On Sunday the Chicago Bears performed about as well as a team missing their starting quarterback and working with a below-average defense would be expected to perform.
Chicago fell to the Jets in a 31-10 blowout, marking their fifth-straight loss and knocking them down 3-9 in the 2022 regular season. The loss came with a silver lining in that it bumped the Bears up in the order for the 2023 NFL Draft, but on the field, there was very little that consistently went right for them.
Here are some of the key takeaway from their Week 12 loss.
You could do worse than Trevor Siemian as a backup quarterback. You can also do better.
The 30-year-old veteran finished Sunday going 14-for-24 for 179 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed four times for 8 yards. His outing wasn’t an absolute disaster, and he did better than Nathan Peterman likely would’ve had he started instead, but there wasn’t much to call home about. Siemian looked like a seasoned pro who was capable of making full-field reads and identifying checkdowns, but he simply doesn’t have the physical tools — the arm talent, the athleticism, the natural touch down the field — to propel a team to victory on a consistent basis.
The route concepts in the passing game weren’t necessarily terrible, but when you struggle to create separation like the Bears’ receivers have this year, it’s going to be tough for a quarterback with subpar arm strength by NFL starting standards to be able to regularly stretch the field. Chase Claypool had a tremendous 31-yard gain in tight coverage against Sauce Gardner, which helped him lead Chicago with 51 receiving yards.
Most of their gains through the air came after the catch, with the likes of David Montgomery and Darrynton Evans combining for 67 receiving yards in a checkdown-heavy approach. Darnell Mooney didn’t get targeted before suffering an injury, and while Byron Pringle has two catches in tight coverage — including one for a touchdown — Claypool was the only wide receiver on the Bears to have more than 15 yards.
The pass protection wasn’t fantastic by any means — Larry Borom in particular seemed to struggle upon first viewing — but there were instances in which Siemian had enough time to work with. For the most part, Teven Jenkins appeared to have a strong outing in his first game back from injury.
David Montgomery had his best rushing performance of the season since his Week 2 against the Packers. The Iowa State alumnus finished with 79 rushing yards on 14 carries, his highest rushing total since that aforementioned game, as well as his highest yards-per-carry average at 5.6. He looked tough in between the tackles, showcasing the determined running style the Bears have come to expect from him, especially in his previous three seasons. Darrynton Evans served as the primary backup running back over Trestan Ebner.
Truthfully, when your offense only scores 10 points and fail to put any points on the board in the final 44 minutes of the game, it’s tough to call it anything other than poor play. Granted, expecting a masterclass offensive performance from a depleted Bears offense would have been a fruitless endeavor.
At least Jack Sanborn seems to be pretty good!
The undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin led both teams with a total of 15 tackles, giving him 36 tackles in each of his last three games since the Roquan Smith trade. He looked fantastic in run support, stacking and shedding blocks, maintaining precise angles of pursuit, and wrapping up reliably at the point of contact. He has some limitations in coverage because of generally okay athletic traits, but he has shown that he’s an intelligent and physical defender who’s as reliable of a tackler as they come. That’s a fantastic development for the Bears.
DeAndre Houston-Carson had a few intriguing downhill tackles, while Nicholas Morrow made his fair share of impressive plays against the run. Armon Watts also marked the first Bears sack from a defensive lineman since Al-Quadin Muhammad against the Commanders in early October. That said, that’s about all that went right for their defense on Sunday.
The Bears struggled significantly in coverage against Mike White and the Jets. Garrett Wilson especially dominated with 5 catches for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor were responsible for major duties along the outside, and while both had very nice pass deflections in tight coverage, said tight coverage didn’t seem to come very often with them. The safety play in coverage wasn’t necessarily fantastic, and it got even worse when Eddie Jackson suffered an injury.
Though New York was up and down on the ground, they were still able to do enough to complement their passing attack. White finished 22-for-28 with 315 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, and he was sacked just once. The zone coverage was soft on all levels of the field, and the man coverage was inconsistent. Tackles after the catch seemed to be particularly difficult for the Bears.
Chicago struggled defensively against the Jets, as has been the case with each of their last 5 games. With arguably their best defender — Eddie Jackson — injured for an unknown amount of time, things don’t seem to be trending upward for the unit, either.
Three and out
3. I really hope the NFL starts to take notice of the rise in injuries that have come as a result of turf as the playing field.
Darnell Mooney and Eddie Jackson both went down on Sunday, with the latter injury being a non-contact situation that appeared to be caused by wet turf making it tougher to plant one’s foot. The NFLPA has advocated for natural grass with numerous players like Cooper Kupp, Rashan Gary and Samson Ebukam going down with serious injuries on turf surfaces this year, among others. I recommend reading the letter I linked above for further clarification, and in a time where player safety is a priority, the NFL would be wise to look into these issues.
2. With the Bears losing and the Panthers winning, Chicago now holds the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
I am extremely intrigued to see what they’ll end up doing with their draft capital this offseason. It makes plenty of sense for the Bears to stay put and guarantee that they get a blue-chip defender like Will Anderson or Jalen Carter. However, the prospects of trading back, acquiring more capital and loading up on a quantity of picks within the first two days of the draft could be too good for Ryan Poles to pass up, should a good enough offer arise. Either way, the Bears are in an extremely favorable position in terms of draft positioning right now.
1. It’s hard to come to too many conclusions regarding this outing for the Bears.
With Justin Fields, Khalil Herbert, Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon out before the game started, Chicago was pretty banged up to begin with. Then, Eddie Jackson got hurt, and Darnell Mooney soon followed suit. They played this game with a bunch of backups and several players who likely won’t even be on the team next year. This game was more or less a wash.