The Chicago Bears are no longer winless on the year, thanks to an impressive 40-20 dominating victory on the road at FedEx Field on Thursday night. From the opening kickoff to the final play of the game, Chicago looked like the better team. Sometimes, a short week can be a blessing in disguise, and that's exactly what it felt like for a desperate team like the Bears.
Justin Fields followed up a career performance with another impressive outing. They played inspired football, and despite some Deja Vu in the second half, the Bears were able to close out the game in front of a national audience. So what now? We'll dive into everything from Thursday night and look ahead to the Bears' next few games in Week 5's edition of 10 Bears Takes.
1. The 14-game losing streak is officially over, in large part because of an inspired effort on a short week.
October 24th, 2023, is the last time the Bears won a football game before last night's 20-point victory. To say the past year has been a rollercoaster for this team would be an understatement. Chicago came out of that Monday night matchup against the New England Patriots with a (3-4) record, feeling great about their offense finally turning a corner. They felt so good that they went out and traded their own second-round pick for wide receiver Chase Claypool. The issue? That would be the last win they'd see until October 5th of this year.
Despite a fun and busy off-season that saw this roster transform into what should have been a much better team on paper, the Bears got off to a nightmare (0-4) start. That included Allen Williams — their defensive coordinator — abruptly resigning after Week 1 and then sending Claypool home. It would have been really easy for this team to lay down and take another loss on Thursday night. Especially coming off the heels of blowing a 21-point third-quarter lead to the Denver Broncos. But they didn't. Instead, they won the coin toss and chose to start on offense. That decision led to 27 first-half points and a 24-point half-time lead.
While there was a moment where every Bears fan felt a "here we go again" feeling creeping in early into the fourth quarter, Chicago was able to stabilize the score and ultimately deliver the final dagger in the closing minutes en route to a 20-point victory on the road.
This team is far from fixed, though. There are still 12 games remaining in the regular season, and the seat of head coach Matt Eberflus might have cooled temporarily, but he's far from safe heading into next season. Even so, each bad team must learn how to win. How they respond to this victory will say plenty about the mental makeup of this team and whether or not this coaching staff is truly the right one to move forward with into the future.
One last note on this. For those who have been following along with the Touchdown For Tails rescue of the week this season and would like to contribute to the Bears' first win of the season, you can do so here in this link to support the Animal House Shelter.
2. Back-to-back big games for Justin Fields has to make this organization feel great despite a (1-4) start.
Over Fields' last two games, he's gone 43-of-64 (67%) for 617 passing yards, 82 rushing yards, eight passing touchdowns, and just two turnovers. He's pushing the ball down the field and hasn't been nearly as stymied by zone coverage looks. Sure, his rushing numbers are down, but his productivity in the passing game has shot through the roof. In the best of scenarios, this is exactly what the Bears could have hoped for.
The third-year quarterback has looked more confident in the pocket. He's getting rid of the ball quicker and starting to trust his receivers. All in all, the progress over the past two weeks has been remarkable. Even better news? The team's next three opponents all rank in the bottom half of the league against the pass and have all given up at least 24 points per game heading into Week 5.
The book is not nearly written on the young quarterback, but things are trending in the right direction. Unlike last year, it's because of his arm. Thursday night was the Bears' second straight game scoring four touchdowns, and it's not unreasonable to believe that this can continue. With Teven Jenkins back in the fold and Braxton Jones eligible to come off Injured Reserve after Week 6, things could be lining up for a nice run down the stretch over the final (70%) of the season. Confidence is key, and right now, Fields is playing as "free" as he wants to, which should lead to continued success through the remainder of the season.
3. Another person who has to be feeling some relief? Head coach Matt Eberflus.
Call me skeptical that the Bears were ever considering firing Eberflus in-season, even with a loss on Thursday night. One, Chicago is one of the few franchises that have never fired a head coach mid-season. Two, who would replace him? I posed this question on Twitter earlier in the week and received a range of responses in the process.
Simply put, this win does not "save" Eberflus' job. What it does is give him and his coaching staff a chance to right the ship. However, they are still fighting an uphill battle to keep their job beyond this season. Make no mistake about that. Through 22 games of the Eberflus era, they have just four wins and have largely been out-coached on game day. Does that mean things can't change? Absolutely not. As we've seen in recent history, all it takes is one long stretch of good football to change the entire perception of a football team. The Bears have the schedule to make that happen, but do they have the coaching staff and roster? That's the bigger question.
Regardless, Eberflus has to feel some relief by getting the "monkey off his back" and finding that first win of the 2023 regular season. How they respond to this game will be very telling. There's still time to save his job, but that time is now, and these next 12 games might be the most important stretch of Eberflus' long coaching career.
