Quick Game Comments: Bears at Panthers 10-18-20


  • The Bears played a lot of man-to-man coverage. The Panthers receivers were tough to handle. They’re quick and they play fast.
  • The Bears were very physical on defense today. They were fast to the ball.
  • The pass rush was pretty undisciplined and they left a lot of of room for Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to run.
  • Having said that, the Bears front seven looked pretty good today and handled the Panthers up front reasonably well.
  • Jaylon Johnson had a bad, bad day today. Bridgewater picked on him all game, especially with D.J. Moore.
  • The Bears once again struggled in coverage with their linebackers on shallow crossing routes. Admittedly those are tough but its their job and they have to do it.


  • Cole Kmet finally got a touchdown on a good throw to him in double coverage. Here’s hoping its the first of many.
  • Anthony Miller also finally got a ball in the first quarter but wasted it by backing up and giving up the first down that he initially had. It wasn’t a good look.
  • I don’t have the stats but Matt Nagy calls a lot of runs on first down. As color man Jonathan Vilma pointed out, when he didn’t do that, he called for short passes to the outside which were the equivalent. I know the offensive line is largely responsible for the struggles with the run game that the Bears have. But I’m starting to wonder how much Nagy’s play calling is factoring into it.
  • Having said that the Bears got dominated up front by one of the worst run defenses in the league. They ended the game with 3 yards per carry but it seemed like less.
  • The Panthers got a lot of pressure on Nick Foles in the second half. Much of it came on the blitz. This was a terrible game for the offensive line, who were without coach Juan Castillo. Castillo is quarantining after being exposed to someone with COVID.
  • Nick Foles let go of a bunch of wobbly passes under that pressure. He finally got picked off by the Panthers inside the Panther 10 yard line. I understand trying to make a play but you can’t be stupid about it.
  • Foles did do a good job of spreading the ball around today. Most of the receivers and tight ends had a catch. The Panthers were obviously hyper-aware of Allen Robinson, who I think almost everyone in the league believes is the only Bears offensive player likely to consistently burn anyone.
  • Darnell Mooney really does do a good job of getting open by using his speed. Cornerbacks have to respect it and he gets a lot of room.
  • The Bears continue to struggle to throw the ball down field. They had only 5.1 yards per pass, which is a statistic that is a pretty good indication of the overall health of your passing game.
  • David Montgomery still has a habit of running without the necessary patience. But he’s getting better.


  • Kenny Albert, Vilma and Shannon Spake were your announcers. Once again, I liked Vilma, who has warmed to the job after a tough start without Albert at the beginning of the season. Again, I frequently found myself thinking along with him. He made a number of good points, including pointing out that Carolina was spreading the Bears out to run in the same way the Buccaneers did. I’m also a Shannon Spake fan.
  • Special teams: Cairo Santos kicked a career long 55 yard field goal. Joey Slye missed a 54 yard field goal in the third quarter that the Panthers really could have used with the score only 13-6. The Bears took over and eventually scored a touchdown. Slye gave Cordarella Patterson absolutely no chance to return kicks, consistently kicking it through the endzone.
  • The Bears dominated field position for much of the game getting good starting position while pinning the Panthers inside their twenty.
  • Penalties: The referees were letting a lot of early hits on receivers go on both sides today. The penalties should have been pretty obvious. The Bears got rolling with a delay of game on their first possession coming out of a time out on the Carolina 4 yard line. I’ll never understand how that happens. The sequence leading to the Panther’s second field goal was interesting. It looked to me like the Panthers were just trying to draw the Bears offsides but Nagy ran down the sideline in panic and called a time out to set up the defense. The Panthers then came out and did the same thing and, sure enough, Akiem Hicks jumped offside to defend a play that almost certainly wasn’t going to come. That’s bad all the way around. The Bears had not one but Two 12 men in the huddle penalties to sustain a Carolina drive at the end of the third quarter. Jaylon Johnson got called for a terrible pass interference call later in the drive to set up the touchdown. Though the arm was in a suspicious position, on replay you could clearly see that Johnson didn’t have D.J. Moore’s arm pinned. Just so no one thinks I’m saying that the bad calls all went one way, the Panthers drew a terrible roughing the passer penalty on the next Bears possession. The Bears eventually kicked a field goal. It was a bad day for the refs. The Bears finished the game with 10 penalties for 92 yards. That’s too many to consistently play winning football against good teams.
  • Drops: D.J. Moore dropped a touchdown on what was otherwise a pretty good day for him. It was the worst of a few today for him including one on fourth down with less than 2 minutes left in the game.
  • Turnovers: Tashaun Gibson got a nice interception on the Panthers first possession to set up a Bears touchdown. It looked like the hit on the receiver was early but see my comments about the referees above. Akiem Hicks recovered a Mike Davis fumble that Eddie Jackson knocked out in the third quarter. The Bears got the ball on the Carolina 22 yard line. Nick Foles immediately handed the ball back to the Panthers with an awful throw under pressure. Deandre Houston-Carson got the game winning interception off of Bridgewater with less than 2 minutes left.
  • I hate to keep bashing a team that keeps winning but they just aren’t playing well. They ran into a Carolina team that had a bad game today and once again pulled one out. But they have to start playing better, more disciplined football or this simply won’t fly against good teams like the Packers.

