After a strong start to the game, Chicago blew a 26-14 lead and ended up losing 31-26 at Ford Field, dropping their record to 3-8. The first 56 minutes of play looked very good for Matt Eberflus’ team, but as the Lions started playing with their backs against the wall and the Bears started playing with a big lead, things fell apart for them.
Here are some of the key takeaways from yet another Sunday loss.
Justin Fields did just about everything he needed to do in his return from his month-long absence from injury.
The third-year quarterback went 16-for-23 (69.5%) with 169 passing yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, as well as 18 rushes for 104 yards on the ground. He looked smart, decisive, confident and creative. His ability to extend the play with his legs while keeping his eyes up to scan the field for the open man was encouraging. More often than not, he got the ball out quickly under pressure, maneuvered the pocket better than he has for much of his NFL career to this point, and when the time came to run, he used his elite athleticism quite well.
He connected often with his favorite target in DJ Moore, who finished the game with 7 receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. Fields threw to Moore 9 times over the course of the afternoon, and with a completion percentage of 77.7% when targeting him, it’s no surprise why. They connected on Fields’ lone passing touchdown, in which the QB hit Moore in stride down the field right in the bread basket for a 39-yard score. Cole Kmet was the only other target with more than two catches. Tyler Scott had a particularly tough day, fumbling one of his touches and misplacing an accurate Fields deep ball on a crucial third down late in the game.
It’s a good thing Fields was as efficient as he was on the ground — he had 5.8 yards per carry — because the rest of the run game struggled to get going. Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman averaged 2.2 and 2.3 yards per carry, respectively, though Foreman did score a touchdown on a 1-yard run. The best performer out of the backfield was actually Roschon Johnson, who tallied 30 rushing yards on just 6 carries.
The Bears’ offensive line struggled a bit with picking up blitzes and blocking up the middle, but the pass protection in a vacuum was very good. Darnell Wright limited Aidan Hutchinson off the edge for a majority of the game, and though Hutch beat him with a strip-sack to put the game on ice late in the fourth quarter, the rookie held his own against one of the top young defenders in the NFL. Braxton Jones also seemed to put together a strong outing in pass protection upon first glance, as well.
Chicago’s play-calling as they took the lead became a big reason they blew their lead, as Luke Getsy got ultra-conservative and absolutely milked every bit of cushion he had until his decision-making buried them. You can call it cowardly, or you can call it coaching scared, but coaching not to lose is the norm in the Eberflus era.
Through the first three quarters, the Bears performed quite well on defense. It’s unfortunate that aggression didn’t translate when it mattered most.
Jared Goff threw three interceptions on Sunday, with the likes of T.J. Edwards, Tyrique Stevenson and Tremaine Edmunds all picking him off. The Bears were able to sack him twice, with Montez Sweat and Jack Sanborn both tallying sacks. Those turnovers played a big role in limiting the Lions to two scoreless quarters and helped Chicago get out to that 12-point lead.
Edwards and Edmunds were particularly active, finishing with 9 and 8 tackles in addition to their interceptions, respectively. The front-seven uncharacteristically struggled against the Lions’ backfield combination of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, but they did a good job of putting pressure on Goff. Gervon Dexter had two QB pressures by himself, while the likes of Justin Jones, DeMarcus Walker, Rasheem Green and Yannick Ngakoue all got credited with pressures, as well.
When the Bears got back on defense with their backs against the wall, though, things fell apart. The secondary was passive, particularly at the safety position. Neither Eddie Jackson nor Jaquan Brisker seem to have put together strong outings on the back end in coverage. The middle of the field was attacked efficiently by Goff, Detroit’s weapons and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.
An effective run game kept the Lions in the game in the midst of Goff’s mistakes early on, and then the 3-time Pro Bowler took advantage of Chicago’s conservative defense in the fourth quarter. Matt Eberflus is known for his bend, don’t break style of defense, and that worked in the first three quarters. The only problem was that the Bears bent a little too much late in the game, and that cost them the lead.
Three and out
3. The rest of the season will be best served as a tryout period for Justin Fields to not get traded as the Bears come closer to acquiring the No. 1 overall pick through the Panthers.
You’re not going to make a decision off one game, but Fields did what he needed to do in order to boost his stock. It wasn’t perfect — he didn’t sense pressure incredibly well on the strip sack and had a handful of overthrows — but it was overall a very good day of football. If he plays like that to finish out the season, he should be safe as Chicago’s starting quarterback.
2. On the other hand, this game feels like the nail in the coffin for Matt Eberflus.
Barring a massive turnaround the rest of the season, it seems like his fate is sealed, as is that of much of the coaching staff. The poor record to this point is obvious and sticks out as the glaring issue, but this particular loss stands out as unacceptable from a coaching perspective. Blowing a two-possession lead in such dramatic fashion requires ineptitude on the coaching staff, and that seems to have been the case on Sunday.
1. Over the next few weeks, you’re going to see many mock drafts out there within the Bears and national NFL community. I certainly will be no exception to this.
Before I continue my dive into mocks, just know that any predictions at the quarterback position are merely speculative at this stage. Evaluators might not have a firm decision on Fields for another month and a half. I don’t speak for all of them, but just know that on this site, if I’m selecting a quarterback in that timeframe, it’s not definitive I’m done with Fields. Likewise, my avoiding a quarterback won’t exonerate Fields unless I outright state that’s the case. Opinions are fluid, and there will be no case more reflective of that than these next few weeks.