It is Week 2 of the NFL season, and the Bears are still in first place. Just because it happens to be a four-way tie for first in the NFC North doesn’t change the fact that the Bears are in first place. Last year’s Super Bowl runner up, the Cincinnati Bengals, have a worse record than the Bears. In NLF.com’s Dan Hanzus’ Week 3 Power Rankings, he ranks the Texans and the Panthers lower than the Bears. Bears are 30th.
As always, we take the wins and look on the bright side while we can with the 2022 Bears. It cannot be denied that it was a really awful loss to the Packers – again – on Sunday night. Lots of yelling at the TV, cursing the tackling and the passing. When Commissioner Goodell and the other NFL brass put together schedules, do they giggle over large glasses of whiskey when they put the Bears on primetime? The Bears, that is right, the number 30th ranked team according to NFL.com, still have two more primetime games this season. They have a Monday night game against the Patriots and a Thursday night game against the Commanders. I know Chicago is a big market, but WTF?
Here are my five big contemplations from the Bears performance in Week 2.
Is the Problem Justin Fields or Matt Eberflus?
Justin Fields had a bad day by almost any metric. He had 70 yards passing, 50 yards less than David Montgomery had rushing. He had zero passing touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked three times. He had 20 yards rushing with an average carry of 2.5 yards. His rushing touchdown was the lone Bears touchdown of the day. Fields didn’t look comfortable and confident when he had to put the ball in the air and the results support the eye test – 43.8 quarterback rating on the day.
The numbers are miniscule, almost looking like high school quarterback numbers. But is that Fields’ fault? He only through the ball 11 times. He isn’t going to rack up some crazy fantasy statistics with that kind of volume. And why were the passing attempts so low? Yes, the running game was working, but the Bears played from behind for three quarters. What was the plan to catch up? It was 24-7 at halftime and it didn’t seem like the play calling put Fields in a position to be competitive. If we are developing Fields as a quarterback, we have to let him loose. Fields was a throwing quarterback in college, albeit an athletic one who could use his legs to make highlight reels, but he was a prolific passer. Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy need to let this Ferrari out of the garage.
Fields did have the chance to hero it. With 8 minutes left the Bears were inside the 10 and could bring the score to within seven points. Except that Fields was stopped on a fourth down quarterback draw where he just ran into a line full of Packers. No leap, no dive, no bounce to the outside. Just put his head down and hoped for the best. Eberflus told NFL.com’s Larry Mayer that the offensive line didn’t get the push, which might be true, but it seemed like a play designed for Cam Newton not Justin Fields.
The Invisible Men: Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet
Mooney was again missing in action in Week 2 for the Bears. Last week he had 0 catches but this week he increased exponentially to 1 catch. Unfortunately, it went for -4 yards. Not quite the sophomore leap we were hoping for.
Cole Kmet has been the definition of consistency. In Week 1 he had 0 receptions on 1 target and he followed that up with 0 receptions on 1 target. So, what is the issue here? Are these guys not open? Because of the lack of depth in the wide receiver room, are defenses just blanketing these players?
Or is this a strategic problem? Bears offensive coordinator, Luke Getsy only called for 11 passes (I guess with the 3 sacks he did want to pass 14 times). With only 14 targets available, the receivers can’t do a ton with that. Equanimeous St. Brown led the team with two receptions on four targets and 39 yards with the big play of 28 yards.
It is not like Aaron Rodgers lit up the stat lines, but he did throw the ball 25 times, more than double Fields which led to almost three times as many completions (19). The two touchdowns make a huge difference. This volume led to six Packers catching footballs, half of them with three receptions.
Let’s Get Defensive
The Chicago defense gave the Bears a fighting chance in the first quarter only giving up three points and the Bears actually had the lead, 7-3. But like all teams with struggling offenses, the defense will break down sooner or later. The Bears offense had four three and out drives, were 1-7 on third downs and only ran 41 plays. The Packers had 37 minutes of offense while the Bears had 22 minutes. The defense was on the field quite a bit.
Consequently, they broke in the second quarter, giving up 21 points. There were blown coverages and Sammy Watkins seemed to be all alone too often. But, on the day, the Bears did sack Rodgers three times (two for Trevor Gipson and one for Robert Quinn), especially when they needed it. In the second half, the Bears defense basically held the Packers to 0 points (the three points at the end was basically a garbage time field goal). Keeping Rodgers to 0 points for 28 minutes is an incredible feat that should have opened the door for offensive scoring. That didn’t materialize.
Run Bears Run
The big news after Sunday Night Football was the amazing run game for the Packers and how they use the run to drive an offense that has holes at the wide receiver position. Doesn’t that sound exactly like the Bears problem?
If it was a ground competition, David Montgomery only ran for 10 yards less than Aaron Jones, 122 to 132 yards, with just slightly less of an average, 8.1 to 8.8. AJ Dillon ran for 61 yards on 18 carries while Herbert knifed through the Packers defense for 38 yards on four carries. If anything, we need to get Herbert the ball even more.
David Montgomery looked fast and untacklable on Sunday night, breaking tackles, breaking ankles, and hitting the hole (and finding the hole) fast and hard. Herbert shows massive explosion for a big guy and you don’t want to get in his way when he is rolling.
With the rushing game working so well, it should typically open up the passing game because they have to load the box. But that didn’t happen either. It all goes back to running only 41 plays, the third down conversion percentage, and all the three and outs. There weren’t enough plays to balance the offense and keep the Packers on their heels. This should have left Mooney one-on-one for a massive day but that didn’t happen.
Run Opponents Run
The passing defense looked OK with three sacks. One of Rogers passing touchdowns was a shuffle pass behind the line of scrimmage. It isn’t like Rodgers had a big day with 234 yards and 19 completions. No Packers wide receiver had 100 yards though Sammy Watkins was close with 93. The next Packers receiver had 38 yards. But the Packers did run all over the Bears. The Packers had over 200 yards rushing with Aaron Jones the majority of that with 132. Jones looked like he was a sixth grader playing at recess with the first graders. He couldn’t be caught and seemed to be playing at a speed that the Bears did not have a gear for. The 49ers had success on the ground last week as well.
The run defense will be a constant discussion this season. In terms of passing yards, the Bears defense ranks 7th in the NFL and they rank 10th in completion percentage. In terms of rushing yards, the Bears rank last in the NFL. In yards per carry, the Bears are 24th.
The Bears rank 32nd in the league in passing offense, receiving offense, and first downs. They are 29th in points scored. But the difference, even in the bottom rankings of the league are stark compared to the Bears. The 49ers, who are 31st in passing, have thrown for 348 yards, almost double the Bears. They have passed 52 times, almost double the Bears 28. The Bears 28 attempts are less than most QB’s are throwing per game. In many cases, that is less than many QB’s are throwing in a half.
Eberflus and Getsy need to figure this out pretty quickly. The schedule does get a bit easier in the next few weeks with the Texans and the Giants on the slate. The defense will not be able to carry this entire team the way it stands now. And either can Montgomery. Bears fans are hoping that, unlike seasons past, the coaching staff will make adjustments.