Quick Game Comments: Vikings at Bears 1/8/23

Offense

  • Perhaps it’s just my low expectations talking but kudos to Nathan Peterman, who looked competent out there today (11 for 19 with a QB rating of 92.9 before a garbage time interception). Admittedly, the offense wasn’t moving very well under Peterman. But I was still surprised when they replaced him with Tim Boyle. Perhaps they just wanted to see what they had in Boyle. Peterman came back in midway through the 3rd quarter.
  • Boyle’s first drive didn’t go well. There was an apparent miscommunication, and he threw a floater right to Patrick Peterson for an interception. He was OK after that, I thought (2 of 4 for 33 yards, 8.3 yards per pass).
  • Larry Borom was your right guard this game. I kept an eye on him and I thought he did well. But I didn’t think that he was a bad right tackle before they replaced him with Riley Reiff so…
  • It’s nice to see Vilus Jones have such a good game today (1 catch for 298 yards). I like seeing him score the 42 yard rushing touchdown, though I’d rather he did it after catching a pass. He had a nice return n the opening kickoff.
  • Cole Kmet had a nice game today (4 catches for 57 yards and 14.3 yards per catch). He had a wonderful second effort to secure the Bears second touchdown. Up until this year I was not convinced that convert Kennett was going to be in the Bears future. But lately he’s been coming on and I can see the athletic system that made former GM Ryan pace pick him.
  • On such a bad offensive day it isn’t surprising that the Bears were a miserable 2 of 9 on third down and 0 for 3 on 4th.

Defense

  • Cornerbacks today with all of the injuries? Harrison Hand, Breon Borders, Michael Ojemudia, and Greg Stroman. Only Hand had started an NFL game before today. Not too surprising that they looked completely lost with broken coverages all over the field early on. It’s hard to figure out whose fault these are but what I found to be mildly concerning was the frequency with which Jaquan Brisker seemed to be involved. Brisker is a rookie but should be playing well by now. In fairness he played better late in the game and nearly had a nice interception in end zone in the third quarter.
  • On a related note, the Bears mixed it up but it looked to me like they were playing a lot of soft zone coverage. I suppose I can’t blame them. They were severely outmanned. In the end, I think the best that they could hope for was to slow things down so that the score didn’t get out of hand.
  • And, hey, kudos to Stroman who made a fantastic athletic play to get an interception in the 4th quarter.
  • This may be a ridiculous thing to say. But I think the defensive line played just a little better today. They didn’t play well and they had to play stunts and games up front a lot. But every once in a while, I thought I saw some penetration against the run and they did put pressure on Kirk Cousins on occasion. And they were a big part of a nice goal line stand at the end of the first half.Don’t get me wrong. More often than not they still had a tough time getting off of blocks and I wouldn’t call it a good performance. The Vikings ran for 141 yards and passed for 341. The Bears had no sacks. But given what they’ve been, it was actually an improvement.

Miscellaneous

  • I was interested to see if the Bears were going to let Jones return punts again before the season ran out. But the Vikings never punted the ball.
  • Super poor job of clock management at the end of the first half by the Vikings. Inside the 10 on 3rd down, why in the world they didn’t call play where the wide receiver either caught the ball in the end zone or it was incomplete, I don’t know. But the wide receiver was tackled in bounds in the clock continue to run. Not all the Vikings got off the field and, honestly, I don’t think that some of them knew that the team was out of time outs. Initially some of them didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry. A penalty was called, taking away their chance at a field goal. To not come away with points on a drive like that in a game like this was such a Vikings thing to do.
  • I actually surprised myself this game. In my life I’ve never rooted against the Bears. And I didn’t really do it today. But the Bears secured the number 2 overall pick with a chance at #1 with a loss and I did have this very tiny feeling of relief every time the Vikings scored to keep the game securely within their grasp. I didn’t think I had it in me. And I’m not too sure that I’m proud of it.

