New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is going to have to wait another week to pass George Halas for second All-Time in head coaching wins. The Green Bay Packers will also have to wait a few more weeks (hopefully more) to pass the Chicago Bears in All-Time wins for an NFL franchise. All in all, you’d have to say it was a pretty good night at the office for head coach Matt Eberflus and this Bears team.
With such an impressive showing on Monday Night Football and a three-game losing streak snapped, there’s a whole lot of good in Week 7’s ten takes, and we’ll dive into it.
1. It’s an impressive performance whenever you hang 30-plus points and have a double-digit win against a great head coach.
Many around the league, including myself, did not give the Bears much of a chance in this game. Yet, they jumped out to a 10-point lead and ended up winning by 19 points. It could have been more, but Eberflus decided to take a knee on 4th and goal from the two-yard line. Think about that for a second. The Bears took a knee on the two-yard line to avoid embarrassing the Patriots in New England. That’s no small feat, especially in front of a national audience.
Belichick came into this game needing just one win to pass Halas for third All-Time in head coaching wins. He left with a lot more questions than answers as both teams find themselves at (3-4) heading into Week 8. As I’m writing this, I’m still in awe at what we saw tonight—taking a knee on fourth and goal from the two because you’re already up 19 points and don’t want to embarrass a future Hall of Fame coach? Something I don’t think many Bears fans ever expected to see in a rebuilding year.
2. The Bears coaching staff promised a full roster evaluation over their mini-bye week and they delivered in a big way in Week 7. That’s something we never saw with the previous coaching staff.
Make no mistake; this is a rebuilding team that lacks top-end talent. Because of that, the depth chart can look muddled at times. Sometimes players surprise, and other times, changes need to be made. That’s exactly what this coaching staff did heading into Monday night’s game, and it paid off in short order.
The biggest elephant in the room was Velus Jones Jr.’s ability to successfully return punts. The Bears acted swiftly by replacing him with Dante Pettis, and it paid off right away. Jones also lost his job returning kickoffs, as Khalil Herbert took over that role. The good news? It panned out. The even better news? These moves by no means take the third-round rookie out of those roles permanently. It may be time to let him worry about getting more involved in the offense before trying special teams again.
The team also opted to change up the offensive line a bit. Lucas Patrick started at center, and Michael Schofield played left guard. Unfortunately, Patrick left the game for the second straight week due to an injury. Only time will tell how long his toe injury will keep him out, but you have to respect the Bears for trying to mix it up on the offensive line.
I believe the most important changes came within the coaching staff, though. We’ll get to that more in a bit, but one thing seems clear to me. This regime has shown minimal issues with adjusting if something isn’t working. That’s a positive sign moving forward.
3. Monday night may have been the best first half of Justin Fields’ NFL career.
The second-year quarterback finished the game 13/21 (62%) for 179 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also led the team in rushing with 14 carries for 82 yards and added another touchdown on the ground. All in all, the numbers weren’t overly impressive... In a vacuum.
What must be considered is this:
- Belichick’s defenses have eaten young quarterbacks alive over the past 20 years.
- The Patriots had given up just 15 points in their previous two games before Monday night. Those offenses? The Detroit Lions (who were the highest-scoring offense in the league at the time) and the Cleveland Browns.
- Fields once again accounted for over (65%) of the team’s total offense.
Did the former Ohio State Buckeye have his faults? Absolutely. He fumbled the ball (officially) four different times. He missed a few relatively easy throws and took a pair of bad sacks. He also made plays with his arm and legs, and because of that, the Bears’ offense was 11/18 of third downs, with Fields being responsible for more than half of those.
The biggest key(s) for me is simple. He’s keeping his eyes down the field more when flushing out of the pocket. He looks more poised, and on Monday night, he was much more decisive with the ball. Some of that last part was on the play calling, and we’ll get to that soon, but all in all, this was without question Fields’ second-best performance of the season, and it was the best first half of his short NFL career.
4. Speaking of this offense, it’s amazing how much changed after their mini-bye. Plenty of credit should go to offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
To put it simply, the Bears’ offense was not working coming into Week 7. The Bears had the benefit of a “mini” bye week after their long turnaround from Week 6’s Thursday night affair to their Monday night showing in Foxborough. That allowed this coaching staff to not only evaluate the players on this roster but their coaching. It was only one game, but something appeared to have changed for Getsy and this offense.
The number of designed quarterback runs was beautiful to see. There were also several quick throws that allowed Fields to simply make a play instead of having to read and react. Those two aspects of this new offense kept the pressure off Fields for most of the night and kept the offense moving the ball down the field. It was also nice to see more of a 50/50 split in terms of touches between the two primary running backs.
This group still has a long way to go, but for the first time in a while, this was a unit that resembled an NFL offense. One that had receivers running wide-open over the middle of the field. It was an offense that put up over 30 points for the first time since Week 14 of last season. Considering the expectations set heading into this game, you’d have to give Getsy an A+ for his creativity and overall game plan for this offense on Monday night. Here’s to hoping we see more of that throughout the season.
5. For the second game in a row and the third time this year, the Bears eclipsed 200 rushing yards in a game.
With the Bears’ 243 rushing yards on Monday night, they now lead the league in rushing yards per game. That has been in large part due to a trio of 200-plus yard games, with Week 7 being the most recent. What’s crazy is that they’ve gotten there without dominant games from their true running backs. It shows how valuable a mobile quarterback can be, especially when the runs are designed and not created by a scrambling quarterback.
