The Chicago Bears fought hard in the second half, but they weren’t able to come away with the victory on Sunday.
Chicago fell to 2-3 after their Week 5 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, losing 29-22 in a nail-biter of a matchup in Minnesota. Despite the loss and despite their struggles in the first half, the Bears showed plenty to encouraged by, especially at the most important position in football.
Let’s take a look at some of the major takeaways from Sunday’s Bears loss.
Justin Fields had easily his best performance of the 2022 season this week.
Fields topped 200 passing yards for the first time this year, finishing 15-for-21 with 208 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. He showed a level of comfortability that he hasn’t displayed all season; he generally seemed precise moving around in the pocket, he wasn’t fazed often by pressure, and he was accurate throwing the ball down the field. The Bears’ offensive philosophy probably means he won’t put together insane stat lines on a weekly basis, but this was far and away the best he has looked all year.
Fields was hurried 11 times, which caused him to have to scramble often. Luckily for the Bears, he was able to convert a solid amount of those hurries into plays made; he only took two sacks and was hit three times. He ran the ball 8 times for 47 yards, which led the team in both rushing yards and yards per carry. He also had a massive touchdown run wiped out due to a block in the back penalty from Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
Speaking of Smith-Marsette, boy oh boy, were there some issues with the Bears’ wide receivers! ISM refused to go out of bounds late in the fourth quarter, and the ball was soon stripped from his hands in a turnover that ended the game for Chicago. Dante Pettis also played like absolute hot-dog water, dropping both of the passes that came his way. The unit as a whole struggled with consistent separation.
Darnell Mooney had arguably the best catch of his career with an unbelievable one-handed grab on a 39-yard gain. He only had two catches for 52 yards, but the touches he did get made an impact on the game. Cole Kmet served as a solid security blanket with 4 catches for 45 yards, while David Montgomery led the team with 62 yards on 4 receptions.
The passing game is where Montgomery had most of his impact for the Bears on Sunday. He tallied a touchdown on a pretty 9-yard run that showcased his explosiveness and tenacity, but he otherwise only had 20 rushing yards on 12 carries. Khalil Herbert had just 4 carries for 11 yards, too. Upon first watch, there wasn’t much in the way of running room along the interior offensive line, which isn’t a surprise, considering two of those starters have been two of the worst starting offensive linemen in the NFL this year.
Chicago tallied points in each of the four quarters, and especially as the second half got going, they were able to pick up plenty of momentum on that side of the ball. Fields showed that he can lead an offense and bring out the best in his teammates on Sunday. Now, just imagine what he can do when this organization actually makes significant investments in offensive talent.
The Bears’ defense has been described as “bend, but don’t break” in recent weeks. They did bend plenty against the Vikings, but they broke when it mattered most.
Granted, not having top cornerback Jaylon Johnson and relying on two rookies — one of whom being undrafted — to hold the fort down in coverage isn’t an easy thing to overcome. Jaylon Jones struggled in his NFL starting debut, with the former UDFA looking predictably lost against All-Pro receiver Justin Jefferson. Kyler Gordon disappointed in coverage early in the game; more on that will be elaborated upon later. PFF credited Kindle Vildor with three catches allowed on four targets for 47 yards, but he also had a clutch interception and two passing stops. Outside of Johnson, Vildor has definitely been the best cornerback on the Bears’ roster.
As a whole, the Bears played too soft of zone coverage and appeared to have issues with miscommunication when determining responsibility. Playing with such a young group at cornerback will see that from time to time, but the Vikings were able to pick them apart, especially in the first half.
Upon first viewing, the Bears’ run defense was very much hit or miss. They limited Alexander Mattison to just 2.1 yards per carry on his 9 rushes, but Dalvin Cook was able to push the ball down the field regularly against them. Roquan Smith and Nicholas Morrow combined for 18 total tackles, but both of them had issues with shedding blocks and missed assignments.
The Bears only had one sack as a team, with Justin Jones turning the corner off the edge to bring Kirk Cousins down. Much like with their coverage, they were generally pretty lax in terms of giving Cousins much uncomfortability. However, Trevis Gipson was able to tally two quarterback hits off the edge.
There was a lack of flashy plays from the Bears’ defense, and that’s pretty standard for a “bend, but don’t break” type of defense. However, a poor pass-rush and soft coverage allowed the Vikings to churn three straight touchdown drives to open the game and to march the ball down the field on a game-clinching 7-minute drive in the fourth quarter.
Chicago desperately needs the stability of Jaylon Johnson back in their secondary, and his return from injury will be massive for their performance. That said, their run defense remains porous, and they aren’t generating pressure on the quarterback at a high level. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams may want to take a step back to see what’s going wrong and retool some things going forward.
Three and out
3. This sounds like such a sad comment to make, but I can’t wait for N’Keal Harry to come back for the Bears.
Is he going to great? Probably not. However, Chicago doesn’t have much in the way of pure size at the wide receiver position. Outside of Equanimeous St. Brown, they have no wide receivers who weigh more than 200 pounds. At the very least, he offers more upside at this stage than the likes of Dante Pettis and Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Most of the Bears’ wide receiver upgrades won’t come until future offseasons, but Harry coming back figures to be a minor upgrade and a skill set they don’t have much of, at the very least.
2. Kyler Gordon struggled a bit in coverage, but I do think there’s room to be excited about the first-year quarterback.
Gordon finished the game with 10 tackles, and while that does tie in with some of his issues in coverage, he was a rock-solid tackler who showcased good physicality and a willingness to engage in contact at the point of wrap-up. His processing also appeared to be quicker in the second half, and while his start certainly isn’t ideal given when he was drafted, he showed some encouraging flashes down the stretch.
1. These are the kind of losses you prefer to see if you’re a Bears fan.
Chicago showed plenty of fire in the second half, refusing to quit after a bad start. Justin Fields picked it up to finish with the best performance of his second NFL season, and the offensive play-calling adjusted and looked solid further into the game. This team isn’t a playoff-caliber group, but if they’re going to lose games this year, losses with encouraging offensive developments are absolutely ideal.