    The Bears eventually secured the number #1 overall pick with a Texans loss making them officially the worst team in the league. Congratulations. I guess.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Lions 1/1/2022

Offense

  • I’m not entirely sure what the issue was but Justin Fields had a rough day accuracy-wise on deep balls. Some passes, especially in the first half, were overthrown by a long way. The Bears had just 7 yards passing in the first half and finished with only 30.
  • Interesting that the Lions went with such a heavy does of man-to-man coverage. The Bills had a lot of success stopping Fields from running in part by playing zone defense (where the cover men face the quarterback). But, as color man Jonathan Vilma pointed out, man-to-man is what the Lions do. I guess they thought that it was better to stick with it.
  • Very, very bad day for Braxton Jones who literally got pushed into Field a couple times in just one series in the second quarter. If the team decides that Jones isn’t working out, the need for a left tackle becomes a priority. That’s a tough position to fill and will require the use of resources that the Bears would rather be used to solve other problems.
  • We got to see some Dieter Eiselen at right guard after both Tevin Jenkins and Michael Schofield went out with injuries. He was up and down and occasionally looked like he didn’t belong.
  • On a related note, Fields was sacked 5 times in the first half. The Lions finished the game with 7. In fairness to the offensive line, some of these were Fields holding the ball and not cutting loose. I don’t need to see the all-22 to tell you that Fields was missing open men underneath again as he searched for the big play. This game was a step back for him.
  • The Bears did a good job of running the ball today (200 yards rushing and 9.1 yards per rush), as they did the first time these teams met. This needs to carry over to next year against better teams.
  • The Lions did a good job of preparing Aidan Hutchinson for this game. The Bears left him unblocked much of the time hoping that he would bite on inside run fakes. Instead Hutchinson stayed at home, penetrated straight up field and was waiting for Fields on the edge. The naked boot wasn’t working and the Bears needed to find a different solution. They couldn’t do it.
  • The Bears, who haven’t been bad in this area over the course of the season, were terrible on third down making just 3 of 13 attempts. They were 0 for 1 on fourth down.
  • Yards per pass attempt were just 1.1. That’s very bad.

Defense

  • The Lions literally ran over the Bears (265 yards on 39 attempts and 6.8 per rush) in one of the most embarrassing defensive performances that I can remember. D’Andre Swift (78 yards on 11 carries) and Jamaal Williams (144 yards on 22 carries) took turns going off on long runs for the Lions. We’ll have to wait for the post game forensics but I got the distinct impression that this was a disciplinary issue with players simply not covering their gaps. Correcting this will be a focus for the coming week. To the extent that it can be corrected.
  • The Bears rather obviously thought they could get to Jared Goff by blitzing him. Not that they had must choice. The Bears are last in sacks. In any case, Goff looked like he was prepared and he handled it well.
  • On a very related note, I doubt that I have to mention how awful the Bears defensive line was. But, for the record, it was awful. No penetration against the run and very little pass rush in the absence of the blitz most of the time. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Bears have the worst defensive line in the NFL. This is without doubt the number one need for the offseason.
  • The Lions were attacking the Bears safeties mercilessly, especially DeAndre Houston-Carson. He was involved in both of their initial touchdowns. He was in coverage on the pass for the first and the run for the second was right where he was lined up. This was a tough game for both him and Jaquan Brisker, who was also burned a number of times.
  • Kyler Gordon was under attack as well. He has looked more comfortable out there since the Bears moved him outside permanently and out of the nickel corner position. But his day was marred by a key pass interference call in the end zone that set up the first Lions touchdown.
  • If you are looking for a glimmer of hope, the Bears held the Lions to just 4 for 12 on third down, which isn’t too bad. They were 0 for 1 on fourth down.

Miscellaneous

  • Kenny Albert (play by play), Vilma (analyst) and Shannon Spake (sideline) were your announcers. I was impressed by Vilma. He had obviously done his homework on these teams and showed more in depth knowledge than usual about the current state of the Bears. He also seems to have a very good idea of what’s happening on the field, diagnosing plays and describing what happened rapidly and accurately.
  • Nice game for Velus Jones who had some good returns including a long one near the end of the first half. He’s done better the last couple games, giving Bears fans just a bit of hope for the future of the 2022 third rounder.
  • The Bears didn’t have an outrageous number of penalties but there was one really bad one, a 34 yard pass interference call in the end zone against Gordon that basically handed the Lions their first touchdown. This is why referees don’t like making such calls. The penalty is crippling and, depending on the nature of the offense, is worse than the offense deserves.
  • The Bears lost the turnover battle with a fumble and interception. They got none from the Lions.
  • Not too thrilled that the Lions went for it on fourth down and two with 8 minutes left up 38-10. On the other hand, the Bears refused to let common sense prevail and called time out with 2:45 left and down by 28. So I guess I can hardly blame the Lions for extending the pain if the Bears were so determined to do so as well.
  • Getting very sick and tired of seeing Gronk on my screen trying to sell me insurance. It wasn’t too funny the first time I saw one and its become very annoying now.
  • The Lions deserve to win this game. They played better and they wanted it more. That’s not a terribly big surprise given the state of both franchises and the seasons that they are having. The loss doesn’t worry me. The way that they lost does.The Bears lost the turnover battle again and are generally not showing signs that they are the better disciplined team that they need to be week after week to win.

