clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

10 Bears Takes: Is the plan coming together after a dominant win against the Lions?

Don’t look now but the Chicago Bears have won two in a row and are (5-4) over the last nine games. Could we be seeing a similar run to last year’s Detroit Lions team? If so, where does that leave some of the team’s most burning questions. We’ll dive into all of that and more in Week 14’s 10 Bears Takes.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears find themselves at (5-8) after an impressive 28-13 dominating win against the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions. Unlike their Week 11 meeting, the Bears came out swinging in the second half and did not let up. They've now won two in a row and are a respectable (2-3) in the division. Could we finally be seeing it all come together in Chicago? If so, what does that mean for head coach Matt Eberflus and quarterback Justin Fields? We'll dive into all that and more in Week 14's 10 Bears Takes.

1. Eberflus had spent 30 games searching for that signature win, and he finally found it. Is it time to pump the brakes on a potential head coaching search?

It's amazing to say, but with one win, the Bears broke two streaks in the process.

  1. Chicago now has their first winning streak in the Matt Eberflus era.
  2. The team's nine-game losing streak coming out of a bye week is over.

On top of that, the Bears now have a chance to double their win total for 2023 and go .500 in the division if they simply win Week 18's matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Will that alone be enough to save Eberflus' job? Probably not, but if they go (2-2) down the stretch AND beat the Packers? That could be enough to get the job done.

With these last two wins, Chicago finds itself in a tough spot. One could describe it as "in-between." Had they lost Week 12's Monday night matchup, they'd be sitting at (4-9) and needing a strong finish to avoid another shakeup. On the flip side, had they held on and beat the Lions in Week 12, they'd be on a three-game winning streak and sitting at (6-7). Simply not blowing the lead in Detroit would have given this team a realistic shot at the playoffs without the expectation of having to win out to do so.

Nothing is ever easy in Chicago, and the 2023 season has been no different. Even so, ESPN's early Sunday morning report should loom large in fan's minds moving forward. Jeremy Fowler reported (previous to Sunday's final result) that the tone around Halas Hall had changed around Eberflus due to his ability to keep the locker room and their last eight games. He also noted that the Detroit game would play a key role in the final evaluation of Eberflus following Week 18.

Obviously, the final four-game string of this season must be played out, but a two-game winning streak, combined with four winnable games to close out the year, could indeed save jobs at Halas Hall come January. The result of Week 15's game in Cleveland could play a big role in how onlookers view the rest of this season. A win and the playoffs become a faint hope. A loss, and the picture becomes even murkier.

2. It's hard to believe, but if Chicago had not historically blown two big leads in the fourth quarter, they'd be sitting at (7-6) and in the driver's seat for a Wild Card spot.

Going into Monday night, the Minnesota Vikings (7-6) and Packers (6-6) hold the two final Wild Card spots. The NFC is not overly strong, and it's hard to imagine the loser of the NFC South "battle" landing a Wild Card spot. The only other team in contention right now would be the (6-7) Seattle Seahawks, who appear to be in a complete free fall.

Rewinding back to Week 4, it's still hard to fathom how the Bears blew a 28-7 third-quarter lead. If that wasn't bad enough, they blew a 12-point lead with less than four minutes left against the same Lions team they just dominated in the second half of Sunday's game. At the time, it felt like one more nail in Eberflus' coffin. Now, it feels like two-blown opportunities to get back into the playoff race.

Only time will tell how much those games will end up mattering when all is said and done, but the final two Wild Card spots feel more than obtainable for most of the NFC right now. Even an extra win would be really nice to have right now, heading into the final four weeks of the regular season. Let's just hope we don't have to see a 2022 Lions situation where they don't get enough help to get in.

3. Chicago's defense had been playing better before the acquisition of Montez Sweat, but since his arrival, this unit has been playing at a Top 10 level. More on the impressive defensive turnaround since Eberflus has taken over defensive play calling.

On Sunday afternoon, Sweat had a career-high four quarterback hits to go along with his five tackles and factoring in on two different sacks (one sack in total). Since acquiring the former Washington Commander on October 31st, the Bears' defense has had 11 sacks and nine interceptions. In the nine games prior, the Bears had totaled 10 sacks and six interceptions. A hat tip to The Athletic's Kevin Fishbain for those numbers.

At this point, I'm not sure how anyone could debate the impact that Sweat has made on this defense. Sure, general manager Ryan Poles has had some questionable decisions in both free agency and at the trade deadline. Yet, his two biggest acquisitions in 2023 (Sweat and DJ Moore) have factored into the team's recent success.

Sweat has become the "multiplier" that both Poles and Eberflus talked about when acquiring him, too. Defensive tackle Justin Jones and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue have both reaped the rewards of seeing less attention. Second-round rookie Gervon Dexter Sr. has also seen an uptick in pass-rushing opportunities, too.

There's no debate that this team needs to continue to stack talent this off-season, but there's no denying that the core of this team is starting to show through. Despite starting the year (0-4), optimism for the future should be high, and a big reason why is the bold acquisitions of players like Sweat and Moore.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

4. I'd label Week 14 as a step in the right direction for Fields. It wasn't perfect, but when his name was called in the second half, he responded the only way he needed to.

