A 33-22 loss to the Cardinals doesn’t seem like a bad result in theory, but the product the Bears put onto the field on Sunday certainly wasn’t encouraging.
Offensive mishaps and defensive gaffes aplenty plagued the Bears in their loss at home, dropping them to 4-8 on the year.
Here are some of the key takeaways from this year’s game.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Bears struggled on offense.
Andy Dalton finished with a completion percentage of 63.4, which doesn’t appear awful at first glance. Considering his average depth of target of 5.7 yards, though, it’s no surprise that a more conservative playing style gave him a respectable completion percentage.
He had his fair share of inaccurate passes, and while part of that blame can be placed on the sloppy weather conditions, he still didn’t look the part of an NFL starting quarterback. In a clean pocket, PFF graded Dalton as having a 50.6 passer rating. He finished the game with 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, with one of those touchdowns coming in garbage time. The nature behind the interceptions weren’t conventional — one bounced out of Cole Kmet’s hands, while another got tipped at the line of scrimmage by Chandler Jones. That said, he was certainly responsible for an inaccurate pass that missed Damiere Byrd, and his decision to throw a screen right into the hands of Arizona’s Zach Allen was a confusing one.
David Montgomery played a big role in the reason the Bears were even remotely in the game, as he ran for 90 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. He showcased his typical strong contact balance as a runner and his explosiveness that seems to improve by the week. He was also a reliable target in the passing game, leading the team with 8 receptions and tallying 51 yards as a receiver out of the backfield. Khalil Herbert contributed with 16 yards on four carries, but it was a Montgomery-heavy rushing attack that helped the Bears win the time of possession battle.
The Bears’ struggles in the passing game didn’t just fall on the shoulders of Dalton: the receivers appeared to have issues with separation, too. Darnell Mooney had 5 receptions but only had 27 yards out of it. Jakeem Grant played a big role with 5 catches, 62 yards and a touchdown, with that score coming in garbage time. Outside of a small amount of success in the fourth quarter, the passing attack was pretty dormant. The likes of Kmet, Mooney and Damiere Byrd all seemed to struggle with getting open on first glance.
The Bears saw more success in the ground game than they did through the air, which seems to be par for the course of how the team has looked offensively in recent years. The play-calling was generally vanilla and conservative, the accuracy was inconsistent, and the separation was poor: not necessarily a winning formula.
Kyler Murray is a damn good quarterback.
Even after only attempting 15 passes against the Bears, the Cardinals’ offense was still able to march the ball down the field consistently. It helped that their defense forced four turnovers to help give them beneficial field position, but Chicago just didn’t have a consistent answer for their offense.
Murray went 11-for-15, throwing for two touchdowns in the process. He made a massive impact in the run game, rushing for 59 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. It took the Bears a while to figure out to utilize a spy for the mobile quarterback, and the Cardinals took advantage of that. It was a run-heavy approach for Arizona, and while the Bears were able to limit James Conner to 3.8 yards per carry, they did enough to march the ball down the field.
Roquan Smith led the way with 8 tackles in his return to action, and while he appeared to struggle a bit in coverage, he was a reliable force stopping the run with his expansive tackling radius and his sharp football IQ. The likes of Bilal Nichols and Angelo Blackson finished with four tackles apiece, and while they stepped up stopping the run in the second half, the Cardinals saw plenty of success in the ground game early in the afternoon. Most of the early help in run support came out of the secondary, which isn’t necessarily ideal.
The Bears weren’t tested much through the air, but with an allowed completion percentage of 73.3 and the ball being distributed to eight different weapons, it’s fair to say they struggled, even in the rain. Jaylon Johnson allowed a touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins on his lone target, Artie Burns looked inconsistent, and Xavier Crawford also struggled dropping back in coverage.
It didn’t help that the Bears couldn’t generate much pressure up front. They technically had a sack marked under “team” after a Cardinals fumble, but they weren’t able to bring Murray down for a quarterback hit, let alone a legitimate sack. The pressure off the edge was nearly nonexistent, and there was very little in the way of interior penetration taking place, too. Robert Quinn had two tackles for a loss, but he didn’t build upon his impressive season with any more sacks.
It was a tough outing for the Bears’ defense against one of the league’s most talented offenses, and their offense didn’t really do them any favors. Still, inconsistent tackling and a lack of creative defensive play-calling served as an indictment of where the status of the defense is at this stage of the season.
Three and out
3. What more can be gained from keeping Matt Nagy around for the remainder of the season?
The Bears should be able to determine whether or not keeping him is the right idea at this point. There isn’t anything that would be necessary to make a decision that he hasn’t already shown. With the complete lack of momentum that the team has right now, it would make sense for them to cut their losses and move on. That said, it seems like that has been the case for months now.
2. Sam Mustipher has struggled with snap issues over the course of the year, and he botched two snaps on Sunday.
I looked over center prospects recently for the 2022 NFL Draft, and I figured I’d link it again in here. His rough play over the course of the season indicate that center could be one of the biggest needs for the Bears this offseason.
1. Looking at this roster, I can’t really see how starting a rebuild isn’t the right move for the Bears right now.
They appear to be too many needs away from truly making any significant noise in the NFC playoff race within the next year, and they have a handful of veterans on their roster who still have trade value. Why not make some moves to pick up some draft capital and get younger? The Bears might not end up doing it, but this current roster seems to be lacking in long-term upside, so the best move for them going forward might be to keep an eye towards the future and prioritize long-term development.