Be honest, how many of you thought the Chicago Bears were coming away with their first win of the season after they went up 28-7 midway through the third quarter? I did. For a few hours, my mind quickly went away from a second straight "tank" year to wondering if they could somehow pull off a (2-3) record going into their mini-bye before Week 6. Sure, there was always a part of me that was waiting for them to collapse, but that somehow didn't take away from the shock once quarterback Justin Fields threw the game-ending interception late in the fourth quarter.
Simply put, we've still got 13 games left this season, but it's hard to have any sort of expectation for the remaining three months of the season. Here we sit on October 2nd, and the Bears are all but dead in the water. There's still time for things to change, but for anybody expecting a 2022 Detroit Lions-like turnaround, you might be waiting a while. With another loss in the books, let's dive into Week 4's 10 Bears Takes.
1. If the Bears' leadership was still on the fence about this coaching staff, Sunday's collection of blunders might have been a boiling point.
President Kevin Warren is the new sheriff in town, and just months into his new job, his focus might shift from a new stadium to figuring out how deep the impending changes need to go at Halas Hall. Is there still time to turn things around? Sure. The chances of that happening are shrinking by the minute. In some ways, it's hard to imagine that permanent damage hasn't already been done in the eyes of leadership, though.
It's one thing to get blown out and thoroughly embarrassed in Week 1 by your most hated rival. You might even be able to overlook a blowout 41-10 loss at Arrowhead to the defending Super Bowl champs. What's hard to ignore is the circus that has surrounded this team since the start of the regular season. Nobody had Super Bowl expectations for this team. Only a few had playoff hopes in general. Despite that, this has been a disastrous start that goes far beyond their (0-4) record.
What once felt like a coaching staff learning on the job and maybe helping the "tank" along last year has quickly turned into a reality where this coaching staff is horrible with in-game decision-making. Couple that with the lack of development when it comes to younger players and free agent additions coming in and playing worse than they did the previous year, and you've got yourself a clear issue. At this point, I'd say it's going to take a miracle for this coaching staff to return. My bigger question is how much of a leash will general manager Ryan Poles be granted over these final three months? He did a good (and quick) job of tearing down an aging roster, but building it back up has been a much different story. On paper, this team should be vastly improved. In reality, they are the worst team in football and considerably worse than at this point last year. Judgment Day might still be 14 weeks away, but this regime might want to start building its case now.
2. Despite having a career game going into the fourth quarter, this coaching staff once again showed that they do not trust quarterback Justin Fields.
Fields started Sunday's game off going a perfect 16-for-16, setting a new franchise record. The 15 straight completions to open up a game was set by Shane Matthews over two decades ago. His lone incompletion through the first 44 minutes and 46 seconds of the game was on a Hail Mary pass to end the first half. The third-year quarterback finished the game with a career-high 335 passing yards. He also added four passing touchdowns and an impressive (80%) completion rate.
Yet, when the Bears were faced with a key drive late in the fourth quarter in a tie game, Luke Getsy called just three designed passing plays, one of which Fields took off for a 20-yard run. Within that drive, the Bears ran the ball four times in field goal range, including a failed fourth down run that everyone in the building knew was going to running back Khalil Herbert.
If this coaching staff can't trust Fields at his best, what's the point? At some point soon, someone will need to take accountability for the same offensive mistakes and the tendency to abandon their quarterback when they need him the most. My money is on Luke Getsy, but we'll see after Week 5.
3. There's no question that this franchise has done Fields many favors, but Sunday's conclusion was yet the latest failure in a game-winning/tying situation.
I wish I could say this was as black and white as simply saying Fields failed, but it's not that simple. Of the team's three drives leading up to their final drive, they abandoned what was working for them. They started throwing the ball short by design and forced the run. It led to zero points, a three-and-out, a fumble, a turnover on downs, and an interception.
Going back to Fields' Sophomore season, he has yet to lead this team on a successful winning drive. His one big breakthrough moment came in his rookie year when he marched the team down on Monday Night Football for a successful touchdown to Darnell Mooney. That drive came against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they would ultimately score too quickly, and Pittsburgh would win the game. Obviously, that's not to blame Fields because he did his job, and the defense did not. Since that point, the Bears have won just three games with Fields under center.