    What is also mildly concerning is that there were some key players to the Bears future that had bad games today. Braxton Jones had a miserable time with the bull rush. Jaquan Brisker was frequently attacked in the passing game. Kyler Gordon was also successfully attacked and he had a key pass interference call in the end zone that set up the Lions first touchdown. Chase Claypool was active but didn’t make the stat sheet. The Bears traded what looks like it will be the 33rd pick in the 2023 draft for him. Even Justin Fields regressed today in terms of his passing and his field vision.

    These are young players that the Bears need to be able to build upon for their future. Some are rookies but its late in the year now and they should all be playing better than they are.

    On a different note of the same song, the failure of the Bears coaching staff to find a solution once it became apparent that the naked boot wasn’t working was also problematic and a bad sign for the future. The fact that the defense as a whole is continuing to have so many problems stopping the run, to the extent that this involves poor discipline and gap control by the defense, can also be partly laid at the feet of the coaching staff. In short, the Bears coaching staff was completely out classed today by the Lions staff.

    These are bad signs that we all have to hope are not indicators of the kind of future the Bears are in for.

Who Are the Bears Core Players?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune
answers your questions.

“In Sunday’s column, you gave the impression that there is almost no core of players Ryan Poles
can build upon for next season and that it could take two to three years to build the Bears into a contender. Yet a number of games were lost by relatively small margins, which would suggest the Bears should win significantly more games next year and perhaps make the playoffs. Are you perhaps being too negative about the current roster and the chances for next year? — Russ T., Palos Heights”

“Bad teams find ways to pull out games here and there, and the Bears are a bad team mired in an eight-game losing streak, tied for the longest in one season in club history.”

“When looking to the future — and with two games remaining in a 3-12 season, that’s where the focus has to be — a critical eye is needed unless you simply want to view everything as a glass that’s not just half-full but overflowing.

“NFL teams often color-code players in pro scouting to get an idea of a roster’s strengths and weaknesses. There are many variations and everyone has their own little twist (some use numbers), but the bottom line is they’re evaluating players relative to others at the same position leaguewide.

“A color-coded scheme goes blue, red, purple and orange, often with a plus or minus to differentiate even further. Blue is an elite player who can start for any team, a perennial Pro Bowl talent.”

“What makes it challenging to forecast success for the Bears in 2023 is this roster doesn’t have a lot of blue — and maybe doesn’t have a single blue.”

“When you step back and evaluate the current depth chart — and when you see the surplus of elite players that recent opponents such as the Bills and Eagles have — you get a better idea of how far off the Bears are from doing more than trying to wiggle into the playoffs with a record near .500 at this time next year.”

Biggs gave a very long answer to this question, most of which I cut out but all of which I agree with.

However, in order to simplify the response I’d like to take a look at the Bears current roster and simply evaluate players that you can consider to be the core of a future playoff starting unit. The list of core players is pretty short. I included everyone about whom I thought a reasonable case could be made in the table below with my own judgement. Your mileage may vary.

I make it at 15 core starters but 3 are special teamers. Out of the 12 who remain, as Biggs states, none could reasonably be considered as blue players. In addition, only 5 are on the defensive side of the ball (Brisker, Gordon, Jackson, Johnson and Sanborn). Jackson is 29 and none are defensive linemen.

Bottom line, no matter how you slice it, the Bears have a lot of work to do.

Bears Performance on Defense Against the Bills Was More Worrying than the Offensive Woes

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune gives his 10 thoughts after the Bears loss to the Buffalo Bills on Christmas Eve. Biggs found the offensive struggles to be worrisome in their simplicity.

‘The Bills showed if a defense can prevent Fields from running the ball, the Bears can’t get anything done offensively. That’s sort if what we saw at the start of the season too.’

Biggs went on to quote a couple of Bills players who confirmed his suspicion. Stop Fields from running and its over. But personally, I don’t think that not entirely fair in that the conditions on Saturday accentuated the problem.

In those conditions at Soldier field in the wind and cold weather where gripping the ball was difficult, passing was a problem for both teams. Even the centers were having trouble snapping the ball. Kickers struggled to make short field goals and even extra points.