Eventually the Bears Are Going to Have to Invest More at Offensive Tackle

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times says that the problem that the Bears have on the offensive line has no easy solutions. He’s got a good point:

“When the Bears had a quarterback issue, they turned to Nick Foles.

“When wide receiver Anthony Miller’s production dipped, they turned to rookie Darnell Mooney.

“With rookie tight end Cole Kmet still getting acclimated to the offense, they turned to Demetrious Harris.

“But an underperforming offensive line is much more problematic. A team-within-a-team, the issues are often hard to define. They take turns contributing to the problem — Bobby Massie gets beat on one play, Cody Whitehair the next and Charles Leno the one after that.

“And you usually can’t just plug one new guy in and fix it. In fact, that can create as many problems as it solves, given the chemistry and unspoken communication it takes to develop an outstanding offensive line.”

According to offensive line coach Juan Castillo, the Bears think that the solution is simply getting a better performance out of the men they have:

“It’s about fundamentals. It’s about doing something over and over so that you are able to make that block. This is what, five weeks? We still have a few left. The important thing for us, it’s a progression. We’ll get better every week.”

I have my doubts.

Fans clamored for better players along the offensive line all season. But the Bears put themselves in a bit of a bind. They’ve handed out big contracts to Whitehair, Massie and Leno that they can’t walk away from without taking a serious hit to their tight salary cap situation.

According to overthecap.com the Bears had roughly $44 million invested in Massie before 2020 and the cap hit would have been $12.1 million if they had cut him. Similarly, they had $46 million sunk into Leno and cutting him would have resulted in a $7.5 million cap hit.  And that’s not including the price of replacing either or both with starter quality players. The cap hit after 2020 for both is more reasonable.

I wouldn’t have been impossible to move on from these players. But it would have been tough, especially in Massie’s case. They chose instead to invest in Robert Quinn, someone they badly needed, and to put their faith in Castillo.

There is also the problem that general manager Ryan Pace has a bad habit of stubbornly overestimating his talent at obvious positions of need. He did the same thing last year, sticking with the tight ends he had when fans called for more help at the position. The result was a disaster.

Standing pat on the offensive line isn’t looking like it was a much better decision this year.

In any case, no matter how good Castillo is, there’s only so much he can do with mediocre talent. And it’s evident that’s what the Bears have.

I’ve heard it said repeatedly by, among others, Potash himself that the Bears haven’t invested enough first round picks in the offensive line. I’m not sure that’s the issue. Though they haven’t been taking linemen with first round picks, both Whitehair and James Daniels were second rounders.

No, the problem isn’t a lack of investment in high picks. It’s where those picks have been invested.

The Bears and Pace have inherited their offensive line philosophy from the organization that he spent 14 years with before he was hired by the Bears, the Saints. They believe, rightfully I think, that the most important part of protecting the quarterback is keeping the pocket clean in front of him so he can step up. They have, therefore, invested in the interior part of the line with Whitehair and Daniels to go with, until recently, Kyle Long.

But the problem with that is that you are left with mediocre tackles. In pass protection, that apparently works for them. They currently rank 12th in the league with 8 sacks allowed.

But when it comes to the run game, offensive tackles who can win one-on-one blocks are important. And, no matter who the coach is, the Bears don’t have the talent there to play with the top half of the league.

That’s very unfortunate because the Bears have chosen to make the play action pass a major part of their game plan. In order to do that effectively, it helps to run the ball successfully.

True, it’s far more important to keep the opposition honest by continuing to try to run whether it’s successful or not, something Nagy has been continually criticized for not doing.

But if you don’t turn those run plays into yards, you continually end up in third and long. And that is exactly what has happened to the Bears. They currently rank 30th, converting third downs at a 33% clip.

Unfortunately, as Potash points out, there are no easy solutions for the Bears right now. And it is becoming increasingly evident that offensive tackle is going to have to bubble up to the top of Pace’s offseason list of positions to address.