Again, I'm not going to sit here and say that the reason the Bears are losing is because of Fields because that's simply not true. With that being said, the damage they have done to their young quarterback might be irreversible, at least in Chicago. Not only would Fields be on his third coaching staff in four years (assuming they clean out the coaching staff), but the amount of scar tissue that has been built up through his first two-plus years in the league is enough to damage even the best of players.
The running list of failures that have surrounded Fields has and will continue to grow throughout this season, and Sunday's failed final drive was just another thing to add to it. It's a damn shame things have not materialized for such a talented quarterback, but watching the Atlanta Falcons play on Sunday morning, has me wondering what he would look like going back to his home state and playing for an excellent offensive mind like Arthur Smith. Fields shares his blame in this failed marriage, but make no mistake, the Bears have failed him far more than he has failed them.
4. Despite hiring a well-regarded defensive-minded head coach last season, the Bears are trending toward a franchise-low two-year defensive total that doesn't seem real.
Leave it to the Bears to not only make the wrong hire but also hire a guy who struggles to do the thing he was supposed to be good at as a coordinator. It's Matt Nagy all over again, but somehow, it's worse this time around. Head coach Matt Eberflus seems like a good guy. It seems like he means well and has a quality vision of what he wants his team to look like. But here's the thing... It's not working. In fact, it is failing miserably.
Going back to the start of last year, the Bears defense ranks dead last in most statistical categories, including more telling advanced metrics. They went against the "worst defense" in the league on Sunday and somehow gave up more points. The Bears rank dead last in sacks and are in the bottom five in the league against the pass. All of this despite the fact that 10 of the 14 top resources (combined between free agency and the draft) have come on the defensive side of the ball. The investments would have come at an even higher cost, but Larry Ogunjobi failed his physical.
What's more troubling to me is that this team has talent. They have brought in proven players that have produced in the past, and yet, they aren't getting the same production in Chicago. On top of that, Eberflus was willing to let Roquan Smith be traded, and he has continued to flourish in Baltimore after struggling with consistency through the first handful of games in Chicago last year. They've gone out and added multiple press-man-type cornerbacks and continue to play a soft zone with minimal pass rush. There are just so many issues to count, and no adjustments are being made.
Again, Eberflus might be a good guy, a beloved defensive coordinator, and have the best intentions, but this is simply not working. Not only has it "not worked" thus far, but Eberflus is quickly trending toward having the worst winning percentage of any Bears head coach in franchise history. The Abe Gibron (God rest his soul) comparison may soon turn into the Matt Eberflus comparison. In order for Eberflus to finish with a better winning percentage, he would need to go (6-7) over the 13 games of the season. Good luck, Matt.
5. Even with their 14-game losing streak extended, there was plenty of good to take away. That might be the first time I've been able to say that all year.
The offense looked competent for the majority of the day. Fields had a career day. D.J. Moore went over 100 yards for the first time in a Bears uniform. Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet were more involved in the offense as well. Even the Bears' defense looked pretty good for the better part of three quarters on Sunday afternoon. All of that should have led to a win, but it didn't. Even so, this is the first time this season I've been able to say, "Hey, there was actually some good to bank away." This is sad and speaks to how far expectations for this team have dropped since the start of Week 1.
The Bears desperately need development from their young players. Both offensively and defensively. There's still plenty of time for that to happen. Even if this team is vying for the No. 1 (and maybe No. 2) overall picks in next April's draft, finding good things to take away from these games will be paramount to how long this rebuild could end up lasting.
6. Now that we've got our cheery moment out of the way, it's back to reality. It appears Chase Claypool's time in Chicago has come to an end.
In a season full of strange off-the-field occurrences, we've got another one to add to the flaming dumpster floating down the road. On Friday, Eberflus was asked if Equanimeous St. Brown would be active for Sunday, and he gave a non-committal but telling answer. At least in coach speak. During that same day, Claypool met with the media and did himself no favors with his comments. When asked if he felt like this offense was putting him in the best position to succeed, he had a long pause and responded with a resounding "no."
Although Eberflus said post-game that Claypool's comments did not play a part in him being a healthy scratch on Sunday, good money says it absolutely did. Keep in mind, the former Steeler was coming off a putrid Week 1 performance in which his effort was questioned both nationally and internally. According to multiple reports, he apologized but was given an ultimatum that he needed to either improve or be a healthy scratch. He followed up Week 1 with a quality performance in Week 2. That was short-lived, despite having a nice sideline catch to open up the game in Week 3.
