It’s not the most unusual thing for teams these days to treat Week 1 of the regular season as something like a final preseason game now that there are only three such exhibition contests.
The problem wasn’t that the Bears lost 38-20 to their hated rivals to the north. It was how utterly they unserious they looked while doing it.
A 10-6 game at halftime completely devolved once the Packers got the ball in the third quarter and realized the Bears defense had no answers for them. Meanwhile, an offensive game plan that can most charitably be described as "conservative" (as Justin Fields put it during media availability on Wednesday) imploded at all levels.
Missed assignments galore up front. (Looking at you, Nate Davis.)
Erstwhile perimeter blocking, for which Chase Claypool earned a scolding from Matt Eberflus.
Timid play from quarterback Justin Fields, who admitted to not pulling the trigger on several throws down the field when they were open.
And over all, an offensive game plan riddled with nonsensical routes and play designs that felt like a toddler drew them during "dramatic play" in preschool.
(Let’s not even talk about the defense and how Jordan Love said he never willingly checked out of a play all game. We knew the defense would be bad.)
As many have already put it: you had months to come up with a game plan for Week 1 against the Packers at home, and that’s what you cooked? A heaping plate of "nope" with a side of "WTF" chased with a tall glass of "GTFOH"?
Of course, as they’re trained to do, the Bears can’t afford to dwell on what happened Week 1. One of their other 16 games this season is coming right up on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are likely to blitz Chicago into oblivion defensively while trying to protect Baker Mayfield from himself on the other side of the ball.
Where do they go from here? Well, that’s entirely up to them.
Here are a few things they can do better right off the bat to win in Week 2.
1. Run Justin Fields
There are actually some logical reasons running the football wasn't a big part of the Bears' game plan in Week 1. Fields didn't play much in preseason, for one. Why start him off too aggressively on the ground? Plus, Fields needs to start winning purely from the like other quarterbacks now that he's in his third year. Right?
Wrong. Fields isn't like other quarterbacks. He strangely combines being preternaturally gifted and instinctive as a runner with being somewhat robotic and structure-seeking as a passer. Having him drop back repeatedly without delving into his comfort zone as an athlete at all, like the Bears did Sunday with ZERO designed quarterback runs, is coaching malpractice.
This is not a call to repeat the Atlanta Falcons game from last season and run him with abandon. It's to dip into more of what the Bears did for Fields in Week 7 against the Patriots -- getting him on the move enough times to get him feeling more confident in the passing game. Chicago did little to establish a rhythm for Fields on Sunday outside of some quick throws behind the line of scrimmage. Sunday needs to be different.
2. Blitz -- a lot
We've already talked about how much Tampa Bay will likely blitz Fields and stress the leaky offensive line. (Weirdly enough, though, Pro Football Focus graded Fields very well against the blitz last Sunday.)
What we need to talk about is the Bears needing to blitz Mayfield. Truthfully, that has more to do with the blitz likely being the only way the Bears can generate pressure as opposed to Mayfield being bad in that situation.
According to PFF, Chicago only blitzed Love five times all game last Sunday -- an inexplicable result against a quarterback with only one career start heading to that game and missing his best receiver. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that the Bears only pressured Love six times on 30 drop backs, with just four of those pressures coming without the blitz.
Mayfield is a veteran who can handle a blitz, and he has established receivers like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to throw to. But one way or another, the Bears need to get Mayfield out of his comfort zone, and rushing four isn't going to cut it with this defensive line rotation.
3. Stop trusting Cole Kmet so much
I get that you just paid the guy, but come on. Running the Kelce sneak with Kmet? Running him on an isolated goal line route and essentially forcing Fields to throw the ball his way?
Kmet is not a good enough player for that, and the Bears need to stop trying to feature him when they have Fields, D.J. Moore and Darnell Mooney. (Chase Claypool is off the island until further notice.) He's fine when you scheme him up as a short option, a crosser on a roll-out throw or a pressure release into the flat. But he's not a viable down-field threat for the Bears, and he's shone repeatedly he doesn't have the ball skills to consistently make contested catches.
Here's a thought: take those goofy targets you draw up for Kmet and, I don't know, give them to the receiver you traded for to be Fields' No. 1 pass-catcher (Moore). Or -- just spit-balling here -- draw up a quick-hitter to arguably the fastest guy on your offense (Mooney) and see if he can hit a big play. Not necessarily another smoke screen, but...something. A slant? An option route out of the backfield?
Let Kmet be a pressure-release when those guys aren't open or as a quick target in the red zone. That's part of what got him paid. When you ask him to do too much, he'll let you down.