It’s time to pivot. We’ve let the loss to the Green Bay Packers fester long enough. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are next on the schedule, and while there is still plenty of talent on that roster, when Baker Mayfield is the opposing quarterback, there’s going to be an opportunity to win the game.
If the Bears have a similar performance against Tampa that they did against Green Bay, I don’t care if Todd Bowles is playing quarterback, the Bears aren’t going to win. But if the Bears improve in some areas (which shouldn’t be that hard to do), they can put together a much stronger performance and give themselves an opportunity to win.
1. Get DJ Moore the ball
Plenty of these ideas are about as basic as they get, but apparently Luke Getsy and Matt Eberflus need some reminders. Getsy needs a game plan to get Moore involved in the offense. He’s a weapon so utilize him. Getsy needs to script up some plays early and if it’s 15, make sure at least 4 or 5 of them are designed to go to Moore. Make the throws quick and easy for Fields and get Moore established early. Use a slant or another quick-hitting concept and get Moore and Fields in a groove early.
2. Deactivate Chase Claypool
I’m not in the “release Chase Claypool” camp. It could trend that way, but we can’t be there after one game. Chase needs to know his performance was unacceptable and I know Coach Flus sat him down already, but that was egregious enough that a benching needs to happen. Part of the excitement for this offense was having three legitimate receivers for Fields plus the tight ends. If Claypool is going to play like this it won’t matter, but they need to try to light a fire in his belly, and maybe a benching will do it. If it has the opposite effect, than nothing was going to work. I would activate Equanimeous St. Brown in his place.
3. Get Roschon Johnson more involved
Johnson played the most snaps of any running back last week, but much of it was after the game was out of hand. Johnson showed he’s ready to contribute in full. He doesn’t need to be brought along slowly. Johnson can contribute in all aspects of the gameplan and that needs to be utilized. Keep Khalil Herbert in the role he was in last year as the change of pace back. That’ll be the best way to get the most out of the running game.
4. Utilize Marcedes Lewis
There was no point to sign Lewis if he was just going to sit on the sidelines. The Bears offensive line struggled to give Justin Fields time. Let’s use a little more max protect with Lewis out there and also let Lewis help tie up some defenders on running plays. I’d like to see Lewis out there for at least 30% of the snaps.
5. Go heavy 12 personnel
Perhaps the Bears would have done this more if Robert Tonyan hadn’t tweaked his back the day before the Packers game, but the four best receiving targets Fields has are Moore, Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet and Tonyan. You can even have Lewis out there with Kmet and split Kmet out. The Bears seemed to be largely in 11 personnel against the Packers. Showing a better variety of personnel groupings and utilizing your best weapons (because clearly Claypool isn’t one of them) is going to be the best plan moving forward.
6. Have a vertical passing game
Did Justin Fields need to improve in his short throws and checkdowns? Yes, he did. Should that be all he does? Of course not. Getsy needs to stress to Fields this week that he needs to push the ball down the field. He can’t just force throws into double coverage like he did to Mooney that led to the pick six, but he needs to take shots when they are there, and with Mooney and Moore, there will be opportunities to do that. Have a much better mix of the short, quick passes and the downfield chances and that should improve the look of the passing game tremendously.
7. Get Justin Fields on the move
Getsy didn’t call enough designed plays where Fields is moving out of the pocket. Almost every time Fields left the pocket, it was because he was running away from pressure. Getting Fields outside the pocket is going to help the interior offensive line’s issues not be so much in Fields face, it’ll help get him in more of a rhythm as we know how he likes to operate and it’ll keep the defense on its toes because it’ll give Justin more opportunities to see holes in the defense and exploit it with his legs.
8. Less snaps for Dominique Robinson
The way the Bears have set up their edge room, there’s not a lot of help behind Robinson, but he just can’t create pressure out there. When DeMarcus Walker bumps inside on passing downs, Robinson is the player that came into the game. I don’t know who should come in opposite Yannick Ngakoue in those situations (it should have been Terrell Lewis), but I’d try anyone other than Robinson in this game.
9. Dial up some pressure
The Chicago Bears have arguably the worst pass rushing front four in the league, and that’s after the Ngakoue signing. Rushing four straight up isn’t going to get home very often this year. The Bears are going to have to blitz and stunt a heck of a lot more to generate pressure. I don’t care how improved the back seven is, if Jordan Love or Baker Mayfield or whoever is getting 5 seconds to throw the ball, it isn’t going to go well defensively.
10. Let Jaylon Johnson and Tyrique Stevenson be aggressive
The Bears utilized a lot of soft zone against the Packers, especially on third down. That, combined with Jordan Love having all the time in the world, created a disastrous outcome for Chicago. Both Johnson and Stevenson excel as aggressive corners. Let them get up at the line of scrimmage and get hands on Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and disrupt their routes. Stevenson can frustrate opposing receivers with his style so him get inside their heads and disrupt the passing game. Having Johnson and Stevenson back off the line and giving Evans and Godwin free releases is going to allow Mayfield to have an easy day of pitch and catch with two really good weapons.
What do you hope to see the Bears do on Sunday?