Passing in those kinds of conditions is a serious issue. Both teams were forced to run the ball. Both defenses knew it and therefore sold out to stop it.

Biggs is correct in that Fields got an incredible amount of attention from the Bills. I don’t need to watch the all-22 to see that they had at least one spy on him every play and that every single defensive player had their attention focused on him.

Unlike the Bills, the Bears, of course, don’t have much of a passing game under the best of conditions. With so many players like , Equaminious St. Brown and Chase Claypool injured the Bills were in a much better position to execute such a game plan. And, of course, the offensive line was patchwork with both guards injured.

Yes, the Bears running game was unable to beat a good team under such conditions. And that’s worrisome because there are no excuses. But I would argue that even the sliver of a passing game that they would have had in better weather would have led to much, much better results even with the make shift starting lineups. They needed more than they got. But I would argue that they didn’t need much more. The weather made the difference.

So my conclusion from the lack of a run game outside of Feilds is not quite as dire as Biggs’ suggest that it is.

On the other hand, the problems on the defensive side are much more of an issue in regard to the above because it made their job much more easy on a day when the Bills didn’t perform at their best. Not being able to stop the Bills from running over them despite knowing that this was what they had to do is very problematic. Biggs tells the story very accurately.

‘The Bears have averaged 19 points in Fields’ last four starts. The defense has been bad more consistently. The Bears were horrendous in this spot, allowing an offense that usually leans heavily on quarterback Josh Allen to run the ball to feature others. Devin Singletary carried 12 times for 106 yards — tied for the second-biggest game of his career — scoring on a 33-yard run. Rookie James Cook had a season-high 99 yards on 11 carries and scored on a 27-yard play.

‘These are smaller, change-of-pace backs who just gutted the Bears as the Bills rolled up a season-high 254 yards rushing with Allen getting 41 yards on six carries. It’s the fourth time this season an opponent has rushed for more than 200 yards against the defense. The Bears gave up four 200-yard games in 2013 and 1951, and the team record is five in 1955. This was just a trampling.

‘”There were some big holes,” Singletary said. “The big guys up front were moving people — I mean moving people. Guys on the outside were holding their blocks and most of the time all we had to do was beat one person.”

‘That is because the Bears were playing primarily with a single-high safety and we saw another display of consistently poor gap discipline. When it gets really bad — like this — different players take turns and it turns into a total mess.’

‘The Bears need to totally overhaul the front seven in the offseason.’

Couldn’t agree more. The Bears are overwhelmed in the run game and can’t generate a pass rush without blitzing. Any rebuild has to start along the defensive line.

Generally speaking, unlike the offensive woes with a playmaker like Fields on the team, this game showed that the defensive woes are as dire as anyone could possibly express.

Why Should the Bears Keep Playing Their Starters? There Are Some Good Reasons for It.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune
answers your questions.

“The Bears have had their share of injuries to key players with all of them basically happening during meaningless games. Is it time to shut down the starters? Would hate to see another injury or lose the No. 2 pick as they continue to build. Your thoughts? — @capncoverspicks

‘There’s no way this is a consideration for the coaches at Halas Hall, who continue to plan each week to put the team in the best position to win.’

‘[Bears head coach] Matt Eberflus was asked about Justin Fields‘ passing in the last two games and pointed to continued improvement on a weekly basis. Growth is happening and he has to be on the field for that to continue. No one in the building has a fatalistic view of the final three games, wondering, “What could happen to Fields?” They’re intrigued to see what’s next in his development.’

Biggs makes a lot of good points in his response (many of which I cut out). However, in my opinion it’s this last point that is the major factor here.

It isn’t just quarterback Justin Fields. The vast majority of the starters on the Bears team right now are young players who are all continuing to develop. Logging game time is critical in order to facilitate that development.

Even the players that aren’t young and developing or putting plays on tape which have a major impact on their future. But the key for the Bears right now is to get better on every single snap of every single game.

There is one more factor to be considered here. With so many players in the formative stage of their development, teaching them what professional football and being a member of that fraternity means is an issue. This rant by J.J. Watt, then of the Houston Texans, as he struggled through the end of the 2020 season typifies what that is.

‘We’re professional athletes getting paid a whole lot of money if you can’t come in and put work in in the building go out to the practice field and work hard, do your lifts and do what you’re supposed to do, you should not be here this is a job.

