Was this really unexpected?
I mean, really, did anyone outside of Halas Hall think this team was going to win this game?
Its the “outside of Halas Hall” part of that question that is most relevant to the Bears team and its fans. Since January 2019 every single move that the Bears as an organization has made has said one thing: “we are a Super Bowl contender.” They’ve used every resources at their disposal to accomplish that one goal. They use all of their cap space and borrow well into the future. They trade future draft picks. They exhaust every future resource. All in order to accumulate the best possible players for the present time. You only do that when you think you are contending for a Super Bowl.
Many fans have wondered why general manager Ryan Pace kept his job in January. They wonder why rookie Justin Fields isn’t the starting quarterback. Well, a good part of the reason is because he has been telling team president George McCaskey that this is a Super Bowl contender and they aren’t ready to concede games while a rookie quarterback gets his feet under him. Pace told him that that this team was a contender after the 2018 season. He told him that after the 2019 season. And he told them that again after the 2020 season. Every team transaction tells you that.
And McCaskey has chosen to to give him one more chance to prove that 2019 and 2020 were not representative of what this team is. The entire organization said after each season that they were disappointed that the team was 8–8 and that the team was better than that. And they really believe it.
And there lies the problem. Because outside of her Halas Hall, everyone – and I mean everyone – knows that this simply isn’t the case. Mike Sando at The Athletic polled NFL executives around the league and found that the Bears ranked 14th out of 16 NFC teams in their opinion this year. In 2019 and in 2020 almost every single time the Bears came up against a winning team they failed to perform to a competitive standard. The result today was completely in line with that.
And this is why, against all apparent logic, Bears fans should know that the result tonight is a good thing. Because every single time the Bears lose to a team that actually is competitive, it hammers home the fact of who they actually are – again. And hammering home that fact one more time is the key to getting better.
The famous American playwright Eugene O’Neill once wrote:
“If a person is to get the meaning of life he must learn to like the facts about himself – ugly as they may seem to his sentimental vanity – before he can learn the truth behind the facts. And the truth is never ugly.“
This is a process that has already begun at Halas Hall. And this is why Bears fans should embrace the result tonight.
Because this game emphasizes who are the Bears actually are and understanding who they are is the key to team eventually becoming something that we can all be proud of.
Here are some specific comments from the game:
- The performance of the office in this game was no surprise. But the performance of the default defense has to be a major disappointment to most fans. It was hope that new defensive coordinator Sean Desai would bring back the days of Vic Fangio’s defense. But the new regime definitely got off to a rough start. They didn’t stop either pass or the run and things looked pretty grim for most of the night.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quoted a scout last week
on why pass rusher Leonard Floyd had so much success with the Rams last year:>
- I think the Bears were surprised that Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford rolled out as much as he did and it threw them off and made it a bit more difficult for them to get a pass rush on him. Stafford wasn’t under that much pressure very often and he handled it well.
- Marqui Christian is your nickel cornerback and Kindle Vildor played much of the night on the outside. You wonder if that might change in the near future. It was a tough night.
- As they did on occasion during the preseason, the Bears Missed quite a few tackles this game. That is simply something they are going to have to clean up or it’s going to be a very long year.
- The Bears decisively won time of possession in this game having the ball just over 35 minutes. Usually that’s a good sign. But unfortunately in this game it means that the Rams scored so fast that they didn’t need to keep the ball very long or run that many plays. It was a funny statistical anomaly.
- Given the time of possession stat, I wasn’t too pleased to see the Rams steam roll the Bears in the fourth quarter to close out the game. Frequently when this happens it’s because the defense has been left out on the field too long. But there were no excuses this game. I’m not too sure this wasn’t just lack of heart.
“What they did last year better than probably any team in the NFL was scheme their pass rushers and put Floyd in situations in which he could win more favorable one-on-ones. They also used plenty of games and stunts off the edge to get him easier rush paths to get home to the quarterback.”
This is completely consistent with what the Bears under Fangio did with Floyd. And what Chuck Pagano didn’t do. And this is why there was some hope going into the game that the Bears under Desai might generate more pass rush. Didn’t work out that way as they had only one sack. The problem, of course, is that when you play games upfront in order to generate a pass rush it takes time. Which means you have to be able to cover. The Bears did a poor job. The pass defense was horrific allowing 11.6 yards per pass.
- David Montgomery start of the game off with a good long run at 41 yards. That would be his long for the entire game unfortunately. So at least the Bears weren’t bad statistically at 5.2 yards per rush. They had 26 attempts. Give credit to Montgomery for showing the contact balance that he supposedly had when he was drafted and looking pretty good tonight.
- The problem, of course, is that if they couldn’t pass the ball. At 4.4 yards per pass the Bears were off the charts bad in this area. And although we are all proponents of running the ball effectively, it’s a passing league and you need to be able to use the run to set up the pass. So it’s no mystery as to why they couldn’t move the ball.
- As Cris Collinsworth pointed out very well on the broadcast, the Rams were playing a lot of deep zone to limit the big play. Big plays are at a premium in this situations and it forces teams to execute. The Bears struggled with that. As they often do.
- Marquise Goodwin emerged as the queer number three receiver behind David Robinson and Darnell Mooney. Those three receivers accounted for more than half of the Bears pass receptions. It’s also evident that the Bears are going to rely more on Cole Kmet this season at tight end. Jimmy Graham had only one reception and wasn’t much of a factor.
- The Bears struggled a bit with pass protection. The Bears generally got the ball out quickly and I wouldn’t say that Andy Dalton was under siege but Jason Peters definitely struggled on the left side as he returns to the league at an advanced age. He didn’t last the first half before leaving the game with an injury. He was replaced y fifth round rookie Larry Borom. Then Borom went down near the end of the third quarter and he was replaced by Elijah Wilkenson. This could be problematic.
- Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor talked last wee about the Bears troubles on third down and in the red zone in 2020 and what they were doing this year to improve it:
- Not a big fan of criticizing play calling. But it did frequently look to me like the Rams knew what the Bears were going to run before the place started. There’s definitely the possibility that the league has caught up to Matt Nagy. And passed him and left him behind.
“We tried to zero in on the concepts in practice that we felt confident we could carry through the year,” Lazor said. “Not every concept’s good against every defense. But if you start with your staples, things you feel like you have an answer versus everything and get really good at those and build confidence in it, they can carry the bulk of your red zone throughout the year.”
The Bears were two of three in the red zone but only five of 11 on third down And 0 for 4 on fourth down.. So I’d say more work still needs to be done there.
Thought it was interesting that head coach Matt Nagy chose to bring in Justin Fields while the team was in the red zone on the first set of downs. It occurred to me that it could be an indication that he thinks he needs an extra boost in that area and that Field’s mobility might help him with that. Sure enough Fields came in near the end of the third-quarter and ran for a touchdown. It looks like Nagy might be using him as a red zone weapon while he develops.
- Khalil Herbert had a 50 yard kick return to start the game. Looks like he’s going to be there kick returner at least in the near future.
- Distantly this was a pretty clean game penalty wise. The Bears had only three penalties. The Rams had only four. Call commence fall start on the first set of downs didn’t help. You could argue that it played a major factor in leading to the interception in the endzone that took place there.
- The Bears lost the turnover battle with a fumble and an interception. The game was all downhill after Dalton threw the interception in the endzone in the first set of downs.