The Chicago Bears find themselves at .500 after another rough performance at Lambeau Field as they fell to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 27-10 on Sunday night. Despite this team being at the start of a rebuild, this game was a harsh reminder that the gap between them and their arch-rival is still considerably large.
After a thrilling 19-10 win last week at Solider Field, it’s hard not to wonder if expectations were set a little too high going into Week 2. Especially given the history of how well quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have bounced back under head coach Matt LaFleur. It’s only one game and one that many will want to forget quickly, but these are the types of games that will surely need to be eliminated in the near future if the Bears plan to reach their ultimate goal.
1. Sunday night’s game was a harsh reality check for many following this team. The rebuild is just starting, and we’ll all have to ride the wave.
First-year general manager Ryan Poles has clearly avoided using the term “rebuild” throughout his first year on the job. But there’s no denying what the 2022 season is for this team. On paper, this team severely lacks proven talent. It showed in a big way against one of the NFC’s top teams on Sunday night.
Despite all of the bad that happened in Week 2, these first two weeks are exactly what should be expected throughout the course of the season. This team will have more fun moments like they did in Week 1. They’ll also have more games like this against the Packers where they don’t even appear to be in the same hemisphere. This happens when a team turns over (65%) of their roster in one off-season and carries over $60 million in dead cap space.
Through two games, nothing has changed. Development and roster clarity remain the two biggest goals of the 2022 season. Both can be achieved through the good and the bad. Unfortunately for fans, the latter happened on Sunday night in front of a national audience.
2. At some point soon, this coaching staff will have to allow quarterback Justin Fields to sink or swim
Through two games, the plan seems clear. The Bears’ offense is a run-first unit, and that’s something we’ve been told since the hire of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. There’s nothing wrong with that philosophy, and it’s something we also have seen the Packers do under head coach Matt LaFleur.
That said, Fields has to be able to throw the ball more. Through two games, he is 15-28, for 191 passing yards with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. The second-year quarterback had just 11 pass attempts in Week 2, including none on their longest drive of the night in the fourth quarter.
There’s a fine line between protecting a quarterback in the early stages of his development and not allowing him to play quarterback. In my opinion, the Bears are not allowing him to play quarterback right now.
Compare his numbers to Trevor Lawrence (49-72 for 510 passing yards) and Mac Jones (42-65 for 465 pass yards), and it’s obvious that one is not like the others. Both quarterbacks had more passes in Week 2 than Fields has attempted in two games combined. Yes, the monsoon conditions played a part in Week 1, but he threw the ball six fewer times in Week 2 in near-perfect conditions.
Is it time for panic yet? No, I don’t believe it is. Is it time to start questioning what their overall plan for Fields is? If not now, we are getting very close to that point.
3. Through two weeks, the offense’s two expected primary weapons have been non-existent, and that’s a problem
Through the first two games of the season, here are where the Bears’ two primary pass-catching targets stand.
- WR Darnell Mooney: 5 targets, 2 catches, and 4 yards.
- TE Cole Kmet: 2 targets, no catches, and one drop.
Regardless of how you cut it, that’s a troubling development to start the season. The Bears spent all off-season gushing about both players. Fields spent all off-season working out with both players. Yet, so far, the team’s leading receivers are two players brought in on veteran minimum deals.
It’s still early, but if this offense plans to get going and have any success moving forward, these two players need to get going in a hurry.
4. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson has yet to be the primary target on a pass through two weeks of the season
Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson was not targeted in coverage as the nearest defender for the second-consecutive game.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 19, 2022
Johnson has gone 61-consecutive coverage snaps without being targeted dating back to Week 18 of last season (51 in 2022).#CHIvsGB | @ChicagoBears
For all of the bad that happened on Sunday night, Johnson’s development into one of the league’s better corners has been extremely positive. While it’s typical to see teams target younger members of the secondary, especially early in the season, it’s not a common occurrence to see this type of respect at any point during the season.
I noted earlier in the off-season that the third-year cornerback seems to have a different aura about him. He seems more confident and exudes that “No. 1 cornerback” type of personality. So far, it appears the league feels the same way. This will be worth keeping an eye on as the season moves forward.
5. Despite a bad Week 1, running back David Montgomery quickly showed why he’s continued to be the lead running back for a struggling Bears offense
Montgomery is just one week removed from putting up a measly (1.5) yards-per-carry. On Sunday night, the fourth-year running back was the team’s entire offense, it seemed. He carried the ball 15 times for 122 yards for an impressive (8.1) yards-per-carry average. He added a pair of catches for 14 yards.
