It wasn’t pretty, but the Bears pulled away with the win. This is a sentence I’m sure I’ve typed a dozen times when writing these day-after game recaps.
Nonetheless, the Bears are 2-1 after defeating the Texans 23-20 at home on Sunday. You take wins whenever you can get them in the NFL, especially when you’re a team with the roster that this current Chicago group has. Neither team truly played great, but the Bears had just enough positive plays — led by a dominant ground game — to pull away with the way.
Here are some of the key takeaways from Week 3.
When determining how to talk about the Bears’ offense on Sunday, it’s a matter of if you’re the type of person who wants to hear the good news first or the bad news first.
The run game for Chicago was fantastic, even after David Montgomery went down with an injury. Though the extent of his lower-body injury has yet to be announced as of this writing, it seems like the Bears will be in good shape at the running back position, regardless.
Khalil Herbert put together a career-best 157 yards on 20 carries, giving him a whopping 7.9 yards per carry. He also scored two touchdowns on the ground, marking the first time in his two-year career that he has scored multiple times in a regular season game. It was a dominant performance from the Virginia Tech alumnus, as he showcased very good patience out of the backfield, speed when he got out in space, and contact balance when engaged in contact with would-be tacklers.
Herbert got plenty of help from the Bears’ offensive line, as the big guys up front generated significant push in the run game. Trestan Ebner had some solid runs, and even Equanimeous St. Brown ran for 43 yards on his two carries. A further review of the All-22 tape will indicate exactly which blockers played well, but the unit as a whole did a very good job of executing their assignments and clearing out lanes both near the line of scrimmage and at the second level.
Now comes the tough part.
Justin Fields was not good on Sunday. He finished the game 8-for-17, throwing for just 106 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. The pass protection wasn’t great — as Houston’s five sacks would indicate — but part of that does fall on Fields’ shoulders. His pocket awareness was inconsistent, his processing seemed a bit slow, and the accuracy behind his passes was worrying.
Both of Fields’ interceptions to Texans rookie Jalen Pitre were horrendous throws. The first one wasn’t even a terrible decision — although Fields had a receiver wide open along the sidelines — but the throw to Cole Kmet was very inaccurate. The second interception in the fourth quarter was simply a baffling decision, throwing to Darnell Mooney with a safety breaking on his go route out of the slot.
Kmet had his first two catches of the season, tallying 40 yards while doing so. He was the only Bears player to top 25 receiving yards on Sunday, though. Mooney caught just two of the six passes thrown his way, and no other wide receiver was thrown to more than twice. It seemed like they struggled with separation at times, but even when they seemed to be open, Fields couldn’t get the ball to them, for one reason or another.
Fields’ boring stat line was defensible in Week 1 with the rainy conditions against the 49ers. Week 2’s game was against a very good Packers defense, so while he still should’ve played better than he did, he wasn’t given a lot to work with. Fields was the reason he played poorly this week, though. He had a few solid runs en route to 49 rushing yards on 8 carries, but the passing element simply wasn’t polished.
The Bears were able to pick up the win thanks largely in part to a dominant running game, and that will keep them in a handful of games going forward. Herbert looks the part of a legitimate bell-cow back right now. That said, Fields isn’t getting any better as a passer so far this season. He’s going to have a lot of work to do in these coming games if he wants to put together some NFL starting quarterback-caliber performances.
After a rocky start to the 2022 season, Roquan Smith put together what was easily his best game of the year.
The two-time All-Pro finished with 16 total tackles, two tackles for a loss and a key interception late in the fourth quarter that gave the Bears the ball in field goal range. He was a reliable force against the run, using his sideline-to-sideline speed to make several key tackles. He had one particularly vicious hit against Dameon Pierce, but it was the overall reliability he displayed — especially in the second half — that helped him make a big impact on Sunday.
Davis Mills didn’t have a flashy game and wasn’t necessarily an asset for the Texans, but he wasn’t really a proverbial ankle weight for them, either. They relied heavily on short and intermediate passes, providing multiple high-percentage opportunities for him and Houston’s offense. This tested the Bears’ secondary as tacklers, and more often than not, they were pretty solid. Eddie Jackson finished with 8 tackles, while Jaquan Brisker had 6 tackles of his own.
There was some inconsistencies — Kyler Gordon had a handful of bad reps in coverage again — but the young secondary wasn’t bad, even without Jaylon Johnson. Kindle Vildor broke up two passes and looked sharp in coverage, while Gordon himself had a deflection and showed flashes sticking inside his receivers’ hip pocket.
Generating pressure was an issue for the Bears, as they only had one sack as a unit with three quarterback hits. Justin Jones got credit for a sack and had two quarterback hits at his defensive tackle position, and Dominique Robinson also closed in on Chicago’s lone sack of the day. Mills had a generally clean pocket to work with upon first glance.
Even if the Bears weren’t particularly elite on defense, Houston wasn’t able to generate too many splash plays to push the ball downfield. It was a solid, bend-don’t-break approach. That, along with key interceptions for Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson, helped propel Chicago to victory.
Three and out
3. Eddie Jackson’s revival in 2022 has truly been fascinating to watch.
He publicly went through trauma in his personal life in recent years, so to see him close to being back at his 2018 form is even more encouraging to see. He’s playing with the aggressive edge and ball-hawking mentality that we saw out of him as an All-Pro. This resurgence would be exciting from a pure football perspective, but knowing now what he has struggled with recently, it’s great to see EJax making big plays again.
2. Khalil Herbert deserves to be a full-time starting running back in the NFL.
That’s not to take away from Montgomery. He is surely a talented back in his own right who will get solid money in free agency this offseason, whether it’s from the Bears or somehow else. But this game solidified what has been shown in flashes, and that’s that Herbert is an incredibly efficient runner of the football. Chicago has split the backfield a decent amount this year, but this game is further indication that Herbert is deserving of a large role in their offense.
1. This isn’t an observation as much as it is a question: at what point do you abandon the Justin Fields experiment?
I don’t want to imply that the sky is falling, especially after a Bears win. I just want to hear your thoughts about Fields in the comments below. There’s no denying he’s struggled to start off the season, so I wanted to get a general sense of where you all are at with him. Fire away.