Bears Takeaways: Why Did Week 3 Seem So Similar to Week 2

It is Week 3 of the NFL season, and the Bears are still in first place. Unlike last week, we have a three-way tie in the NFC North instead of the four-way tie from the week before. And the Bears moved way up in the NFL.com Power Rankings this week. The Bears leaped up to number 27 in the rankings ahead of the Jets, Seahawks, Panthers, Commanders, and, of course, the Houston Texans who the Bears beat in the waning seconds of Sunday’s game.

In the preseason, it would seem the Bears have another good match up with the Giants this week, but the Giants have not been half bad. The Giants are also 2-1 and Saquon Barkley looks a little bit more like the Fantasy juggernaut that he was.

Here are my mostly redundant reflections from last week and concerns about Week 4.

Verdict: The Problem is both Fields and Matt Eberflus/Luke Getsy.

Justin Fields had another day to forget last week. He threw 50% more passes last week, 17, compared to 11 the week before. He totaled 8 completions, 106 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. At the end of Week 3, Fields is last in passing yards and is technically only ahead of injured or backup quarterbacks (Trey Lance and Dak Prescott). Jimmy Garoppolo, who has one start, and Cooper Rush, who has two starts, are ahead of Fields. Fields is also last in completion percentage, passer rating (Dak Prescott is technically lower) and touchdowns but middle of the pack with two interceptions.

At 45 attempts, Fields is last in the NFL trailing Jimmy Garoppolo (one start at 50), Cooper Rush (two starts at 75), and full-time starters have almost doubled his attempts – Marcus Mariota at 79, Ryan Tannehill at 80, and Baker Mayfield at 81. Lamar Jackson has 88 attempts and 5x the touchdowns that Justin Fields has at 10. Eberflus and Getsy made it very clear during each relevant play that they have very little confidence in Fields or the offense to throw the ball. Draw plays on third and long, screen passes on second and long. Same old same old for the Bears offense. Though Eberflus promised a more balanced offense this week, it didn’t come to fruition.

Field famously admitted that he “played like trash.” Though honest, not very helpful. It isn’t abundantly clear what has to happen to increase Fields performance in the passing game. Sarcastically, we can say that he should throw more often to players on the Bears and the ball should be closer to the receivers that he intends. Not sure how helpful that actually is. However, what is abundantly clear at Week 4, is that Head Coach Eberflus and Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy are not going to give him the chance. They seem comfortable allowing Fields to remain uncomfortable at quarterback and let the running game do the work.

Coming up this weekend, the Giants have given up the 10th most passing yards in the league, so better than 50% of the teams out there. This may not be an ideal match up to start trying to increase the passing game but is there really a choice?

The Invisible Men: Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet

Darnel Mooney, Khalil Herbert, and Cole Kmet co-led the team with 2 receptions last Sunday. Kmet got on the board with team high 40 yards on three targets. Mooney was targeted 6 times but only caught two (doubled his receptions on the year), most of which were either errant throws by Fields or Mooney was draped in double or triple coverage.

As promised, relatively speaking, Eberflus was able to force Kmet and Mooney into the game. Though neither was a major factor, any progress is appreciated. Against a fairly tough Giants pass defense, we can’t really expect much to change this week.

Run Bears Run

When Dave Montgomery went down early in the Houston game, Fantasy managers cried, but Bears fans were undaunted. We already knew that Khalil Herbert was a beast and he got a game where he was able to prove it. Herbert ran 20 times for 157 yards (7.9 average for those without a calculator) and included two touchdowns in the mix. Herbert raised his season totals to 240 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an incredible 7.27 yards per carry.

The Giants are 21st in the league against the rush which is probably all Getsy needs to know to continue the current run heavy strategy. You must believe the Giants are going to just load the box with everyone on the defense to stop David Montgomery or Khalil Herbert if Montgomery is unable to go.

Run Opponents Run

The Bears’ rushing defense wasn’t great, but it stood up to the big tests.  Dameon Pierce ran for 80 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a couple of passes for 21 yards. Definitely an improvement over the Green Bay game. The Bears remain the second worst rushing defense in the league, only Cleveland has given up more yards. The Bears did move up to 28th in yards per carry though which shows some improvement. Roquan Smith was an absolute beast with 16 tackles, two for losses, and the key interception. Nicholas Morrow, Kindle Vildor, and Justin Jones all had tackles for losses. Eddie Jackson had another interception.

You still have to believe that Saquon Barkly is getting very excited to play the Bears this weekend.

Bottom Line

The Bears can beat the Giants this weekend. If the Bears move to 3-1 it is going to be very difficult for the coaching staff to change strategies any time soon.  The schedule goes through soft and hard streaks. The Lions are no pushover this year and the Bears will play Miami, the Bills, Dallas, Green Bay again, and New England. Conversely, they play the Jets, Atlanta, the Commanders, and the Seahawks. A .500 season could be very enticing for the first-year coach. If the Bears as a team don’t improve though, did we really just sleepwalk through the season?

It isn’t hard to compare the Bears to what the Cubs did this season. Like the Cubs, the Bears ejected star players and drew down their finances by getting rid of Allen Robinson and Khalil Mack along with a couple of others. The Cubs absolutely tried to win, but not at the expense of growing their personnel. By the end of the season, half the Cubs starters were rookies. They provided several chances to over eight different pitchers from their farm system to show what they could do at the Big League level. The Cubs go into 2023 with realistic expectations of what their young staff can do.

Given the small number of games in the NFL and the inability to predict when the Bears season will fundamentally be over, it will be difficult for Eberflus to experiment, nurture, teach, and provide the patience with the offense to allow them to grow into what Bear’s fans think they can become. In the meantime, it seems like a review of Bear’s games could continue to be annoyingly redundant.

Author

  • Larry Goldman

    Larry spends his nights and days watching, researching, and writing about sports in Chicago and the national conversation.

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