4. It hasn't taken long to see why D.J. Moore was the headlining target in March's trade for the No. 1 overall pick.
Operation get the ball in D.J. Moore's hands has finally made its way to Chicago over the past two weeks. In that time, Moore has 16 catches for 361 yards and four touchdowns on 19 targets. It's not a stretch to say this has been one of the best two-game spans out of any Bears receiver in franchise history. To put it into perspective, Moore's 531 yards in five games is already over (10%) of the way to the franchise-leading receiver.
Bears fans are no stranger to receiving struggles in Chicago. Muhsin Muhammad's infamous line "Chicago is where receivers go to die" will haunt fans forever. To put things into perspective, Justin Jefferson— Who is four games into Year 4 of his NFL career— Would be the franchise leader in receiving yards. Obviously, Jefferson is one of the league's best receivers but, c'mon man...
While Moore is not the same caliber of player that Jefferson has become, he's still really damn good. He's a bonafide No. 1 receiver and has been a game-changer in Chicago. Not only does he find ways to always be open, but his ability to create extra yards after the catch has been a game-changer. How good has Moore been after the catch so far this season? His +141 receiving yards over expected ranks second highest in a single game since 2018, according to NFL's Next Gen Stats.
It wasn't hard to see why general manager Ryan Poles coveted him so highly in March's trade of the No. 1 overall pick, but the fruits of that labor are already paying huge dividends in the early going of Year 1.
5. For as fun as the game was, the trend of second-half collapses remains a significant concern moving forward.
As most have noticed, the script has flipped on my 10 Takes for the first time this season. Even so, it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns on Thursday night. Sure, the Bears came out with a convincing win, but their attempt at another second-half collapse should not go unnoticed. Dating back to last season, this has been a troubling trend.
A big reason why? This coaching staff lacks the ability to successfully adjust game plans over the final 30 minutes of the game.
Despite taking a 27-3 lead into halftime, they came out flat in the second half again. Washington marched right down the field for an easy score. That was followed up by a five-player, 20-yard offensive drive that resulted in a punt. To their credit, the defense forced a fumble and set the offense up with a short field, but after a sack, two incompletions, and a false start penalty, the Bears lost 10 yards and had the punt. All of that, despite starting the drive on the outer edge of field goal range for Cairo Santos.
Washington outscored the Bears 17-3 until a momentum-changing missed field allowed the Bears to seal the win late in the fourth quarter. The Bears defense does deserve some credit. Despite allowing a pair of touchdowns in the second half, they held strong deep in their own territory on two field goal attempts. Even so, it's hard not to wonder how this game would have ended up against a better opponent that didn't consistently shoot themselves in the foot.
This coaching staff needs to use this "mini bye week" to self-reflect. Fixing this issue could very easily lead to more wins. At the very worst, it'll keep them close enough in the final minutes of games to have a chance to pull out last-second wins. The Bears must find a way to fix this troubling trend if they plan on having much success over the final 12 games of the season. It's not bold to say that this coaching staff's future could rely on these adjustments being made.
6. Don't look now, but the Bears have many winnable games upcoming.
I decided to take a break from the early-season tank watch for the No.1 overall pick and flip the script a bit. If you're still curious about where the Bears' two first-round picks stand, rest assured there's a good chance they'll still hold the top 2 picks heading into Week 6.
If you're not ready to think about that yet and continue to hold out hope for a 2022 Detroit Lions-like turnaround, this is for you. Here's a look at the team's next five games.
Week 6: At home against the (1-3) Minnesota Vikings
Week 7: At home against the (1-3) Las Vegas Raiders
Week 8: On the road against the (2-2) Los Angeles Chargers
Week 9: On the road against the (2-2) New Orleans Saints
Week 10: At home against the (0-4) Carolina Panthers
As of Friday morning, they don't face a team with a winning record until Week 11's road matchup with the division-leading Lions. They follow that up with more winnable games against the Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, and Green Bay Packers.
Is there still a path to a successful season despite a (1-4) start? Absolutely. The 2022 Lions started (1-6) and finished a game short of a wild card spot at (9-8). Is this a likely scenario? My vote is still firmly in the "no" category, but an extended winning streak could change that rather quickly. At this point, the Bears need to approach this season one game at a time. Similar to the Bears currently, things were a nightmare in Detroit last year, and it appeared that Dan Campbell was on his way out the door. If not for a disappointing late-season loss to the Carolina Panthers, The Lions would be looking at back-to-back playoff appearances.
How the Bears handle this stretch of games will go a long way in determining the future of this football team. They have a chance to get back on track, but they also have a chance to end the season holding the No. 1 overall pick (from their own pick). This next month or so just became much more interesting.
