With Sunday’s 16-13 loss at Soldier Field, the Chicago Bears fall to (3-7) and have found themselves in the midst of a five-game losing streak for the second time in as many seasons. Despite dodging star quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Bears simply couldn’t do enough to beat a banged up Baltimore Ravens team.
Despite having lost seven of their first 10 games, somehow Week 11’s loss feels a little worse than the rest. Part of that is circumstantial and the other side is the injury to rookie quarterback Justin Fields in the second quarter. That brings his status into doubt for the team’s Thanksgiving matchup this Thursday on a short week.
So where do the Bears go from here with seven games remaining in a lost season? What incentive is there to still watch these final games? All of that and more in this week’s 10 takes.
1. Despite it being a lost season, it has been bearable to watch because of Fields. If he has to miss any time, what incentive is there to watch this team?
The early reports on Fields have been a “simple” case of bruised ribs. For the Bears’ sake, they better hope that’s all it is because it’s going to be increasingly hard to convince fans to show up or tune in to these final seven games, if not.
At least for me, I went into this season with the mindset they wouldn’t be a good team, but their future was bright because I believe in Fields. I still believe in Fields and think that a new coaching staff will go a long way. With that being said, without Fields playing, these final seven games don’t hold a lot of meaning. Especially considering they no longer own their first round pick in the upcoming draft. Losing doesn’t benefit them in the first round, which makes “rooting” for losses or anything close to it, meaningless as well.
God bless Andy Dalton on Thanksgiving and more importantly, God bless those who watch Thursday’s game of backup quarterbacks fighting it out for the worst team in the NFC North. Let’s just hope that Fields can return for the final six games and give fans that warm and fuzzy heading into what should be an action packed offseason.
2. More importantly — If Fields misses substantial time, how can that help ownership’s evaluation with head coach Matt Nagy?
Fields’ injury not only impacts viewership, it also gives ownership less of an evaluation gauge for both head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. It’s very clear the Bears won’t have a winning season. It’s also very clear that this team has some serious flaws.
With that in mind, what else is there to truly learn about Nagy and this coaching staff? This team has had plenty of trends over the past few years and not many of them have been good. When George McCaskey spoke about improvement earlier in the offseason, this cannot be what he had in mind, right? Make no mistake, Fields is about the only thing this organization has to hold on to moving forward. His development is the most important factor for this team and ownership has to know that. With such a rollercoaster on a weekly basis, fans can’t be the only ones to see that this is simply not working, right?
3. Speaking of Nagy, it’s getting even harder to justify keeping his job for another season due to a few troubling trends.
Here are three trouble trends that have continued under Nagy’s four-year tenure:
- He’s (0-4) coming out of bye weeks, despite playing backup quarterbacks (Brock Osweiler, Teddy Bridgewater and Tyler Huntley) in three of those games.
- This is the third straight season the Bears have had a four-game losing streak (or longer).
- This is also the third straight season in which his offense has finished statistically worse than the prior year.
So what else is there to learn at this point? At least in my opinion? Nothing. I also believed (in the moment) that the Bears made a big mistake by not making changes in the offseason. In some ways, you get what you pay for and this is exactly what the Bears “paid” for. This organization has been through this situation more than enough to know, when the writing is on the wall, it’s time to make a change.
At some point, we’ll likely have to have a deeper conversation on Nagy’s time management (which was once again an issue on Sunday), but that’s for a different day.
All this season has done is provide more proof that this isn’t going to work if they have aspirations of winning another division title any time soon. It seems like the bigger question is whether or not Nagy will make it through the season. With the NFL changing their interview rules for head coaching candidates, there’s finally some incentive to fire a head coach prior to the conclusion of the regular season.
4. The Bears are (0-4) following bye weeks under Nagy, but this is just one of the many continual signs of an unprepared team on a regular basis.
I don’t particularly care for harping on one subject over and over but... How many times do we have to see the same issues present themselves before changes are made? What’s even more strange to me is that Nagy’s mentor (Andy Reid) has had a fantastic record (18-3) record following bye weeks. Somehow, that preparation and execution did not transfer over to Nagy.
While you can never put too much stock into a single game each season, this type of trend gives credence to the notion that Nagy and his staff continue to be underprepared far too often. Especially when factoring in that they’ve faced backup quarterbacks in three of those four games following bye weeks.
5. At some point, Darnell Mooney will need to be more for this team because his game is still missing a lot of the small details.
If you look at the box score, you’ll see that Mooney was the team’s leading receiver with five catches for 121 yards and one of the team’s two touchdowns. On the surface, that’s a good day at the office, right?
The issue is that Mooney was targeted a season-high 14 times. Within those targets, he had a few drops in late down situations. He also had a few issues of simply not adjusting mid-route. While that’s not just a Mooney issue, it’s still something that we’ve seen from the second-year receiver most of this year.