It will be very interesting to see if Getsy continues those scheme-designed quarterback runs. One also has to wonder if Eberflus’ comments about “riding the hot hand” at running back will lead to more of a split in carries like we saw last night between David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert. Both bring different styles to the table, and both have been productive in their ways.
Also, don’t overlook how impressive last night’s total number was in the run game. The Browns struggled to run the ball in Week 6 against this same defense with one of, if not the best, running back in the league.
6. Bailey Zappe fever was in full effect on Monday night, but his success was short-lived, and the mistakes were plentiful.
If you’ve paid any attention to the rest of the league over the last few weeks, you probably saw Zappe fever taking over the east coast by storm. In some ways, it’s relatable for Bears fans. For some reason, fans love their backup quarterback (assuming they have youth on their side). We saw the same thing in Chicago with the likes of Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, and even Matt Barkley.
What makes it hard for me to understand is that Mac Jones has been the most consistent quarterback of last year’s draft class. Yes, his first two-plus games had their fair share of ups and downs. Yes, Jones is limited in what he can do physically. The issue? So is Zappe. I’d argue that Zappe is more limited as a passer than Jones.
I feel bad for Jones. He got three series last night. The first two were relatively quick three and outs. His final drive of the game came when they started moving the ball, and then he threw an ill-advised interception close to the red zone. The fans booed him and rejoiced the minute Zappe took over. It started well for the rookie quarterback, as he led the anemic Patriots offense down for a pair of quick-strike touchdown drives. After that? A whole lot of nothing. The Patriots had more turnovers in the second half than points. As a whole, New England turned the ball over four times, with Zappe being directly involved with three of those.
There’s an old saying, “be careful what you wish for,” and that could not hold more true for the Patriots and their fans. From my view, Jones is the better of the two quarterbacks, and the Patriots would be foolish to give up on him after four rough games in his second full season in the NFL.
7. The Bears finished with just 17 fewer rushing yards than the Patriots' total offensive yards. Think about that for a minute...
On a night where most expected the Bears to get thoroughly embarrassed in their final national televised game of the season, they flipped the script with a blowout of their own. Going into the final drive of the game for New England, their offense had fewer total yards than the Bears had rushing yards. Yes, the 243-yard total was impressive, but that just goes to show how bad the Patriots were for most of the night. I wouldn’t expect many more of these types of performances this season, but this is one that many Bears fans will be holding onto far into this coming off-season, and for good reason.
I also found it interesting and even more unexpected than a victory that the Bears decided to take a knee on fourth and goal from the two-yard line to preserve more embarrassment for the opposing teams. It’s one thing to do that to any team. It’s another to do that to quite possibly the best coach to even reside in the NFL. An all-around dominant performance from the Bears on Monday night that has many around the league still buzzing heading into Week 8.
8. It was good to see rookie defensive backs Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker come away with their first NFL interceptions.
Being a rookie in the NFL is hard. It’s even more difficult when you’re a defensive back in your first year. We’ve seen that play out multiple times over this season with both Gordon and Brisker but mainly the team’s young cornerback.
Gordon’s first three games were ones he would probably like to forget. He was getting cooked all over the field and was one of the league’s most targeted cornerbacks. Since that point, he has strung together a few quality games and finally notched his first NFL interception on the final Patriots offensive drive.
Brisker has also been somewhat up and down. But not nearly to the degree of Gordon. The former Penn State product has flashed plenty, and his coverage abilities were well-known coming into Monday night. Yet, it took a kick to the groin and an acrobatic one-handed catch for him to come away with his first NFL interception.
Both players are growing, and the pains of their growth are expected at times. Even so, the Bears’ young secondary continues to get better and has been one of the more impressive developments in a season that is quickly approaching the halfway point.
9. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney is still not producing up to expectations, but it’s becoming clearer each week that his involvement in this offense and connection with Fields is growing.
Over the past few weeks, it has become apparent that the Bears want to get Mooney involved early. That mission has been accomplished, even if it hasn’t led to many touchdowns or any gaudy numbers. The biggest key will be keeping him involved throughout the game.
The good news? All that off-season work and chemistry has started to show through as of late. Mooney’s job is also likely harder than it needs to be. He was consistently bracketed in coverage most of the night and will continue to draw the most attention out of any Bears’ pass catcher. Even so, he’s starting to heat up, and it feels like a breakout game is just a matter of time. Considering the third-year receiver is one of their primary candidates for an early extension this off-season, a strong finish to the season would make both parties very happy.
10. Week 8 look ahead: The Dallas Cowboys are riding high and have quarterback Dak Prescott back. Can the Bears stack back-to-back wins on the road?
If you were expecting the Bears’ path to victory to get any easier in the coming weeks, I’ve got some bad news for you... Following their mini-bye week before last night’s game, the team will now head to Dallas on a short week to face a (5-2) Cowboys team that has been playing surprisingly good football, despite missing their starting quarterback for a large chunk of that.
It sounds somewhat familiar, doesn’t it? The difference here is that Dallas is simply a better team with a better offense (despite their early numbers). The Cowboys’ defense also presents another daunting task for an offense that will look to build off of their impressive Week 7 performance. The biggest key to victory will probably rely on how well the Bears can protect Fields from a highly dangerous Cowboys’ pass rush.
The Bears hold a (4-2) record against them over their past six meetings and have split the first two meetings with Prescott dating back to 2016. I expect somewhat of a low-scoring game that could end up turning into a good defensive battle.