‘We are getting paid a whole lot of money there are a lot of people that watch us and invest their time and their money into buying our jerseys and buying a whole bunch of [ __ ] and they care about it they care every single week. We’re in week 16 and we’re 4 and 11 and there’s fans that watch this game that show up to the stadium that put in time and energy and effort and care about this so if you can’t go out there and you can’t work out, you can’t show up on time, you can’t practice, you can’t want to go out there and win you shouldn’t be here.’

I couldn’t agree more with Watt (you should really watch the entire video).

It’s important that the Bears play and play hard the rest of the season both for the fans and for the future development of the team.


Is Justin Fields Listening to the Coaches?

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes about the woes of the Chicago Bears when they try to score points late in close games.

“If a lesson is to be learned from (QB Tom) Brady, it’s that sometimes you have to take what the defense offers. He put on a master class last Monday on the final two drives by rallying the Bucs almost exclusively with passes thrown underneath. If the defense is going to take away something — deep throws down the middle and vertical boundary routes — it’s going to open up something else.

“That’s where the Bears ran into trouble against the Packers with a deep dig route to Equanimeous St. Brown that Jaire Alexander intercepted at the Green Bay 28-yard line with 2:52 remaining and the Packers leading 20-19.”

“Instead, Fields could have hit running back David Montgomery as a check-down target, picked up 5 yards and moved to second down in a situation in which a field goal at the end of the game would have won it.”

I haven’t had must time to check the previous game recordings but I am not surprised that this is the problem that Biggs identified. I’ve long suspected it.

Fields is a big play hunter. Time after time with the game on the line he’s been holding the ball and holding the ball and holding the ball, apparently waiting for guys to get open downfield so that he can gain all the yardage he needs at once. Eventually he gets sacked by defensive linemen who know he has to pass and can just rush the passer or he throws the ball into the coverage. This is not the way to handle a two minute situation.

What worries me isn’t that the Fields is doing this. He’s a young quarterback and you would expect him to make mistakes.

What worries me is that I am 99% sure that the coaching staff has told him not to do this. It’s far too obvious that there’s plenty of time left on the clock and Fields should be hitting these underneath routes. This is not brain surgery and there’s no way that any coach, much less one that has worked with Aaron Rodgers like offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has, hasn’t noticed this and hasn’t tried to pointed it out to him on film.

So I’m left to wonder. Why has Fields not been listening to advice on this topic? Is it just impatience? Could it be that he doesn’t trust the players around him to execute a long drive correctly?

I don’t know. But I will tell you this. Assuming that common sense is prevailing and he’s getting the right messages from the coaching staff (and admittedly I am assuming that) if he wants to be a Brady or a Peyton Manning, he’s going to have to take coaching.

Quick Game Comments: Packers at Bears 12/4/22

Offense

  • Larry Borom is out hurt so Riley Reiff was the starting right tackle. He’s not known as a good run blocker in a game that was always going to be about running the ball against the Packers, who are among the worst in the league in run defense.
  • And that’s exactly what the plan was. Run (155 yards on 25 carries) and then pass off of play action (20 for 25 for 253 yards). Probably the only big surprise was that Fields was a significant part of the running game (6 carries for 71). There were several designed runs early in the game and Fields had a wonderful 56 yard run for a touchdown in the first quarter. Notably that all tailed off after the first quarter and you wander if Fields was starting to feel the shoulder injury.
  • The Packers generally did a good job against the run when you take Fields out of the equation (19 carries for 84 yards). David Montgomery did his usual good job of breaking tackles (14 carries for 61 yards). But unlike most teams the Packers play, I think they had zero respect for the Bears passing game and so were able to control the line of scrimmage concentrate on crashing against the run.
  • Somewhat surprisingly Khari Blasingame was inactive. They always seem to run the ball better when the full back is on the field.
  • It was roughly halfway through the second quarter before Chase Claypool got his first target. Claypool was targeted two more times in a row before he was injured while fumbling the ball on a pass over the middle. His final stat line was 5 catches for 28 yards. The talent looks to me like its there but Bears aren’t getting enough out of him yet.
  • It wasn’t an aspect that anyone was emphasizing but Equanimeous St. Brown had a good revenge game against his former team (3 catches for 85 yards). That included a 56 yard pass to set up the second Bears touchdown.
  • Teven Jenkins didn’t have a great game. He had a damaging holding call against him and he looked bad on some blocks. I’m wondering if that’s not going to be looked at closely during the bye week.

