It was a tale of two halves for the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.
Heading into halftime, the Bears held a 27-21 lead over the Packers on the road in a prime-time matchup. The momentum was on their side, and they were playing pretty good football against one of the top teams in the league.
Then, everything fell apart, and they collapsed in a 45-30 loss to knock them to 4-9 on the season.
Here are some of the key takeaways from this week’s action.
Justin Fields had his work cut out for him with how the Packers’ defense pressured him on Sunday night.
Green Bay was able to pressure Fields on 19 of his 35 dropbacks, hitting him 9 times and sacking him twice. This certainly made it tougher for him and the Bears to run an actual offense — or whatever the closest thing to that they had in mind was — but the rookie was able to maintain toughness and use his feet to make things work.
Justin Fields was effective under pressure and using his legs in the #Bears 45-30 loss to the Packers.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 13, 2021
8/17, 122 yards (most by a rookie this season)
7 carries, 71 rushing yards, 4 first downs
+28 RYOE#CHIvsGB | #DaBears pic.twitter.com/GZePKsulI4
That’s not to say Fields had a great or necessarily a good performance. He still had his fair share of struggles with decision-making, and his placement was a bit off on some throws. The first of his two interceptions — a pick-6 to Rasul Douglas — was an unacceptable throw into tight coverage that saw Fields completely miss the defender breaking downhill It was, for the most part, a rookie performance. There was certainly much to be encouraged by, and while Sunday was far from Fields’ best game to this point in his NFL career, there were glimpses of hope in what was otherwise a rocky game.
Being pressured as much as Fields did was a testament to the poor performance of the Bears’ offensive line in pass protection. Jason Peters, who has arguably been the team’s best lineman this season, suffered an injury early in the game that saw rookie Teven Jenkins make his true NFL debut after only playing on two special teams snaps last week. Jenkins struggled significantly in the second half after a pretty solid first-half outing. He finished with three penalties that cost the Bears yardage — as well as another one that was declined — and allowed three pressures and both of the team’s sacks. According to PFF, Larry Borom allowed five pressures, while James Daniels and Cody Whitehair allowed six.
The Bears ran the ball 10 times with David Montgomery, and he was able to pick up 42 yards, which is a decent outing but not truly enough of a sample size for a starting running back. Fields was the primary rushing threat for the team on Sunday, carrying the ball 9 times for 74 yards. He was able to use his athletic ability to scramble and pick up extra yardage with his feet.
One thing the Bears did on offense that was encouraging was that they used the speed of their receivers pretty well. Damiere Byrd and Jakeem Grant were both given manufactured touches to get them out in space, and the two finished with a touchdown each and 76 and 46 receiving yards, respectively. Darnell Mooney only caught one of his 5 targets, while Allen Robinson caught just two of his 6 targets. The two top receivers seemed to struggle with separation and coming down with grabs in tight windows.
After an encouraging first half which saw them put up the most points they’ve had in a first half since their matchup against Washington in Week 3 of 2019, the Bears fell apart on offense and got pummeled. It was a tough end of the game for Chicago fans to watch.
Any time you allow 45 points in a game, you can’t say your defense performed well.
Okay, fine. The defense technically only allowed 38 of those points, but that’s still a bad performance in the grand scheme of things.
Aaron Rodgers looked like, well, Aaron Rodgers out there. He completed 29 of his 37 passing attempts for 341 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. He made dicing up the Bears’ secondary look easy, finding receivers in the soft spots of zone coverage and reliably moving the ball down the field. The Bears struggled to break up a single one of his passing attempts that traveled 5 yards or fewer through the air, which shows how generally passive and full of soft spots their coverage was.
Jaylon Johnson showed some flashes at times against Davante Adams, but he did give up a touchdown on an island against Adams and had some reps where he truly got beat, which is to be expected against a receiver of Adams’ caliber. Xavier Crawford gave up two touchdowns on his 3 targets, and Artie Burns allowed catches on 6 of his 7 targets. Allen Lazard was able to secure all but one of his 7 targets, as well. Eddie Jackson had a very nice pass breakup in the end zone and made some plays in the run game, but it was generally a night to forget for Chicago’s secondary.
The Bears weren’t able to rush Rodgers as well as the Packers rushed Fields, but they still generated some pressure up front. Robert Quinn had three pressures and two sacks, bumping him up to a whopping 14 sacks in 12 games. Bilal Nichols generated two pressures and had a quarterback hit, landing on Rodgers on Quinn’s second sack of the evening. Trevis Gipson contributed with his fourth sack of the year, pummeling a tight end in a one-on-one situation. The pressure wasn’t necessarily constant or consistent, but it certainly wasn’t the problem for the Bears this week.
Roquan Smith played pretty well in run support, missing a few tackles early on but bouncing back to tally 9 tackles and bring his season total up to 130 tackles on the year. He had some issues in coverage, but they weren’t as bad as those of Alec Ogletree, who didn’t force a single incompletion and gave up a touchdown in coverage. The 9-year veteran has struggled in coverage this year, and that continued on Sunday.
A lot went wrong for the Bears on defense, as the scoreboard would indicate. Poor performances in the secondary and a conservative coverage scheme saw them get beat to death with short throws that marched the Packers down the field. It was a tough game to watch, especially considering how the unit had played in recent years before 2021.
Three and out
3. Teven Jenkins had a bad game on Sunday, and while it may be easy to write him off given his injury issues and a poor true debut on the offensive line, I preach patience surrounding his long-term outlook.
Before this week, he hadn’t taken any meaningful football reps since November of 2020. Coming off of an injury and never having taken snaps at offensive line in the NFL before, it was a daunting task for him to come in on a moment’s notice, especially against a tough Packers pass-rush. His second half was especially tough to watch, but don’t give up hope on a young player because of one bad outing. This process will take some time to determine exactly how successful it was, and the same can be said for any young NFL prospect.
2. Man, how about the Bears’ special teams this week?
Jakeem Grant had the NFL’s first punt return for a touchdown of the 2021 season, Khalil Herbert had some beautiful kick returns and recovered an onside kick, and Cairo Santos went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts. While part of that success came from an abysmal third-phase performance from Green Bay, the Bears’ special teamers do deserve credit for how they performed as a unit on Sunday.
1. I want to close this with some scathing remark about the state of the Bears and their mediocrity under this current regime, but what more can I say that hasn’t been said already?
I hate being negative about my favorite football team. I really do. But those in charge of the organization haven’t really given me much of a choice.