7. The Pass rush finally got home. Can they translate this into a better product overall?
Coming into Thursday night, the Bears ranked dead last in team sacks with two. Washington had given up a league-high 24 sacks through six games. Something had to give, right? Somehow, in some way, the advantage ended up going to the Bears. They finished the game with five sacks, including two on the final drive of the game. All from different players.
Getting pressure hasn't been as big of a mystery as actually getting home to the quarterback, though. It was still an issue in Week 5, but they were still able to come away with a season-high five sacks. Finishing the job should be something that needs to be pounded home, but seeing young players like Gervon Dexter Sr. come up with a trio of pressures was a welcome sight. Yannick Ngakoue got back on the board with his team-leading second sack of the year. Demarcus Walker even factored in the game with a sack, two quarterback hits, and a pair of tackles for loss. This group still has a long way to go, but this is the type of performance a struggling defensive front should be able to build off of. More importantly, Eberflus has been bringing many more blitzes and seems to realize that an aggressive approach is needed for this team to impact the quarterback the way they want to.
Much like the offense seeing some favorable matchups over the next few weeks, the defense should see more opportunities to get after the quarterback, too. Finding what works for this team will be key to any defensive success moving forward.
8. Injuries piled up on a short week, so assessing the damage of Thursday's game will be key moving forward into a winnable slate of games on the horizon.
It didn't take long for the Bears' injuries to pile up in Week 5. Shortly into the second quarter, both Lucas Patrick and Roschon Johnson were ruled out of the game due to concussions. In the second half, Travis Homer and Equanimeous St. Brown left with hamstring injuries and did not return. Finally, starting running back Khalil Herbert left Thursday's game with what appeared to be a high ankle sprain. Despite returning for a short stint, it was clear that he could not cut, nor run at a reasonable speed.
The good news? The Bears have a deep running back room. I'd bet that we'll see D'Onta Foreman get a good amount of run (pun intended) in Week 6. There's also a high likelihood of both Jaylon Johnson and Eddie Jackson returning next Sunday as well. Kyler Gordon's practice window will open up on Monday, too.
While most of these injuries are likely to be deemed as short-term, team health will be a key component down the stretch if the Bears plan to make a run toward relevancy.
9. Week 6 look ahead: The Minnesota Vikings
Regression has hit the Vikings like a freight train thus far. After being undefeated in one-score games last year, they currently sit (1-3) in that department to start this season. By no means is Minnesota a "bad" team, but they are a team with plenty of flaws. Their biggest issue going into Week 5's matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs have been turnarounds and the defense.
Assuming things play out how they should, there's a very good chance we are looking at a matchup of (1-4) teams fighting for third place next Sunday. Minnesota's offense remains explosive but does lack a quality run game. Stopping Justin Jefferson is still an unknown formula for the Bears, but they should be doing it with a secondary that is close to being 100% healthy. The biggest key might end up being how well Chicago's offensive line can hold up to an elite pass rusher like Danielle Hunter.
All in all, I expect a high-scoring affair that likely still favors the Vikings. Most importantly, it'll be a noon central start time, which means all will be right with the world next Sunday afternoon again.
10a. The Chase Claypool saga is officially over.
On Friday morning, The Athletic's Dianna Russini reported that the Bears were sending Claypool to the Miami Dolphins. In the trade, the Bears will receive the Dolphins' 2025 6th round pick, in exchange for the Bears 2025 7th round pick.
Throughout the last week, the Bears' actions have been much more clear than their words so far on the Claypool situation. After a confusing few days, which included Eberflus telling the media it was the receiver's choice to stay home during Week 4's game, while later sending the PR team to clarify that they asked him to stay home but that he would be back in the build on Monday. Then, Monday rolled around and Eberflus said they asked him to stay home for another week. Players have chosen their words wisely but Poles using past tense verbiage when speaking about the receiver said all it needed to. He's gone.
It's an unfortunate end to what appeared to be a promising trade deadline move just under a year ago. Mistakes will happen during a general manager's tenure, but Bears fans must hope that Poles can learn from this one. With the future of Darnell Mooney also looming, it appears that Chicago will be in the market for one, if not two, quality receivers next off-season.
10b. Honoring the late Dick Butkus
Hours before the game on Thursday night, the sad news of Butkus' passing broke. The legendary linebacker passed in his sleep on Wednesday night at the age of 80. He was the one who started it all when it comes to the legend of Chicago Bears linebackers. His violent playing style was beloved in the city and to this day, he remains one of the best to ever play the game. It's hard to believe that he and the late Gale Sayers were selected back-to-back (picks No. 4 and 5) in the 1965 NFL draft.
Butkus' gruff persona will live on in the hearts of all Bears fans and he will forever be missed. The iconic trio of George Halas, Butkus, and Sayers will never be forgotten and still serve as the benchmark for the Bears to get back to as a franchise. My thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies go out to the Butkus family.