Quick Game Comments: Lions at Bears 10/3/21

Robin Lopez when discussing the lessons he learned as an NBA basketball player once said, “Steve Nash, Grant Hill, they were always preaching whether you win or lose. You have to keep an even keel, keep a level head.”

This always struck me as the fundamental difference between good teams and subpar teams. Good teams are consistent. They are, to the extent that it possible, the same high quality almost every time they hit the field. Teams that aren’t good aren’t. They flash well one week with a big win or a fine performance and find themselves on an emotional high only to fall the next week as they let down and fail to concentrate and prepare with the same intensity. Especially with the younger teams, the season is an emotional rollercoaster.

This is what we saw today. The Bears, coming off of a miserable physical and mental beating in Cleveland, went back to the drawing board and redrew the plan. Practices all week were reported to be at a special intensity as they worked extra hard to pick themselves up. Many of my friends were surprised that the Bears opened as 4 point favorites in this game after the brutal loss to the Browns. I wasn’t. If they were going to bounce back with a good performance, it was going to be this week.

The Lions, on the other hand, lost to the Baltimore Ravens last week on a last second field goal in what can only be termed as a special effort from what many consider to be a miserable team. The 19-17 loss was shocking in how well the Lions played and how close they came to beating one of the best teams in the NFL. What wer ethe odds that this team was going to pull off the same performance two weeks in a row? Not very high. And they didn’t. The Lions defense reverted back to form after a wonderful effort last week and th Bears took advantage of big gaps in their coverage on some well timed play action passes.

Last year, Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune once quoted a source associated with gambling in Las Vegas as saying, “We see the Bears as being the same as the Lions.” Its not entirely true. But there is some truth to it. Neither of these teams is going to be competitive until they can perform at a consistently high level week in and week out.

Today it was the Bears week and they deserve to be congratulated (as I mostly do below). We will all celebrate. The Bears will dance in the locker room. All will be light and happiness. But another week is right around the corner – for all of us – and, let’s be honest, it could be like the Lions or it could be more like the Browns. You never know with this team. And that’s the problem.


  • Going into this game the Lions ranked 29th in yards per play allowed and 32nd in passing yards per play. The were allowing 10.3 yards per pass attempt, and opposing quarterbacks had a 123.2 passer rating. The Lions had allowed 384 yards per game and 6.7 yards per play. Nagy’s offense through three games ranked last in the NFL with 191.7 yards per game and 3.34 yards per play, and the Bears were second-to-last with 13.3 points per game. Something had to give. As it turned out, it was the Lions defense that reverted to form after a yeoman’s effort last week against the Ravens. In fairness to the Lions defense, the Bears generally executed better with a much better plan than last week for the demolition at the hands of the Browns. But in the end, the Lions defensive back field was what, onace again, did them in giving up 191 yards net passing to a Bears team that had only 1 last week.
  • A good part of the Bears success was due to a drastically different game plan from compared to last week. I’d be surprised if the Bears ran double tight end sets less than 35% of the time and I’ll bet quarterback Justin Fields was under center about half the time instead of spending all of his time in the shotgun. And I swear a little tear came to my eye every time I saw J.P Holtz line up at fullback in an I-formation.
  • This game plan made a lot of sense to me. If I’m calling plays for a team and they are having trouble protecting the quarterback, my first instinct always is to go back to basics. To me that means running the ball. And that’s where this plan started today.

    The results, in my opinion, were dramatic. The Bears ran the ball effectively down hill for 188 yards and that allowed Fields to make hay off of the play action pass. It was football the way it was meant to be played at Soldier Field and, although he tried it briefly once before, I never thought I’d see Matt Nagy, even in the state of desperation he must be in, consent to do it again. Here’s hoping that he stays with it this time because the game plan helped Fields out tremendously and gave us a chance to see what he could do.

  • Last game Damiere Byrd played 34 snaps and had zero targets, while Marquise Goodwin played only 10 snaps. Goodwin had 1 carry and neither receiver had a catch today. One wonders what happened to the plan to use speed at the third and fourth receiver slots to threaten defenses. Bad plan? Or bad execution?
  • On a related note, against the Bengals, Nagy called a game with one target to the tight end position that he has always claimed is so huge for the offense. In Cleveland, there were five passes thrown to the tight ends. Only one was caught. and though I really haven’t been as impressed with Cole Kmet as the Chicago media have, statistically he hasn’t exploded and neither has Jimmy Graham this year. Today was no exception. Kmet had 1 catch for 6 yards and Jimmy Graham didn’t make the stat sheet. Again, what happened to the plan that involved the Bears choosing to keep Jimmy Graham over Kyle Fuller in the off season cap crunch?
  • It was difficult to tell who called the plays today and it may well have been both Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor. Certainly the game plan was different and it made me think that Lazor may have begun the game doing the job. But Nagy had the play card in his hands and he was obviously calling plays over the head set in the fourth quarter.
  • Congratulations to the offensive line, who played well today in a game plan that emphasized its strengths. I thought even last week that the Bear offensive line did a better job of run blocking and they certainly did well today. The Bears were in max protect a lot and never, as far as I could tell, went to four wider recievers, let alone five. So th eline gat a lot of help and it showed.
  • Fields had a wonderful game today. The game plan helped him out, as well, and allowed him to perform to his abilities. His accuracy was impeccable (11/17 for 209 yards total). The protection and the use of play action allowed him to go down field (10.3 yards per pass) and defensive backs were unable to simply sit on short routes.
  • It wasn’t a perfect game for Fields by any means. He still holds the ball too long in an effort to allow the big play to develop instead of simply checking it down and it hurt him on occasion today. And he still has a hard time picking up the free blitzer.

