The Bears, 2-2, are in sole possession of second place in the NFC North. Of course, the Vikings and Packers are tied for first at 3-1. On Sunday, the Bears lost to the New York Giants in a game that they could have easily won. The Giants, like the 49ers, are a pretty decent team and the Bears hung with them through most of that game. Like the loss to the Packers, the game could have easily gone the Bears’ way. With such a young team, games like this are going to be lost. But it really felt like they were just a couple of big plays away from putting this one in the win column. We just need a couple of heroes at the right time.
There were several bright spots for the Bears though that showed progression as a team as well as some common issues. Like we would do for any organization, let’s put together some action items and goals for the Bears for next week against the Minnesota Vikings.
Justin Fields Took a Step Forward
By any metric, Justin Fields was better on Sunday. He completed 50% of his 22 pass attempts. 22 was the most he attempted in a game this year. Still not where an NFL quarterback needs to be, but this was improvement. 174 yards was also a season high. Again, we are inching closer to a 200-yard game which is a good first benchmark. He had a fumble at the wrong time, but no interceptions for the first time this season. Unfortunately, for the third game in a row, he had no passing touchdowns and, for the second game in a row, no rushing touchdowns.
Of course, there were 11 incomplete passes, but unlike against the Texans, Fields had several confident, down field darts, that looked like real quarterbacking. The screen pass to Khalil Herbert was expertly executed. The offensive line showed quite a few holes and Fields took five sacks but it could have been much worse if not for his elusiveness. He put on the jets and took off seven times for 52 yards which is the kind of stat line we’d like to see from a dual threat quarterback, especially for first downs. We will see a 100-yard rushing day from Fields this year just as we will see a 300-yard passing game.
The lack of execution, creativity, and maybe the lack of confidence that the Bears coaching staff continues to show in the offense, resulted in a 0 touchdown day for the entire team. No matter how it happened, the Bears engineered themselves close to or in the redzone four times but could not push the ball into the end zone.
Goal 1: 30% conversion rate from the redzone.
Goal 2: 2:1 Field goal to touchdown ration.
Goal 3: 200 yards passing.
Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet
Darnell Mooney had a Darnell Mooney day. With four catches (season high) and 95 yards (season high), he stretched the field and found the soft spots in the Giants zone several times. His 56-yard grab was a beautiful route, pass, and catch that should happen at least once a game.
Cole Kmet had three catches which is his season high for 16 yards (not a season high). Kmet was consistently open on Sunday and helped Justin Fields get out of several jams. Now we need him to be the redzone beast that we know he can be.
Disappointingly, Equanimeous St. brown had no catches on Sunday on two targets. Same with Dante Pettis.
Goal 4: 6 receivers with a reception.
Goal 5. Cole Kmet touchdown.
Goal 6: Mooney with five receptions.
Run Bears Run
Nothing needs to be said about the Bears running game. It is alive and well. David Montgomery’s availability against the Vikings is unknown but Khalil Herbert can more than hold the fort until he is back. Along with 75 yards rushing, Herbert had a great screen pass with 24 yards. The Bears should do that more often as well as make short yardage first downs more often.
Goal 7: One rushing touchdown.
Run Opponents Run
Frustratingly, the Bears defense has not found the issue with their run defense. Holes are large and frequent. Tackling seems to be optional. Large amount of yardage is gained on most carries and Saquon Barkley was fed consistently to the tune of 31 carries and 146 yards. More painful, was quarterback Daniel Jones running 68 yards on two touchdowns. Naked bootlegs fooled the Bears and ended with Jones walking into the endzone.
In most games, the Bears have generated at least a couple of sacks but they ended with zero this week. Pressure was not dialed up too frequently, but the pass defense wasn’t terrible. Jones only passed seven times for 71 yards (didn’t have to do too much more due to the success on the ground) and Eddie Jackson had yet another interception taking away a touchdown.
Goal 8: Give up less than 150 yards rushing.
Goal 9: 2 sacks.
It is rare that you’ll win a football game without a touchdown and the Bears supported that argument last Sunday. If a few things can change for next week, the Bears could continue to play spoiler for teams hoping to make the playoffs. There is no reason that the Bears cannot beat the Vikings, but challenges are posed:
- Dalvin Cook will continue to exploit the run defense if Head Coach Matt Eberflus cannot fix this issue.
- Adding Eddie Jackson as an extra layer of coverage on Justin Jefferson should result in his fourth interception. But someone must cover Adam Thielen.
- Kirk Cousins is not as mobile as Daniel Jones so a little extra pressure can’t hurt.
- The Vikings are 11th in rushing defense. That won’t scare the Bears.
- The Vikings are 21st in passing defense. That should provide confidence for Fields, Darnell, and Kmet.