Defense

  • Both starting safeties (Eddie Jackson & Jaquan Brisker) and two of the three starting cornerbacks (Kyler Gordon & Kindle Vildor) didn’t lay due to injury. Jaylon Jones started at cornerback opposite Jaylon Johnson. It looked like Elijah Hicks and Josh Blackwell were playing the nickel and DeAndre Houston-Carson and A.J. Thomas were at the two safety spots. Probably the worst defensive backfield in the league in week 13.
  • The Bears have been putting Jaylon Johnson on the best receiver on the opposite posing team. I’ve noticed that pretty much everyone likes the matchup. They went right at him covering Christian Watson today despite the other opportunities that the injuries in the defensive backfield presented.
  • Once again, the Bears had a difficult time stopping the run (175 yards on 32 carries). They just look like they have a difficult time getting off of blocks.
  • The Packers also initially relied upon the short passing game. They threw some well-timed screens. All in all the initial plan seemed to be to just executed and work their way down the field.
  • It was a surprising initial game plan. Wouldn’t you just attack that young and injured secondary? Eventually the answer was “yes” as they started attacking deep more later in the first half. Somewhat surprisingly, they struggled to complete many of those homerun passes in part because the Bears were playing a deep shell in coverage. But talent eventually won out in spots but it wasn’t a disaster for the Bears (18 for 31 for 182 yards).
  • The Bears defensive line had a difficult time getting pressure on Aaron Rodgers. No great surprise there given past performance. Not being a great blitzing team anyway, they could afford to blitz even less than usual with all of the injuries to the secondary.
  • Rodgers definitely doesn’t look right and some of his passes were still uncharacteristically off target. But there were fewer of them and he did look better today than he has in other recent games.
  • The Bears held Green bay to 6 for 13 on third down and 1 for 2 on fourth down. They had some big stops.

Miscellaneous

  • Velus Jones was your kick returner. He held on to the ball and had at least one nice return near the end of the ball game. Perhaps he’s recovered from his early difficulties. Trestan Ebner took one kickoff after the Packers first touchdown just before halftime. Stats
  • Cairo Santos has been struggling. He missed an extra point today and a short field goal that was low. Some of his other kicks have really looked shaky. This is something that we’re going to have to keep an eye on in the future.
  • The Bears won the toss but for some reason elected to receive. It looked to me like it backfired. The Packers drove for their first touchdown to end the half. They then got the ball back to start the second-half. That’s what teams want when they win the toss. It’s not what you want to allow them to do when you when the toss.
  • Both teams were clean in the first half with no penalties. Unfortunately the Bears couldn’t hold to that committing 5 penalties for 63 yards in the second half.
  • Justin Fields had two interceptions including a devastating one with 3 minutes left in the game with the Bears down one point. The Packers had no turnovers.
  • Despite the fact that I think pretty much everyone expected this loss, I still found it to be disappointing.The Bears once again committed more penalties and had more turnovers than their opponent. The Santos misses weren’t the difference in the ball game but they hurt and made the job more difficult. It just seems like the Bears aren’t getting the most out of what little talent that they have.

    I suppose the good news for many fans is that the Bears maintained their place in the draft order. There’s the development and performance of individual players but that’s pretty much all there is to watch in terms of team play.

    Personally, I never root for losses. My thought is that good organizations will make the most of their draft picks no matter where they are and will find a way to succeed. And losing can become a habit. You want your players to learn. You don’t want them to learn to lose.

Justin Fields Likely Made the Decision Not to Play Sunday. What, If Anything, Does that Say About Him?

Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune
quotes head coach Matt Eberflus on why Justin Fields didn’t play at quarterback Sunday against the New York Jets.

“The medical staff didn’t clear him to play today,” Eberflus said. “Justin didn’t feel he could protect himself and perform the way he wanted to perform. It’s about mobility and strength in his left arm. We’ll take it day by day.”

This is a reasonably confusing statement to me. However, I do think I figured out what happened here.

At least two national outlets over the last two days reported that Fields was “trying to convince the Bears that he could play”. Jets CB C.J. Mosley had similar thoughts.

“We were definitely expecting Fields to play, just knowing him being a franchise quarterback, being a young quarterback, wanting to be out there with his team,” Mosley said. “It didn’t happen.”

However, that seems to be untrue based upon what Eberflus said. Fields didn’t feel that he could come protect himself and decided not to play.

The question may be “if the medical staff didn’t clear him” why did Fields have a choice at all?

