The 2022 NFL regular season is flying by, and with that, the Chicago Bears have already played 11 of their 17-game regular season slate. At (3-8), it has become abundantly clear that there are zero playoff hopes ahead. The good news? It's Year 1 of an extensive tear-down and rebuild. Patience is required, and if you listened to the right people this off-season, your expectations were likely low heading into the season.
Simply put, this was not a good game for the Bears. Quarterback Justin Fields is hurt, and his status for next Sunday's game is up in the air. The defense played relatively well but once again, couldn't make a stop when it truly mattered. While many of these past losses could be categorized as a "good tank win," this was not one of them. Yes, losing appears to be winning right now, but from a developmental and health standpoint, there wasn't a whole lot to like. With all that in mind, we'll dive into Week 11's 10 Takes.
1. Quarterback Justin Fields didn't have one of his better games, but the focus quickly shifted to being concerned for his short-term health after the final two-minute drive of the game.
After last week's historic rushing performance, Fields spoke about his legs feeling heavy and how he was increasingly sore. For some reason, I assumed that this coaching staff would take that as a hint to calm down on the run-heavy approach for their second-year quarterback. Instead, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy dialed up many designed runs on the day, including a pair on the game's final drive.
The first one went for a yard and caused the Bears to call a timeout after Fields grabbed for his left shoulder and was slow to get up. Again, at that point, any sane person would have assumed that they'd start simply throwing the ball. Yet, the next play was another designed run in which Fields took it up the middle for a few more yards to set up a third and manageable with time running down. Fields threw an interception the next play, and that was the end of the day for the Bears' offense.
I'm not going to sit here and say Fields had a great day throwing the ball. He had some impressive throws and overall plays. He also had a few big misses, including the overthrow of Darnell Mooney, that would have gone for a long touchdown. Even so, he gutted out a solid performance and put his team in a position to tie the game in the fourth quarter. What I still don't understand is the overall play calling, but we'll get to that more in a minute.
Fields may be healthy enough to play in Week 12's showdown with Zach Wilson. With that being said, it's clear that Fields' status for Sunday's game is up in the air. Primarily due to a pair of plays late in the game that should have been avoided. With a Week 14 bye just two games away, it might not be the worst idea to allow Fields a few weeks of healing time before gearing up for the final four-game stretch of the season.
2. Don't look now, but the Bears are trending toward a Top 5 pick in a hurry.
*If the season ended today*, the Bears would be picking at No. 3 overall. That is thanks to wins by the Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints on Sunday. It also helps that there are seven teams currently sitting at (3-7) heading into Week 12. The biggest thing that is working against the Bears is their current strength of schedule. Because it's the highest of any 3-win team, they currently have to rely on having the extra loss to stay as high in the draft order as they are.
The reality is quite simple right now. The Bears have six games remaining, and not many of those could be classified as "winnable." Going into the season, I had them as a (6-11) team, but that is appearing highly unlikely with just six games left. It would be reasonable to expect them to win one, maybe two, of their remaining games. At four wins, they would very likely guarantee them a Top 10 pick. There are five 4-win teams, and it's easy to see how each wins at least one more game. The bigger question will be what happens with the cluster of the current 3-win teams. The Carolina Panthers and Bears are the lone (3-8) teams, and the Panthers have the tie-breaker due to the strength of schedule. The Panthers and the (3-7) Denver Broncos play each other next weekend. The (3-7) Los Angeles Rams also play both the Raiders and Broncos before the season is over.
This is a long way of saying that there's a relatively easy path to a Top 5 pick for this team, even with another win over their final six games of the season. At this point, it bears watching because it's very clear that a playoff berth is not in the cards for the 2022 season. Regardless of who you like in the draft, having a Top 5 pick in April's draft can only be advantageous for a team needing multiple "blue-chip" players.
3. The NFL is all about adjustments, which is exactly what offensive coordinator Luke Getsy did after the team's mini-bye week. After Sunday, it may be time to get back into the lab again.
For my money, this was Getsy's worst performance since the sweeping changes he made following their ugly Thursday Night Football loss just over a month ago. There's little reason to believe that the first-year play caller can't make adjustments again, but the offense has become predictable. More concerning was his apparent lack of concern for Fields' health, especially following the quarterback's comments last Sunday.
I've never really agreed with the notion that the Bears' current offense is not sustainable in regards to Fields running the ball as much as he has. I think the bigger key is how many hits he's taking and how his body is feeling every week. I do think that he has taken more hits than normal over the past two weeks, especially on Sunday.
Getsy is in a tough spot, and that cannot be discounted. His offensive line is bad (more on that later), he still doesn't have a great group of pass catchers, and Fields is still a work in progress as a young quarterback. That said, the predictability is increasing, and the results are starting to feel a little too inflated and not overly sustainable. With the team's bye week two games away, it will be interesting to see how this offensive coaching staff can adjust on the fly over the next two games.
4. Lost in another losing effort was a quality defensive effort that will assuredly be overlooked.
Some may look at the box score and wonder how I can label giving up 27 points a "quality performance." Yet, for those who watched the game, you'll probably understand (even if you don't agree with) what I'm saying here.
This defense lacks talent. They have arguably the worst front seven in football. When you factor in that Cordarrelle Patterson's 103-yard kick return for a touchdown accounted for seven points, the defense gave up just 20 points on the day. Considering the talent and how well they handled the Falcons' offense in the first half, this is a quality performance.