With Allen Robinson likely on his way out the door after these final seven games, Mooney still needs to take the next step. The team has clearly designed the offense around him being the No. 1 target, but at some point his development in the smaller details needs to follow this role. Especially when considering he’s the team’s only receiver under contract for the 2022 season.
Just to be clear — By no means would I label Mooney’s sophomore season a bad one. I would simply make the argument that he’s still doing a lot of small things poorly and needs to clean that up if he plans to take the next step into being a top-end receiver. I would also argue that this proves the importance of the Bears having at least one more proven target (even if it’s not Robinson) moving forward.
6. For all of the bad in Sunday’s game, Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith had video game-like numbers.
Did it feel like Quinn and Smith were in on almost every defensive play on Sunday afternoon? It’s because they were.
Quinn finished the game with a career high (3.5) sacks. He also had five tackles (three for losses) and four quarterback hits. The 31-year-old leads the team with 10 total sacks and one of the better post-game quotes on the season. “No need to be sensitive — call a spade a spade. When the play call is called, everybody has a 1/11th. Do your 1/11th. If you don’t do your 1/11th, you’re going to get called out. Don’t be sensitive. Get yourself fixed and get it right. I’ll just leave it at that.” Those are some very strong words for a player that has seen his fair share of ups and downs throughout his career.
Smith on the other hand had a career-high 17 tackles, with two of those going for losses. He was all over the field all afternoon and has quickly become the team’s best defender in the second level. Regardless of who is in charge this coming offseason, the Bears need to lock down the former No. 8 overall pick before his price tag gets any higher.
7. Nagy better hope that Week 9’s 65-yard field goal attempt didn’t just mess up a good thing with Cairo Santos.
In Week 9, Santos saw his streak of 40 straight successful field goals come to an end on a 65-yard attempt to win the game in Pittsburgh. To put it simply- He wasn’t even close on that attempt and that’s completely fine. The decision to kick such a long field goal with a kicker than has never been known for a strong leg was head scratching.
The issue? Santos has now missed two straight field goals, including his lone attempt in Week 11 from 40 yards out.
Only time will tell how much the original 65-yard miss will impact him, but it’s yet another decision to question when it comes to this coaching staff’s decision making process.
8. Did anyone else catch Tony Romo’s comment on the broadcast regarding Pace taking multiple calls on defensive players around the trade deadline?
If I were Pace, I’m not sure I would be bragging about not dealing aging veterans at the deadline. Especially with how far this team has fallen over the past month. While I can acknowledge that the NFL’s trade deadline is not like the rest of the major sports leagues, I also fully believe that if you’re a team on the wrong side of things, you should deal aging players to save money and recoup picks. Especially when you’re a team like the Bears who has way too much money tied up in an aging defense.
There’s been a lot to criticize about this franchise over the past few years, but Pace giving Romo this information (knowing it would be presented on the broadcast) just shows the sizable disconnect in views between the general public and this organization.
9. Week 11 was yet another good reminder that there isn’t many consistently good teams in the league this year.
Think you’ve figured out who the best teams are in the league yet? Well, think again.
It was yet another week of wild outcomes that not many could predict. Whether it was the worst team in the AFC beating the best team (at the time) in the NFL, or the resurgent Indianapolis Colts taking the Buffalo Bills out to the woodshed. Even within the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings pulled off the upset over the Green Bay Packers.
Right now, the NFL is a hard league to predict on a week-to-week basis. This is usually about the time of year that teams start to pull away but so far, we have yet to see that. I’ll speak for myself, but I’m fully embracing the parity. Now we get to see how much all of this matters in January when the playoffs starts.
10. Good news or bad news? You decide — Fans won’t have long to stew on this loss because the Bears play their second game in five days as they head to Detroit to take on the Lions as the opening Thanksgiving game.
Late on Sunday night, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Fields is believed to just have some bruised ribs. That somewhat flies in the face of ESPN’s Chris Mortenson’s report about the team’s concerns with Fields’ spleen. Assuming that everything checks out and it’s “only” bruised ribs, it’s still hard to see Fields being ready for a quick turnaround. If so, that leaves Andy Dalton as the team’s starter on Thursday.
With the Bears virtually out of the playoff race and only playing for pride and jobs at this point, it might be the league’s least interesting game and it happens to be in a prime time slot. Speaking of prime time slots, the Bears have a trio of prime time games over the next four games. It starts this Thursday, then in Week 14 against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night football and again in Week 15 against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. I wouldn’t be shocked to see their Packers game flexed out and at this point, I’m sure most fans are hoping it does get flexed to avoid another embarrassment on national television.