I think what happened here is that the medical staff may have been ready to clear Fields. However ultimately the decision about whether he felt he could play or not was up to him. After he made the decision, the medical staff didn’t “clear him” because he didn’t think he could protect himself.

It makes sense if Fields made the first decision. It makes no sense if the medical staff did.

The distinction is subtle but important. The suggestion is that Fields wasn’t trying to play at all costs yesterday.

I’m not say that’s wrong. After all, we aren’t on a playoff push here. And I’m certainly not saying that Fields is not tough or that he doesn’t have a desire to play football. But the fact that he likely took a pragmatic approach to the situation and made a decision not to play when many players would go out and play at all costs – as implied by the national media outlets and as expected by at least some Jets players – tells us something about him.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Jets 11/27/22

Defense

  • Safety Jaquan Brisker, cornerback Kyler Gordon and reserve linebacker Sterling Weatherford were all inactive with injuries. That’s in addition, of course, to the face that the Bears really don’t have a good cornerback situation opposite Jaylon Johnson. So Kindle Vildor, Jaylon Jones and DeAndre Houston Carsen started in the defensive backfield. The Jets took advantage to get a touchdown on the opening drive.
  • In addition, Eddie Jackson went down in the second quarter and I honestly lost track of who was playing after that. Elijah Hicks seemed to be getting more time at that point. In any case, ugly break for a defense that was ugly to begin with.
  • It appeared to me that the Bears started playing bend but don’t break and keeping everything in front of them. That works as long as you don’t have critical mistakes in the red zone, which the Bears certainly did. It was Vildor falling down and leaving a receiver wide wide open in the end zone.
  • The Bears then switched to a more aggressive defense, playing more man-to-man and covering more tightly. The end result wasn’t great. The Jets racked up 466 total yards.
  • The defensive linemen played better against the run this week. They were all over up and down the line plugging holes and they did get some penetration. The Jets still got 158 yards on 32 carries (4.9 ypc). It looked to me like the Bears simply had a lot of trouble getting off of blocks all over the field.
  • As usual, the Bears struggled to get pressure on Mike White getting only 1 sack. That led to White having a lot of success. Credit to White for having a good day (22/28 for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns and a 149.3 passer rating). But let’s wait until he plays a real NFL defense before crowning him the next Jets franchise quarterback.

Offense

  • Bears QB Trevor Siemian injured his oblique in pregame throwing doubt upon the possibility that he cold start. Nathan Peterman was next up for the Bears. Peterman’s last start was with the Bills against the Bears in 2018 — he threw three interceptions and had a 45.3 passer rating in a 41-9 loss. Fortunately, Siemian took a shot and managed to play. Otherwise this debacle would have likely been even worse.
  • It was nice to watch Siemian operate the Bears passing offense in the first half. He looked to me like he was reading the defense dropping back hitting his back foot and throwing the ball on time to the correct receiver. It was an efficient performance (XXXX stats). Hopefully quarterback Justin Fields was watching closely. The Bears would be in heaven if they could get Fields to do that from the pocket in addition to his wonderful talent running with the football.
  • Teven Jenkins was back a left guard. He did well to my eye. Larry Borom entered in place of Reily Reiff at right tackle after Reiff came up with some sort of injury early in the first quarter. Calling all I thought the line did a decent job, especially in the first half, of containing a very good Jets front seven. And in fact, the Jets did start bringing an extra man on occasion. That’s significant because they blitz very rarely.
  • Borom also missed a block on an important third down in the third quarter that was a pretty ugly mistake. But, truly, I wonder if he had been playing the last few games instead of coming in rusty if he would’ve made that mistake. Even now, I think that the Bears would’ve been better off developing Borom as a young lineman rather than putting Reiff in.
  • The second half wasn’t good for the offense. Siemian was holding the ball looking for receivers that evidently weren’t open and the Jets started to get pressure. The offense just couldn’t move. This was more like the offense that we saw the first half of the season before Fields started to use his legs. The end result was that Siemian was 14/25 for 179 yards and a 75.3 passer rating.
  • The Bears apparently decided that it was time to get Chase Claypool more involved this week. Claypool was their endzone target on their first drive (the pass was incomplete) and seemed to be the guys that Siemian was trying to go to most often in single coverage when the Bears needed a play. He had 2 receptions for 51 yards as their big play threat.
  • Darrynton Evans did a nice job at running back, apparently in place of the less than effective Trestan Ebner. Probably they have been waiting for Evans to become more trustworthy protecting the quarterback before they play him. Ebner’s play eventually forced the change. All things considered he did well with some decent runs (9 carries for 34 yards) and a reception for 33 yards.
  • I didn’t think that this was Montgomery’s best game (79 yards on 14 carries and 3 catches for 34 yards). He seemed to be spending a lot of time running into the backs of his blockers.
  • The Bears were a miserable 4 of 13 on third down. That is bad offense that being 2 of 3 on fourth down doesn’t make a lot better.

