It feels like parody to see the Chicago Bears’ playoff chances eliminated after blowing a 10-point lead to a team led by 38-year-old Joe Flacco, but that’s exactly what happened in Cleveland on Sunday.
Chicago entered the fourth quarter with a 17-7 lead but allowed 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, resulting in a Browns win and the Bears’ record falling to 5-9 on the 2023 regular season.
Here are some of the key takeaways from Sunday’s game.
The Bears’ offense scored 10 points today, and their lone touchdown came after an interception that led them to the 1-yard line.
It was a disappointing day full of poor execution for Chicago on offense. Justin Fields finished with a sub-50% completion percentage, going 19-for-40 with 166 yards, a passing touchdown and an interception. His play of the day was a beautiful scramble play to avoid a Myles Garrett sack, getting the ball out to Cole Kmet in the end zone for a touchdown. He had a nice throw to DJ Moore early in the game along the sidelines, and he hit Robert Tonyan right in the hands on a deep ball that he dropped. Fields’ overall play was inconsistent, though, as his deep accuracy wasn’t typically very good, and he fumbled the ball twice.
Fields’ inconsistency wasn’t help by a poor running game and a disappointing offensive line outing, too. Granted, the Browns have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but he was still sacked three times and hit 7 times. Myles Garrett’s presence allowed opportunities for Za’Darius Smith and Dalvin Tomlinson to get hits, as well as the likes of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Alex Wright and Cameron Mitchell to tally up sacks on blitzes.
Luke Getsy didn’t draw up moving pockets to get Fields on the move and scheme up movement along the offensive line to negate such a talented Cleveland defensive line. The scheming in the passing game was lackluster, and max protection was rarely utilized to aid Fields. DJ Moore caught 4 of his 8 targets for 52 yards, while Tyler Scott had a career-high 3 catches for 49 yards. Cole Kmet and Roschon Johnson served as solid checkdown options, but Chicago struggled to stretch the field vertically.
Johnson was the only consistent rushing option for the Bears, rushing for 36 yards on five carries. Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman averaged 1.3 and -1.0 yards per carry, respectively. Cleveland’s front-seven ate Chicago’s run game alive on Sunday, and the lack of push along the offensive line hurt the Bears’ ability to march down the field.
The Bears put together arguably their worst offensive performance of the season this year. The box score shows 17 points, which isn’t bad, but the context is damning for their coaching staff and personnel. It’s tough to dominate the Browns with your offense, but you simply have to be better than how Chicago was this week.
Kudos to the Bears’ defense, because that unit was the reason they kept the game close.
Allowing just 7 points through the first three quarters is an impressive feat in any circumstance. Chicago all but eliminated the Browns’ run game as a threat, having allowed just 1.6 yards per carry on 18 rushing attempts. They sacked Joe Flacco four times and intercepted him three times. For most of the afternoon, it was a thrashing.
Montez Sweat was a bonafide multiplier for Chicago’s defense. He finished with 7 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a tackle for a loss. He dominated against a decimated Browns offensive line, and his presence opened up opportunities for the likes of DeMarcus Walker, T.J. Edwards and Gervon Dexter to tally half-sacks.
Tremaine Edmunds had a tremendous outing, leading the Bears with 9 tackles and returning an interception for a touchdown. Eddie Jackson had an interception that he returned to the 1-yard line to set up a score for Chicago’s offense, and Tyrique Stevenson had an interception of his own, along with an additional pass deflection. Heading into Quarter 4, Flacco had completed just 54.8% of his passing attempts.
However, it was a late-game collapse that doomed the Bears in the end.
Flacco went 11-for-13 in the fourth quarter, leading the charge to help the Browns score 13 points late to take the lead and ultimately win the game. A 51-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper helped shape that run, but it was consistent dinking-and-dunking that saw the Bears exploited underneath in coverage.
Most of that seems to fall on the coaching staff, as Chicago took the foot off the gas with the lead. They played far too conservative too early, and the veteran QB took advantage of that.
The Bears deserve a lot of credit for getting to the quarterback, generating turnovers at a high level, and for maintaining a strong defensive performance through the first three quarters, but they strayed away from everything they did well and got comfortable with the lead. That played a role in their downfall in the grand scheme of things.
Three and out
3. It’s hard to feel confident the Bears will keep Matt Eberflus beyond the end of the season with this loss in the books.
Granted, you’re not making the decision to fire him solely off of this game, but Chicago’s minuscule playoff chances took a massive blow with their loss on Sunday. They blew a 10-point lead late in the game and fell apart on defensive against a past-his-prime quarterback who was sitting on the couch a month ago. There was a bit of momentum, and it’s still possible they string together some wins in these final three games, but Eberflus’ future seems much murkier now.
2. There’s reason to blame Fields for the offensive struggles to some extent, but you can’t help but feel for the guy.
Luke Getsy is in over his head as an offensive play-caller and put together an absolute stinker. Cleveland generated good pressure up front with dialed-up blitzes and the sheer existence of Myles Garrett, and the Bears’ strategy didn’t really help much in that regard. There are pre-snap adjustments Fields could’ve made, but he mostly ran a vanilla offense against a dominant defensive unit. This is hardly excusing him for completing below 50% of his passes, but the game plan wasn’t exactly a sound one.
1. I’ll have a new mock draft out some time this week, since I know many of you will start to turn towards offseason mode as the year closes up. I’m sure none of you will find it controversial at all.