Defensive expectations have never been lower, which is a weird feeling for most Bears fans. Any time a struggling defense gives up just 20 points in a game, that's about all you can ask for. Especially when accounting for a pair of takeaways (one of those was on special teams).
5. Anyone saying that the offensive line has consistently improved as the year has progressed has not been watching the same All-22 that I have been.
Over the past two weeks, the Bears have faced two of the worst pass-rushing teams in all of football. In those two games, they've given up a combined eight sacks, nine hits, and many more total pressures. Their running backs are also averaging less than four yards per carry in that stretch as well.
Simply put, this offensive line still needs a lot of help and is faltering far too often in key situations. Especially in straight drop-back situations. One common theme? Right guard Teven Jenkins has missed both games. They are also without (assumed) starting center Lucas Patrick. Injuries happen, and depth will be tested throughout the season. The bigger issue is that they haven't been getting a lot of consistent performances from reliable veterans. The development of younger players like Braxton Jones and Larry Borom has also been inconsistent, at best.
The Bears will need to add multiple starting offensive linemen this off-season, but it also brings credence to the many complaints fans had with general manager Ryan Poles' approach in the off-season.
6. At some point soon, the Bears need to find a way to get Chase Claypool more involved.
This isn't to say that Claypool is entirely at fault for his lack of production (so far). This is also not meant to be a sweeping judgment of the overall trade. It's only been three games, but by now, I think many would have expected Claypool to be more involved in the offense.
So far, Claypool has five catches for 32 yards in three games. Last week, it appeared that he missed roughly two quarters with an injury, but this week he played around 30 snaps and had just two targets. It's worth noting that, as a whole, this passing offense is still about as anemic as it comes. Not many players are receiving large target shares.
Either way, I would have expected the third-year receiver to at least be a bigger factor within the team's game plans, whether that is stretching the field as a pass catcher or even a decoy. A breakout game may be on the horizon, but considering the second-round pick the Bears gave up to get him is very likely to be a Top 40 pick, it's reaching a point where they need to start seeing some payoff on their sizable investment soon.
7. The beginning of a rebuild has many phases, but it appears we are reaching the "dead zone" of the season.
The season started out on a promising note when they upset the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. After a (2-1) start, many had wondered if this team would end up being better than the majority of analysts had expected. Since that point, they are (1-7) and cannot seem to find ways to close out games, despite leading and/or controlling the majority of these games.
Unfortunately for fans hoping for wins, we've reached that point in the season where wins will be hard to come back in the season's final stretch. It's a common occurrence with bad teams and even more common at the start of rebuilds. That said, it doesn't always make it easier for some fans. Part of development is learning how to win. That's something the Bears have struggled with so far. All of this, despite having chances in three consecutive games to win or tie the game with their final offensive possessions.
At this point, all eyes should be on draft positioning, but that doesn't mean that development isn't still important.
There are still plenty of reasons to have hope for the future, just don't expect many wins down the stretch.
8. It was good to see Velus Jones Jr. back on the active roster. It would be nice to start seeing other young players with something to prove soon.
After a two-game absence from the active roster, the third-round rookie was back in the fold on Sunday afternoon. He had a big kick return but didn't factor in at all on minimal offensive snaps. It would be nice to see him get involved with some jet sweeps or in the backfield, but offensive snaps have been hard to come by for most players on this offense.
Jack Sanborn is another player that has continued to play relatively well and should see plenty of time down the stretch. Now, maybe the time to see what players like Alex Leatherwood, Sterling Weatherford, and N'Keal Harry have to offer in starting roles. At (3-8) and with a bleak outlook for the remainder of the season, this is the time when you'd like to see the coaching staff get a full scope of what they have on this roster moving into the off-season. It may not be "tank" time, but wins and losses should become secondary to development and overall roster clarity.
9. NFC North Check-in: Don't look now, but the hard-charging Detroit Lions find themselves in second place.
The Minnesota Vikings are still the class of a weak division, despite a 40-3 blowout loss at home against the Dallas CowboysPackers' in Week 11. The biggest surprise over the past few weeks? The Lions have won three straight games. With the loss on Thursday night and Sunday's results, the Lions find themselves in second place. It's not likely to be good enough to get them back into the playoff race, but it has been an impressive rebound after a (1-6) start.
The best news for Bears fans? It does not appear as if the Packers are back. They look like they have plenty of problems and just enough talent to win a few key games down the stretch to put themselves out of the Top 10 in terms of draft positioning. Barring something unexpected, it appears this will be the Bears' first fourth-place finish since the 2017 season.
10. Week 12 look ahead: The (6-4) New York Jets at MetLife Field.
At the start of this past Sunday, this appeared to be a compelling matchup of two of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round last April. The Jets have been playing well, but their quarterback Zach Wilson has not. So far, Fields' lone three wins have come against quarterbacks from the 2021 draft class. While it's not the be-all-end-all, it could be another interesting game of comparison between what could have been for the other team.
Only time will tell whether or not Fields will play on Sunday, but this game will still give Bears fans a good look at another quarterback from the same class. A class that so far, has not had quite the returns that many had expected. The Jets are also a good look into a future that could be if the Bears make the right moves this off-season. Head coach Robert Saleh has their defense playing at a high level and has been able to overcome inconsistent quarterback play throughout the year. The Jets have become one of the latest examples of how much can change over one off-season.