Miscellaneous

  • Joe Davis (play-by-play), Daryl Johnston (analyst), Pam Oliver (reporter) were your announcers. Nice job by Johnston pointing out that the referees were going to allow some physical play in the defensive backfield today. Johnston also did a nice job of highlighting the play of Jack Sanborn (15 tackles, 10 solo and 1 for loss), who I think even the most average Bears fan is starting to notice.
  • Crazy special teams mistake by the Jets in the second quarter. It appeared that the ball got a little bit slick with the rain coming down and the holder fumbled the ball on an easy field goal. The Bears had to pick it up a couple of times trying to advance it before they finally recovered it for good. Unfortunately, they ruled the initial fumble an incomplete pass and it all came back. But apparently the wet ball was like a greased pig out there. At least for that play.
  • The Bears had only one penalty for 10 yards today. Unfortunatley the Jets also only had one for five yards.
  • The Bears once again lost the turnover battle with a Siemian an interception near the end of the game with the Bears needing a play.
  • Even considering that we all know that the team isn’t very good and that this year is all about development of young players, like it was tough to watch what I think is a rather mediocre Jets team destroy the Bears today. Players have started to go down like flies late in the season where they haven’t had a bye week yet. Eventually, what was already a bad defense simply broke. Such is life in the NFL. Better for it to happen in a year like this then in a year where the Bears have higher expectations.

It’s Never Too Early to Start Looking for Your Next Quarterback

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

Any QBs in the draft next April that have a similar skill set to Justin Fields (a duel threat vs. a pocket passer) that Bears could consider targeting in the fourth to seventh rounds? That would emulate the Baltimore Ravens’ approach with mobile backup Tyler Huntley backing up Lamar Jackson. — @jboba

Interesting question and something to keep in mind moving forward. My first reaction is the hit rate on quarterbacks in Round 1 is very bad, as everyone knows. The hit rate on quarterbacks in later rounds — even as backups — only gets worse. Typically, No. 2 quarterbacks tend to be guys that have circulated around the league and proven themselves with a little bit of playing time. That’s what the Bears have right now in Trevor Siemian, who signed a two-year contract in the spring. He was a seventh-round pick out of Northwestern and made 24 starts with the Denver Broncos in his second and third seasons to build a resume that will keep him employed for a while.

Huntley signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2020 and was pressed into action with four starts last season, the first of which was at Soldier Field in a 16-13 Baltimore victory. Huntley’s skills give the Ravens a similar player to Jackson, as you note.

I am intrigued by the idea but wonder if it’s too soon to make this a priority. The Bears obviously value Siemian for what he brings to their quarterback room and they have so many needs across both sides of the ball that I think using a draft pick on a quarterback would be a wish list item in 2023.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. It’s never too early to be looking for your next quarterback, even if it’s just a back up.

I realize that the Bears have a lot of needs. But it’s thinking like this that leads you to the point where you are scrambling around in desperation mode looking for somebody when you need a quarterback and you don’t have one. Even with Fields looking as good as he does as a starter for the future, there is no guarantee that he will be a complete hit long-term. For one thing, he’s a running quarterback who could get badly hurt at any time. For another, I think its safe to say that no one is completely sold on him yet passing the ball – his primary job as a quarterback.

Even if you are 100% convinced that Fields is the guy going forward, the Bears cannot afford to be complacent and simply look to fill other immediate needs. It’s this kind of thinking that leads teams to be on the kind of merry go round that the Bears have been on since… well, forever.

Quarterback is always a need.

If the Bears see a quarterback that they like that they can get in one of those later rounds – a big if – even if its just to fill the third quarterback spot on the roster behind Siemian, they need to take him. You can never pass up somebody like that no matter how long the odds are of hitting on the position.

GM Ryan Poles needs to look toward the future at the quarterback position. Always. No matter what the immediate needs are. He simply cannot afford to do otherwise for the long-term health of the franchise.