    But there’s plenty enough time to harp on such things another day. For today, nice job. It was a relief to see him bounce back so well from the mental and physical beating he took last week.

  • Interesting that, though the Bears helped Fields in so many ways, we didn’t see the roll outs and run-pass options that fans and some media were screaming for. The Bears forced Fields to be a professional quarterback today. He’ll probably be better in the long run for it. But I’d still like to see him on the run just every nce in a while like he was on just a few occasions last week.
  • The Bears were 1 of 8 on third down today and I’d say this continues to be an area of concern.
  • Special kudos to David Montgomery who ran 23 times for 106 angry yards (4.6 yards per rush) for 2 touchdowns. He’s all heart and it was not a feel good to watch him limp off the field in the second half with an apparent injury to his left knee. Here’s hoping its not a bad as it looked. Damien Williams, who also had a touchdown earlier in the game, did a good job picking up the slack as he ran for 55 yards on 8 carries (6.9 yards per rush).
  • Darnell Mooney also deserved special mention today and he caught 5 balls for 125 yards, one of which was a spectacular diving catch early in the game and another of which was for 64 yards. Its worth noting that Fields had time for that throw because, once again, the Bears provided excellent protection with two tight ends and a running back lined up before the snap. Contrast with last week if you dare.


  • It was an interesting day for the defense. Generally speaking, I thought that they played bend but don’t break today. The Lions moved the ball for a lot of yards (348) but in the end, only put up 14 points. Far too often, the Lions would get into the red zone (5 times) and not come away with points (4 of those 5 visits). They shot themselves in the foot and generally failed to execute. Perhaps that was the Bears plan. If it was, kudos to them because it worked. But it was a tough watch for the rest of us.
  • Though the Bears played a fair bit of man coverage, their bread an butter was still the zone defense. And I’m just slightly disturbed by the way they’ve been playing it.
  • For instance, Browns tight end Austin Hooper had a 13 yard touchdown reception with 19 seconds remaining in the first half last week that looked like a mix up in coverage. The linebacker (Roquon Smith) thought the safety was going to pick him and the safety obviously thought the linebacker was going to carry him.

    Fast forward to today. The Lions are on the Bears 25 yard line. Lions quarterback Jared Goff hits Kalif Raymond for a touchdown pass as he runs right by safety Deon Bush as linebacker Alec Ogletree failed to carry him.

    This is a mistake that should have been cleaned up last week. It’s mildly worrisome that it wasn’t.

  • Eddie Goldman played today and, even though he wasn’t on the stat sheet, I thought he was disruptive and played well. Same for Khyris Tonga and Bilal Nichols. All three were generally disruptive and Nichols made arguably the play of the game by catching an early snap that bounced off of Goff in the shotgun.
  • The pass rush was also pretty good today as Smith, Trevis Gipson, Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack all had sacks. Unfortunately, the Bear had a bad habit of letting the Lions off the hook with penalties and other errors which decreased the effectiveness of these plays. But it was a good sign that they continued. Special kudos to Quinn who played well and is rapidly shedding his “free agent bust” label.
  • I’m glad to say that Duke Shelley played well today. Nickel corner was a particular problem the first few games. No complaints today.
  • It wasn’t all roses and rainbows for the defense. The Lions ran over them (90 yards rushing, 3.6 yards per rush) in an effort that was worse then the statistics indicated. Deon Bush has a rough game in coverage and will be under scrutiny this week if Tashaun Gipson isn’t ready to play.


  • I dislike Aqib Talib as an announcer even more than I disliked him as a player. And that’s saying something because I thought he might possibly have been the dirtiest player in the NFL. I learned nothing today.
  • The Bears weren’t very disciplined to day with 7 poorly timed penalties for 61 yards with several being declined. Defensive offsides was an issue. I usually don’t get too alarmed about these until you get up closer to 10 violations. But today I’d say they’re lucky they weren’t playing a better team.
  • The two fumbles that the Bears recovered today were huge. the Bilal Nichols recovery, really catch, of an early shotgun snap that bounced off of jared goff as he approached the line to adjust the protections saved at least three points and quite possibly more. It makes such a difference when you win the turnover battle.
  • I thought Jared Goff struggled with his accuracy today. It makes me wonder if the Lions don’t make this game a lot closer on a better day for him. The rematch of these two teams in Detroit will be interesting. Nagy has gone 5-1 against the Lions in his career, but the one loss was particularly damaging for him. It was a 34-30 Lions comeback in December that had many convinced that Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace weren’t going to make it into the offseason (including me). They play in Detroit this year on Thanksgiving with the whole world watching.

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