The question is: Will it be enough? As a whole, Fields' numbers in 2023 have been career-bests. He's averaging over 200 yards per game, his interceptions have tapered off, and he has a rating over 90. All of that is great. His fumbles late in games have been an Achilles heel, but luckily, they did not factor into Sunday's game.

All in all, Fields has taken another step forward. But again, will it be enough? In normal circumstances, I would say it is. Most teams in these types of situations don't hold the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. We'll dive into that more in a few, but the Bears continue to find themselves in an uncommon situation.

Could Chicago give Fields a Year 4 under the same coaching staff and trade down for an even bigger haul than last year? Absolutely. It must be considered. What makes matters more complicated would be if Arizona ends up holding the No. 3 overall selection. That's where they currently sit, and it's not unreasonable to believe that the current draft order is where things will stand in four weeks. There are no guarantees in the draft, but it feels like a foregone conclusion that if the Cardinals are in striking range for star Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., they'll take him and not think twice.

If the Bears decide that keeping Fields is what they want to do, trading down won't be hard. Just look around the league and see how many starting quarterbacks in Week 14 are below replacement level. The issue might become a matter of how far the Bears want to trade down, though. As we've seen over the years, trading down comes with a loss of value. It made all the sense in the world last year, but I'm not sure the same feelings will be shared this April. Sure, Chicago could choose to select Harrison Jr. at No. 1 overall, but from a positional value standpoint, it's hard to justify, even if you think the Ohio State product is a generational talent at the receiver position.

I'll continue to feel the same way. Fields is going to need a few eye-popping performances down the stretch. The issue? We're running out of games for that to happen. I continue to believe that some of the coaching decisions ahead will be tied to the quarterback. Even so, if Eberflus leaves no doubt and Fields does, it wouldn't shock me to see them restart the clock at quarterback and the only reason that is possible is with a Top 2 pick.

5. If things continue to trend in a positive direction and Eberflus can save his job, Luke Getsy's job status should still be in question.

There's no debating that the defense has taken multiple strides in the right direction over the last two months of the season, but the same cannot be said for the offensive side of the ball. Sure, Fields missed four games due to a dislocated thumb on his throwing hand. Yet, Chicago went (2-2) in that stretch and kept their head above water. Most of that in part to an improved defense.

Offensively, they continue to consistently move the ball. The run game has not been the same, especially if you take out Fields' rushing numbers. Sure, there have been more designed runs called from the quarterback position, but as a whole, they are not getting the same productivity from the running back position. On top of that, the passing game still lacks a dynamic look. Moore has been outstanding, and tight end Cole Kmet has continued his ascent to a Top 10 tight end. Even so, the third target in this offense has not been good enough. Darnell Mooney, a pending free agent, is having a down year. It's not because he's not getting open, though. It just doesn't seem like this offense is meant to spread the ball around to more than two, maybe three targets.

Getsy still lacks a killer instinct, although some of that could be attributed to a lack of faith in his quarterback. I'll let those debates rage on amongst the fanbase. I'm just not sure how any competent front office and/or coaching staff can trust Getsy to develop a quarterback. Whether that's a Year 4 for Fields or a rookie quarterback at No. 1 overall. This cannot continue to be O.K.

I'd make an argument that we already know things aren't working with Fields, so why would it be any different with his level of trust when it comes to a rookie quarterback? Ultimately, I'm still in the camp that they should be finding an offensive-minded head coach, but if this team keeps winning, it's going to be hard to justify firing Eberflus after a strong second season. If that ends up being the case, there still needs to be a long look at the offensive coaching staff, and that starts with Getsy.

The biggest question hanging me up right now: Who will be comfortable stepping into an offensive coordinator role where the head coach is not on completely stable ground with an expected 7-10 openings around the league for head coaches? More stable situations are likely to exist. Plenty of decisions await this organization in four short games, and the picture only continues to get muddy.

6. Second-year safety Jaquan Brisker finished the game with 17 tackles. It's an unreal number for any defender, but especially a safety.

Most would probably agree when labeling the start of Brisker's career as ups and downs. Between health and overall performance in coverage, it's been a bit of a mixed bag. Coming into Sunday's game, Brisker's passer rating against and overall coverage numbers were not promising. Part of that can be attributed to the ongoing injury concerns with fellow starting safety Eddie Jackson. Even so, Brisker needs to be more consistent, especially in coverage.

With that being said, Brisker might have had the best game of his career in Week 14. He finished the game with a team-high 17 tackles and also had a pair of pass breakups. One of that should have been an interception, but he mistimed his jump, and he was slightly out of position to make the play. Even so, his mentality fits this defense perfectly. He talks a big game, supports his teammates, and has all the talent in the world to make plays. Those playmaking traits are starting to show up more and more, with Sunday being a prime example of that. Brisker's development moving forward is important, especially when considering that cutting Jackson during the off-season would account for $12.56 million in cap savings.