Montgomery had runs of seven runs of eight yards or more. While he didn’t factor in on any scores, he was the reason the Bears were able to get in the red zone twice on Sunday night. His running mate, Khalil Herbert, also had four rushes for 38 yards. The majority of his yards came off of his one run for 27 yards, though. It was Montgomery who looked like the more decisive and effective runner in Week 2.
6. It was a night to forget for the two rookie defensive backs, but one that can be expected at times through the course of 17 games
Both cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker had rough “welcome to the NFL” games on Sunday night. Gordon was targeted early and often. He gave up 10 catches on 13 targets for 162 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 27-10 loss. The rookie corner did have a pass breakup early in the game, but overall, he struggled mightily. Brisker’s overall numbers weren’t nearly as bad, but he overran multiple plays and was not nearly as reliable as what we saw in his lone preseason action.
Is it cause for concern? Does that mean that Poles made the wrong call(s) by taking a pair of defensive backs over offensive help with his first two draft picks? No. What it means is that it’s a tough transition for more rookie defensive backs, especially in a defense that has plenty of new faces and is currently trying to establish an identity.
Here’s what I will say. I wonder if the Bears are putting too much on Gordon too soon. They’ve had him playing both in the slot and outside, depending on the defense’s coverage. The Washington product has played every snap through two games. It may be time to stick him in one spot (either at nickel or outside) and let him get a better feel for the game at the NFL level.
Either way, this will happen throughout an NFL season. While it was tough to watch, I don’t believe there’s any cause for concern quite yet.
7. It might be about time to mix up the defensive end rotation
Looking at the snap counts for the first two games, the two primary edge rushers have been veterans Robert Quinn and Al-Quadin Muhammad. Quinn notched his first sack on Sunday night, but so far, Muhammad has made little impact.
The other two primary edge defenders that have been rotating at a smaller clip? Trevis Gipson and rookie Dominique Robinson. Both players have combined for (3.5) of the team’s five sacks through two games. Gipson was in Rodgers’ face for the majority of Week 2. The third-year edge rusher had four tackles, two sacks, two tackles-for-loss, and three quarterback hits. The week before, Robinson had a sack and a half, a tackle for loss, and a pair of quarterback hits. Muhammad has yet to register a quarterback hit or a tackle-for-loss.
Eberflus’ defenses have been known for their rotation on the defensive line, and it has shown so far in Chicago. With that in mind, it may be time to move Muhammad down and both Gipson and Robinson up in the rotation so they can see more snaps.
8. Considering all the drama surrounding linebacker Roquan Smith’s contract heading into Week 1, his play thus far has not reflected the type of contract he is currently asking for
Let’s be brutally honest with ourselves. Smith has not played well through the first two weeks of the season. When I went back through the All-22 of Week 1, I noticed that Smith had a rough first half. His play improved in the second half of Week 1, but there was never a point where I saw a Top 3-5 linebacker.
Sunday night’s performance was eerily similar to his work in Week 1. He has not been good in coverage. He’s getting washed out in the run game, and despite his 11 total tackles, he’s just not the same playmaker he was in past years.
I wonder if he’s not a good fit for the WILL spot. The other part of me wonders if the Bears’ lack of talent up front is hurting his production and ability to play free. Nicholas Morrow has also struggled, which leads me to believe that the quality of their defensive line, at least plays a part in the early season struggles.
Either way, Smith’s asking price is not matching his play on the field in the early going. Yes, there’s still time to turn it around, but as of right now, the Bears appear smart for not caving on demands and allowing him to play out his fifth-year option at a discounted price.
9. It was good to see kicker Cairo Santos bounce back
Overreacting to one game rarely pans out, and that was exactly the case for the Bears’ reliable kicker over the first two weeks of the season. Despite missing two of his three extra points in Week 1, Santos bounced back with a perfect night in Week 2.
The Bears have a lot of questions on the roster and a lot of new faces. Santos should be the least of their concerns, and despite only having two attempts on Sunday night, he should have quelled any concerns lingering from Week 1.
Rookie punter Trenton Gill also had a nice game, as he finished the game with a (49.5) yard average and a long punt of 57 yards.
10. Better days are ahead, and that could start Sunday against the Houston Texans
As rough as being dominated by the Packers on national television can be, this team should have brighter days ahead. Their next two games are very winnable. First, they’ll head back to Soldier Field to face the (0-1-1) Houston Texans before heading out on the road to play the (2-0) New York Giants.
The Giants have raced off to a nice start, but their margin of victory (+4) against a pair of winless teams has me skeptical that they are anything more than a team that has a good record by happenstance.
Even better news for the Bears is that the defenses they face over the next two weeks can be thrown against. This will be a “now or never” type of situation for this offense to establish something and get Fields going in the right direction. Buckle in, Bears fans. We still have 15 more games and plenty to learn about this team.