Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus spoke to the media after the tough loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, providing some insight into the critical moments that led to a defeat. Some comments could otherwise go without saying, although as a head coach he’ll of course have to say them.
“We have to learn how to finish better,” said Eberflus in his opener. “That’s the biggest takeaway for me as a head football coach.”
He pointed to the 3rd-down battle as a contributing factor to a loss, where the Eagles went 9-16 (0.5625) against the Bears’ 5-13 (0.3846). As a positive, he was encouraged by the tackling and stops on defense, also pointing to the offense’s last drive as “a two-minute situation, where we’re hurry up on the ball, and we end up scoring a touchdown.” That cut the Eagles’ lead to 5 with 2:43 left to play.
Eberflus called it “outstanding by the offense” and said, “we’re certainly excited to see that going forward.”
The juice squeezed out of the first-year NFL coach was a head-scratching decision in the first half to punt the ball after the Bears found themselves on 4th-down from the Eagles' 30-yard line. After a Bears’ touchdown drive ended with a missed PAT, the Bears picked off Jalen Hurts, with DeAndre Houston-Carson intercepting the ball and running it back to the Philadelphia 25-yard line. After a bit of forward momentum, the drive was stalled by a sack, so the Bears found themselves at the Philadelphia 30-yard line.
Instead of attempting a 47-yard field goal, the Bears took a delay of game penalty and punted, pinning the Eagles at their own 9-yard line.
Eberflus noted the weather, specifically the wind as a factor in the decision. Soldier Field today had a painfully-cold 6 degree real feal during pre-game warmups, and it’s already a notoriously difficult place to kick a football. Franchise-leading scorer Robbie Gould, who place-kicked for the Bears from 2005-2015, cited kicking as a legitimate reason to move to an indoor stadium in Arlington Heights when he spoke with ESPN Chicago’s Waddle & Silvy earlier this year.
Today, the Bears attempted to play a field-position game, and the Eagles’ receivers made them pay for it.
Is Cairo Santos dealing with an injury? “Not that I know of. Not that I’m aware of,” Eberflus answered.
Is it a psychological thing? “I just think it’s execution.”
Did Cairo let you know that [the kick] was too far? “Yeah.”
Speaking in defense of his veteran kicker, Eberflus pointed to the fact that Philadelphia also passed on an opportunity to kick a field goal from the 33-yard line on that side, going for it on fourth down and turning the ball over.
Cairo Santos has five missed extra points, the most of any kicker in the NFL. He’s 18-20 on field goals with a long of 51 yards.
Santos has never been known for his range and was famously way short on a 65-yard attempt against the Steelers last year. That was during Matt Nagy’s last season in Chicago.
Coaches don’t necessarily make a tempestuous position like kicker any more efficient, but the Bears are going to need consistency from all three phases if they want to build some momentum in the final quarter of a forgettable season. “As you start executing better...finishing games better, wins will start to stack” Eberflus pointed out.
Eberflus also commented on the Bears’ onside kick attempt, which only went 9 yards before it was recovered by the Eagles. “We gotta execute there in that moment.”
“Trenton [Gill] did a nice job of punting and pinning today,” Eberflus found as a positive.
Well, when it comes to the third phase, at least our punter can be trusted.
See Eberflus’ full press conference here.