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

7. The race for the No. 1 overall pick has taken a favorable twist for the Bears over the past two weeks, thanks in large part to the Pittsburgh Steelers. A deeper look into how things stand heading into the final four games of the 2023 NFL regular season.

Enough of all this potential playoff talk and coaching carousel, right? Let's talk about some NFL draft!

Let's start with a big shoutout to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have lost consecutive games to a pair of two-win teams. First, it was getting blown out in Pittsburgh by the Arizona Cardinals. That cleared Arizona out of the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. A big reason why? They're a three-win team with an all-but-guaranteed chance that they'll lose the strength of schedule tie-breaker to the Panthers. Then, on Thursday night, it was the New England Patriots turn to clear out of the two-win category. New England's tie-breaking scenario is less clear because of their similar strength of schedule heading into Week 15. Below, you can see how the Top 10 (and beyond) has shaken out so far.

Current Draft Projections Courtesy Of

We'll dive into the Carolina Panthers a little deeper in a few but man, their offense continues to struggle at an alarming rate. It seems highly unlikely that Carolina will win two of their last four games at this point.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears hold a 93.2% chance at the No. 1 overall pick. ESPN analytics' Seth Walder has Chicago's chances of the top pick at 95% following Sunday's results. Long story short, barring a complete "collapse," the Bears will come out of Week 18 with the top pick in the draft for the second year in a row.

8. Speaking of the team that holds the No. 1 overall pick, I have serious concerns about whether or not the Panthers have already "ruined" rookie quarterback Bryce Young.

For any of you who have watched Carolina play football this year, it has not been pretty. If you're a big fan of tracking rookie quarterbacks, you've probably compared Young to what the rest of this class has been doing. Namely Houston's CJ Stroud. While that might not be a "fair" comparison based on situations, it's been damning to see how different each quarterback has performed, despite being selected on consecutive picks to open up the 2023 NFL Draft.

Take away all of the comparisons between the two, and there's still plenty to be concerned about with Young. He's not comfortable, and it shows. His happy feet in the pocket are not improving. He's struggling to see the field in front of him, and his accuracy has been troubling. He finished the first half of Sunday's game 3-of-16 for 19 passing yards. The former Alabama product ended the game 13-of-36 (36%) for 137 passing yards. He did add 40 yards on the ground, but fundamentally, this rookie is broken. Despite what owner David Tepper had to say during the off-season, their offensive line and pass catchers aren't even close to being acceptable. We've seen the Bears do their fair share to sabotage their young quarterback's development, but this feels even worse. This exact situation should be constantly talked about in every front office around the league as the prime example of what not to do when bringing in a rookie quarterback. Firing head coach Frank Reich might have felt right in the moment, but the situation is not improving. I still find it hard to imagine a scenario where this job is going to be overly attractive in a flooded market.

9. NFC North look around: The Minnesota Vikings scored three total points and won but might have a new quarterback under center to finish out the season.

Two of the four teams within the division played each other on Sunday, and we've already covered that extensively. The Lions are struggling, and that's not what their fans would like to see just four games from the playoffs. Although they are just two games up on the Vikings, they have two meetings over the final four games of the season. I'd expect the North to be wrapped up by Week 16.

Minnesota has their own issues but they'll survive another week. Even more impressive, they currently hold the sixth seed heading into Monday night. The issue? Quarterback Josh Dobbs has been benched, and for a good reason. Can Nick Mullens lead them to a (2-2) record over their final four to lock up a playoff spot? It's possible but unlikely, especially when considering they don't face a team under .500 for the remainder of the season.

Finally, Green Bay has yet to play this week but has a favorable matchup against a (4-8) New York Giants team that will continue to start rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito. Barring something unexpected, both the Packers and Vikings will be in control of the final two Wild Card spots heading into Week 15. Again, the door is not closed on the Bears' playoff chances if they can find a way to win out.

10. Week 15 lookahead: The (8-5) Cleveland Browns on the road in a crucial game for both teams.

A month ago, I would have fully assumed a blowout loss with Fields running for his life. Basically, you could have pictured Fields' first NFL start the way I saw this game going a month ago. Plenty has changed since then, though. Cleveland is on their fourth starting quarterback of the year and has been playing O.K. football. Nothing too fancy but their defense has been keeping them in almost every game. Following Week 14's 31-27 victory at home against a banged-up Jacksonville Jaguars team, head coach Kevin Stefanski named Joe Flacco the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.

To Flacco's credit, he has been playing well to "start" his season. He's put up 565 passing yards, on five touchdowns with just two interceptions. The primary story for the Browns has been their defense, namely their front four with Myles Garrett and Za'Darius Smith.

Keeping Fields clean and getting the ball out quickly will be important. It's not projected to be overly cold (mid-40s as of Monday morning), but this will not be an easy game to win. I expect a defensive battle, where the team who turns the ball over the least will probably come out on top. Getsy will have his work cut out for him, but I could see Chicago pulling out a Week 12-like win. Keep the score low and see how comes out on top in the end. Until then, enjoy the victory, and we'll see you back here for another installment of 10 Bears Takes next week.