A week later, he found himself as a healthy scratch. Oh, and he didn't show up to Soldier Field for the game on Sunday. Originally, Eberflus said that it was Claypool's choice, but in typical Bears fashion, it was quickly "corrected" by the team's PR team in an attempt to once again save face.
Now, according to multiple reputable reports, Claypool is on the trade block. With a quick turnaround on Thursday and him staying home on Sunday, it's hard to imagine we'll see Claypool play on Thursday night. It's also not hard to see how he could be traded or cut before the team's Week 6 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. If this is truly the end of Claypool's tenure in Chicago, it'll end with 19 catches for 191 yards and a lone touchdown that came in Week 2. Considering the cost of that trade was the No. 32 overall pick in this past draft, this is going to be a tough pill for this organization to swallow. Even in the midst of an extensive rebuild that has seen many mistakes.
7. With a short week ahead, don't expect changes until after Thursday night's game.
This includes any potential trades (including Claypool) or any coaching changes like Luke Getsy. If this was a normal week, we might start to see sweeping changes but considering this will be a short turnaround and a road game, don't expect to see much activity.
With that being said, things could start to get really interesting after Thursday night, especially with another embarrassing loss in front of a national audience. I've stated my expected moves above, but I wouldn't be surprised to see another "surprise" move or two trickle in over the next few weeks if things don't turn around.
Of those surprise moves, I don't expect Eberflus to be relieved of his duties any time soon. While I currently expect a new coaching staff in 2024, the Bears have never fired a head coach in-season. Complicating matters more, Eberflus has anointed himself the defensive playcaller for the rest of the year.
Changes are coming. Some might be sooner than others, but I find it impossible to believe that things can continue to trend in this direction, and Warren will allow them to remain status quo.
8. With the first pick and second pick in the draft, the Chicago Bears select...
It feels way too early to be saying this, but... If the season were to end today, the Bears would hold the first two picks in the 2024 NFL draft. Coming into Week 4, there were four winless teams. Amazingly enough, those four teams faced off in a pair of games, and then there were two. In a stroke of "luck," both of the losing teams just happened to be the two first-round picks that the Bears hold. Obviously, the season is still very young, and plenty can change between now and the start of January.
The Bears will face the winless Carolina Panthers in Week 10 at Soldier Field. They also have games against one-win teams in the Minnesota Vikings (twice), Las Vegas Raiders, and Arizona Cardinals. If the Bears find a way to go winless (still seems unlikely to me), they'd control their own destiny. If not, they still have a very good chance of at least one of their picks ending up at No. 1 overall. According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, 15 of the last 21 teams to start the season (0-4) have ended up with the top pick in the draft. Considering the Bears control the two picks that hold a winless record after four weeks, their chances seem pretty good to me.
9. NFC North Lookaround: The Detroit Lions establish themselves as the class of the division, while the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings look mediocre at best.
Last Thursday night was a glimpse into the NFC North's future when the Lions and Packers squared off at Lambeau Field. Detroit jumped out to an early lead, and despite a slight comeback from Jordan Love and company, The Lions handled business. The Packers are a young team that should realistically be (1-3) right now. Love has shown flashes but has not performed well in the first half in many games so far this season. The Lions are firing on all cylinders and appear to be primed for their first NFC North division title.
The Vikings continue to struggle despite a 21-13 win against the Panthers on Sunday. Quarterback Kirk Cousins continues to turn the ball over, and Minnesota's overall regression has been ugly. Despite all of this, the Bears remain at the cellar and don't appear to be coming out any time soon this year. At this point, fans should just hope Minnesota lingers around just long enough not to trade Cousins. The last thing they need is to be competing within their own division for the top pick in the draft.
So far, the Commanders have exceeded my expectations. A big part of that has been the play of second-year quarterback Sam Howell. Washington's elite defensive front finally has an offense that can provide some relief in most games. Washington's passing attack has been surprisingly potent so far. Howell is showing plenty of poise for a quarterback who has just a handful of starts under his belt. Their offensive line remains a big issue, but the same could be said about the Bears, especially going up against this defensive front.
The Bears have beaten the Commanders just one time since 2004. Considering each team's strengths and weaknesses, Chicago will once again have the deck stacked against them going into a short week on the road. We'll see if the Bears can end their losing streak at FedEx Field in front of a national audience in three short days.