Chicago ended their Sunday with a 19-13 loss at Soldier Field, falling to their divisional foe to drop to 1-5 on the 2023 season. A lackluster offensive performance — regardless of who was at quarterback — led the way to the Bears finishing with their 19th loss in 23 games of the Matt Eberflus era.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the Bears’ latest loss.
Minnesota dominated in the trenches, and that played a big role in the Bears losing on Sunday.
The Bears allowed 5 sacks and 8 quarterback hits, making it difficult for the offense to really get anything going through the air. Part of their throwing for only 141 yards through the air had to do with slow quarterback processing, but the offensive line didn’t do any favors with how much pressure and how many hits they gave up.
Justin Fields finished the game 6-for-10 with 58 passing yards, no touchdowns and an interception before leaving due to injury in the third quarter. He added a respectable 46 rushing yards on 8 carries, and the combination of designed runs and scrambles helped him put together a good outing on the ground. More importantly, though, Fields had a handful of instances where he was slow to get the ball out and unprepared to face a blitz-heavy defensive scheme Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores has become known for.
Undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent stepped in and was slightly better statistically, going 10-for-14 for 83 yards, as well as a rushing touchdown. That said, he also threw an interception with no passing touchdowns and also gave up a fumble that resulted in a Minnesota touchdown. Neither quarterback was great by any means, and though the offensive line didn’t help them out a whole lot, both signal-callers looked pretty unprepared for what they’d face defensively.
Because of such a low volume of passing production, it was tough for any Bears pass-catcher to accrue elite stats. Darnell Mooney had a pretty catch across the middle for a 39-yard gain but only had one reception beyond that. DJ Moore was the only player on the team with more than two catches, finishing the game with 5 receptions for 51 yards.
If there’s one positive to come from the Bears’ offensive performance, it was their ground game. D’Onta Foreman ran for 65 yards on 15 carries, tallying 4.3 yards per carry in the process. He was regularly able to burst through opening running lanes when they presented themselves, and his combination of straight-line quickness and power allowed Chicago to move the ball down the field quite a bit.
In all, though, it was a lackluster offensive performance for the Bears. Coming off of a 40-point outing last week in Washington, the offense fell back down to Earth and looked like the disappointing unit fans have come to expect.
Truthfully, the Bears’ defense was far from the reason they lost against the Vikings this week.
All told, Chicago allowed just 220 total yards and dominated the time of possession battle. The run defense was strong, as Alexander Mattison averaged just 2.4 yards per carry on his 18 rushes. The Bears finished the afternoon with 5 total tackles for a loss, and they’ve certainly had worse pass-rushing outcomes than tallying two sacks in a game. There was a level of intensity and quickness to the group, and that showed in how they were able to limit Minnesota, even with the asterisk of missing Justin Jefferson.
The big issues was coverage across the middle of the field, as Kirk Cousins was able to find the soft spot in the Bears’ zone coverage fairly often to put together some strong plays. That said, the Vikings went just 2-for-13 on third down, and their offense only scored 12 points against Chicago. Had it not been for Tyson Bagent’s fumble recovered for a touchdown, the Bears could have won this game solely off of the play from their defense.
It was far from the sexiest outing in terms of individual performances, but the team played well as a whole to limit the Vikings on the offensive side of the ball. The Bears’ linebackers put together a good game: T.J. Edwards finished with 8 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack, Jack Sanborn had 8 tackles with a tackle for a loss, and Tremaine Edmunds had 6 tackles, a pass deflection and a fumble recovery. It’s worth noting the stat sheet counts his “interception” as a recovery after the ball was jarred loose by Edwards.
The pressure wasn’t incredible up front for the Bears, but they did enough to limit the Vikings from making any truly big plays. It was a good example of the “bend, don’t break” philosophy Matt Eberflus’ defense is supposed to be rooted in. It’s just a shame the offense couldn’t do much to build off of that solid play.
Three and out
3. The crazy thing about the Bears’ remaining schedule is that, in theory, a good handful of their games should be winnable.
If the offense shows up like they did against Washington and Denver, or if the defense can come prepared like they did against Minnesota, it’s not impossible they’ll be able to beat a team like the Raiders, Panthers or Cardinals. However, through 6 games in the 2023 season, the Bears have only had one truly complete game which saw them perform even remotely well on both sides of the ball. There have been times where one unit has come ready to play, but this team is simply not good enough on either side of the ball to overcome the deficiencies if the other side doesn’t show up.
2. The pressure will be on Ryan Poles to turn this Bears team around this coming offseason.
I would personally be surprised if Poles gets the axe, even though I do think it’s likely Eberflus and his coaching staff will be fired at the end of the year. The general procedure among general managers in the NFL is to allow them a shot to find “their guy” at quarterback, and Poles hasn’t been able to do that yet. Some of the encouraging flashes — the No. 1 pick trade being at the head of them — indicate there could be a better long-term program built if upper management gets out of Poles’ head and allow him to do his job. With that in mind, the losses are piling up on his regime in Chicago. My guess is he gets the offseason to find a new head coach, at which point the expectation to get wins will be a lot higher.
1. Justin Fields needs as many games to start as he can get. He can’t afford to miss a considerable amount of time.
I hope Justin Fields isn't serious injured because I obviously don't want players hurt, but also because I feel like he needs as many games as he can get.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) October 15, 2023
The more games he plays, the more chances the #Bears get to determine if he's the guy at QB.
Right now, Fields is at 2…
For his sake — professionally and simply because I don’t want players to get hurt — I hope he’s able to return quickly from his hand injury. That said, the exact severity is unknown as of this writing. If he misses a considerable amount of time, the writing might already be on the wall for the end of his time in Chicago.