blitz that had Vildor unblocked off the edge. It was a pretty strong outing for the Bears as a pass-rushing unit, which helped limit the Ravens to just 6 points through the first three quarters.
Their performance in coverage, however, was certainly not strong. Though Huntley was sacked 6 times and hit 9 times, he was also 26-for-36 and able to march the ball down the field, helping Baltimore dominate the time of possession battle. Jaylon Johnson seemed to hold his own on the boundary and contributed a pass deflection, but both Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley struggled dropping back in coverage.
Sean Desai tasked the two with covering Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews one-on-one, a decision that saw Andrews catch 8 of his 10 targets and gain 73 yards. It appeared as though a major gaffe by Vildor resulted in Huntley finding a wide-open Sammy Watkins down the field on 3rd-and-12 in the fourth quarter, setting the Ravens up for a go-ahead touchdown. Baltimore lined up in a bunch formation to the boundary and executed a rub route which saw a drag route underneath, a seam from the tight end, and a go route from Watkins, whom Vildor was shadowing. Tashaun Gipson’s eyes were locked onto the drag route underneath, but Vildor was also going after the drag, leaving Watkins wide open deep. Whose fault it was can be debated, but the communication between defensive backs must improve.
Gipson Sr. contributed an interception — the team’s fifth of the year — but the secondary struggled as a whole. The run defense also saw some inconsistency plugging up gaps at the line of scrimmage, even if they were able to hold the Ravens as a whole to 3.6 yards per carry.
The Bears’ defense was not the reason they lost on Sunday, but although the unit made some pretty big plays, it certainly could have played better. The secondary stands out as a glaring need on the roster, and one can only wonder if Desai is being held back by a lack of investment on the back-end of his defense.
Three and out
3. Apologies if this article may not be as in-depth in some areas, as being at the game as a fan made it a bit distracting for my super analysis skillz. That said, being at Soldier Field again was a lot of fun.
This was my first regular season Bears game I’ve attended live in over two years due to COVID, and it was great to get involved in the whole tailgating tradition again and cheer on my favorite team. Even when the team is struggling like they have been this year, it’s still great to be able to attend football games.
2. It’s been a long year for the Bears, but — I mention this again — blowing a lead to an undrafted backup quarterback might put the cherry on top of their crappy situation.
It feels like the same question has been asked hundreds of times, but at what point do the McCaskeys realize that they can’t just keep the status quo because it simply isn’t working? Matt Nagy seems like a fine person and should find some solid work in the NFL after Chicago, but it’s clear he cannot be the head coach of this team if they are to grow and evolve as an organization. That ship has long sailed.
1. We might be forced to watch Andy Dalton face Tim Boyle on Thanksgiving this year.
Enjoy the holiday, Bears fans! Gobble gobble.