The Bears lost on Sunday. Again.
A 24-17 loss to the Saints in New Orleans saw the Bears fall to 2-7 for the 2023 NFL regular season. There were flashes of encouraging play, but no matter how many chances the Saints gifted them to get back in the game in the fourth quarter, Chicago was unable to capitalize.
Here are some of my takeaways from Sunday’s loss in the Big Easy.
The “Tyson Bagent is a starter” hype train got derailed against the Saints.
Things started off well enough, as the undrafted rookie distributed the ball well and was able to lead the Bears to an opening-drive touchdown, as well as a 14-14 tie heading into halftime. He went 10-for-13 with 209 total yards, two touchdowns, an interception and a 121.5 passer rating.
Once the second half came around, though, ish started to hit the fan.
Bagent finished the game 18-for-30 — an 8-for-17 performance in the second half — with 220 passing yards, the aforementioned two touchdowns and three interceptions, as well as a lost fumble on a strip-sack. He contributed an impressive 70 rushing yards on 8 carries, but the turnovers plagued the Bears’ ability to come back from the deficit they faced for most of the fourth quarter.
Chicago’s offensive line often wasn’t to blame, as they provided a pretty clean pocket for Bagent to work with typically. The team as a whole allowed two sacks and just four quarterback hits. They also did a good job of providing open running lanes for D’Onta Foreman, who ended the afternoon with 83 yards on 20 carries. Foreman ran angry and with a decisive mindset, but the offensive line deserves kudos for doing a good job of providing open lanes. Penalties up front did plague the unit, however.
Upon first review, the Bears struggled with separation later in the game, adding onto Bagent’s poor decision making as the stakes rose. That said, the first half was a strong one for Chicago’s offense, particularly Cole Kmet. He scored two touchdowns in New Orleans, finishing with 6 catches for 55 yards in a strong outing that included a beautiful contested touchdown grab.
Darnell Mooney had 5 catches for 82 yards, demonstrating impressive agility after the catch and putting his breakaway speed to good use. However, DJ Moore seemed fairly uninvolved in Luke Getsy’s game plan, as the star receiver was only targeted four times, though he maximized those targets with 3 catches for 44 yards. Further tape study will indicate whether Moore struggled to get open or simply wasn’t thrown to enough, but it does seem a bit surprising there was little effort to manufacture touches for him.
Ultimately, it was poor execution and decision-making that saw the Bears crumble in the second half. Their passing attack wasn’t the same coming out of the break, and the Saints were able to pounce with a handful of won reps off the edge and quick, aggressive processing to make plays in coverage. Paulson Adebo intercepted Bagent twice, while Marcus Maye ended the game with a pick of his own.
There was promise, but promise didn’t lead to consistency for the Bears’ offense. That late-game collapse played a big role in their losing this game.
The Bears weren’t disastrous on defense on Sunday, all told.
Chicago’s run defense looked pretty good, limiting Alvin Kamara to 2.9 yards per carry on 9 rushes. Taysom Hill had some sparks on the ground but had the Saints’ top average at 4.7 yards per carry. New Orleans was limited to 4.9 yards per play compared to the Bears’ 5.8. T.J. Edwards led both teams with 15 tackles, while Jack Sanborn contributed 10 of his own in Tremaine Edmunds’ absence. However, it was a lack of urgency up front on passing downs that made it tough for the Bears to shut down the offense entirely.
Derek Carr wasn’t sacked once all afternoon, and he was hit just twice over the course of the game. Edwards and Justin Jones were the only Bears defenders credited with QB hits, though new acquisition Montez Sweat was able to make contact with Carr on a pressure. Sweat deflected a pass in the process and had two total tackles, but the pass-rushing production wasn’t there in his first game in the navy blue and orange.
Passive coverage didn’t help a lackluster pass rush, combining for an easy environment for Carr to dink and dunk his way down the field. The Bears’ secondary didn’t break up a single pass in coverage, let alone force any turnovers. Softer coverage along the perimeter helps when the pass rush gets the job done, but when little pressure is generated up front, it makes it incredibly easy for opposing offenses to move the ball down the field underneath.
Eddie Jackson finished with 6 tackles in more of a full-time return to the Bears’ defense but had some instances where he looked slower in coverage or prioritizing failed strip attempts over form tackling. Tyrique Stevenson gave up too much cushion on the outside, as well.
The Bears have had worse defensive performances this year, and a strong run defense will help them out for the remainder of the season. However, when you can’t stop the pass in a pass-first league, that’s going to get you in trouble.
Three and out
3. The hyperbole surrounding Bagent has run rampant in the Bears community, especially on Twitter.
Bagent is a quality backup, and he’s shown in his play with the Bears that he can effective game manage when need be, distributing the ball with good accuracy and showing the ability to go through his progressions well. However, the turnovers are a massive issue if you’re unfairly projecting him as an NFL starter. His arm strength is solid but nothing special, generally limiting his upside. If you’re going to be inconsistent as a processor, you’re going to need to make up for it with impressive physical tools if you’re going to project as a starter. Bagent isn’t that long-term guy, but there’s nothing wrong with that at all. He’s much better than he has any right being, and he’s still a player worth getting excited over having on your favorite team’s favorite roster. Just don’t get it twisted.
2. Cairo Santos missed his first field goal since Week 15 of the 2022 season on Sunday, doinking a kick from 40 yards out.
Though the field goal ended up missing, it’s worth noting that Santos’ consistency to this point has been impressive and deserves its flowers. He should’ve made the 40-yarder in the dome against the Saints, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been automatic for much of his time in Chicago.
1. My next Bears mock draft will be coming soon. That’s all we as fans have to look forward to. I’ve already been cranking out scouting reports on top players in the 2024 NFL Draft, but expect things to kick it into another gear these next few weeks.