Do I really have to write this one?
The Bears lost to the Lions 41-10 on Sunday, losing their ninth game in a row and falling to 3-13 with one more game left in the regular season. It may have been a new year, but it was the same result for the rebuilding Chicago squad.
Here are some of the takeaways from this week’s loss.
I saw “The Menu” in theaters on Saturday, and it was a very good movie with plenty of disturbing twists and turns. That said, the Bears’ offensive performance on Sunday might’ve been the scariest thing I saw this weekend.
Evaluating Justin Fields this week has to come with an asterisk. Sure, he had a few inaccurate passes and didn’t have the awareness to know when to tuck the ball away when he got hit for a fumble. Though it didn’t really matter due to a bad play call on the last play of the second half and poor route-running effort, the interception he threw was a questionable decision. It wasn’t his best game from a passing perspective. He did run the ball very well with 132 rushing yards for 10 carries, and his rushing ability was really the only bright spot from this outing.
I sound pretty critical of Fields, which is expected to an extent when you go 7-for-21 through the air. However, I want to emphasize that most of the blame for how the Bears played on offense should not fall on his shoulder. When your offensive line allows 7 sacks and 9 quarterback hits — and that’s not including when Fields had to take off running on designed passing plays — it’s very tough for things to get going. It didn’t help that Teven Jenkins and Michael Schofield III both got hurt, but regardless of who stepped onto the field, Chicago’s offensive line got decimated at the point of attack.
I’ve been optimistic about Braxton Jones, and I still believe there is reason to be encouraged by his being a starting NFL left tackle from Day 1 coming out of an FCS school, but he needs to get stronger in his anchor. He struggled against bull rushes often in pass protection, and Riley Reiff also struggled in pass protection against younger, more explosive defenders. Defensive ends like James Houston, Josh Paschal, John Cominsky and Aidan Hutchinson combined for 6.5 of Detroit’s 7 sacks.
In addition to Chicago’s offensive line struggles, the wide receivers struggled to get open. Watching the All-22 tape will tell exactly what went wrong, but there seemed to be a lack of explosiveness and refinement in their breaks. Equanimeous St. Brown was the only wide receiver to catch multiple passes, Byron Pringle got targeted 4 times and caught none of his intended passes, while Chase Claypool, though playing hurt, was practically invisible.
The run game could’ve been worse, as Khalil Herbert averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 5 carries, and David Montgomery got a decent enough 4.0 yards per carry on 6 runs. When you’re trailing by a massive amount for much of the game, though, you’re not going to run the ball very often.
Fields is a good runner, and that’s really the only positive thing that can accurately be taken from this outing. He has his areas for improvement, but you shouldn’t expect a young quarterback to be able to elevate a unit that has personnel that consists mostly of players who would be backups on a majority of other NFL teams.
I don’t like box score scouting, though some of these notes do consist of using numbers. I believe that context for each play and overall performance is very important, which is why it can often take a few days to analyze a game as perfectly as one can. But the Bears allowed 41 points on Sunday. That tells the story.
It was the same old, same old for the Bears on defense. They have a very young secondary that’s down two veterans in Eddie Jackson and Jaylon Johnson, and that inexperience showed. The likes of Amon-Ra St. Brown, D.J. Chark and Kalif Raymond did a solid job of stretching the field and finding ways to get open for Detroit, exploiting soft spots in Chicago’s coverage along the way.
It didn’t help that the Bears struggled to consistently put pressure on Jared Goff, who often had a clean pocket to work with. Yes, they got two sacks, with both Trevis Gipson and Justin Jones getting to the quarterback. That’s still not an amazing outing, however, especially considering both how other perform, and the fact that the Bears got just one other quarterback hit aside from the two sacks. Pressure up front on a regular basis was lacking, as has been the case all season.
The Bears’ defensive line also got battered in the run game, as Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift both scored touchdowns on the ground and averaged 6.5 and 7.1 yards per carry, respectively. Williams’ 144 rushing yards and Swift’s 78 yards, along with a 40-yard carry by wide receiver Jameson Williams, helped the Lions march down the field regularly. Drive after drive, Chicago’s defensive line got driven off the ball and failed to eat up gaps in the ground game. Linebacker Joe Thomas was among the top clean-up defenders with 13 tackles, but the average depth of tackle for the Bears likely won’t be kind once the numbers come out.
Chicago has a lot of progress they need to make on both sides of the ball. While the offense consists a lot of young players who need to develop, the defense flat-out needs upgrades. That’s not to say the offense doesn’t either, but the front seven is an issue and has been all year, and that unit doesn’t consist of too many players who figure to have much developmental upside.
Three and out
3. As enticing as it sounds for Justin Fields to try and break the single-season quarterback rushing record, I wouldn’t be opposed to the Bears sitting him for the week and allowing him to rest.
He took an absolute beating against a Lions defense that was in the bottom 10 in terms of sacks heading into the afternoon. Next week, he faces a Vikings defense that has two double-digit sack artists in Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter, as well as solid pieces like D.J. Wonnum, Dalvin Tomlinson and Harrison Phillips up front. With the injuries the Bears have faced up front and their disappointing offensive line performance, Fields would be thrown to the wolves if he were to play.
2. I had one tweet go viral right after the Bears game ended, if anyone’s interested. I won’t link it in here because it’s NSFW, but I’ll just confirm that I did not actually do what I said I was going to in that tweet. Sorry to let you all down.
1. I hope that everybody had a safe and happy holiday season. I know that I always enjoy getting to see my family and friends over the course of Christmas and New Year’s festivities, and I hope you all got to spend the last week or so with those closest to you.
Even when our favorite football team keeps losing games, there’s so much more in this life to be appreciative of. As we get 2023 started, I’d recommend taking time to identify the positive things we have in our lives. If you know someone who is struggling this time of year, please check in on them and let them know how much they are cared for.