Quick Game Comments: Bears at Browns 9/26/21

American author Simone Elkeles once said, “I want to try making things right because picking up the pieces is way better than leaving them the way they are.” That’s the task facing the Bears this week. Because leaving the pieces the way that they were today is going to make for a very long year.

The spread for this game opened at the Browns -7.5 over the Bears on Sunday and never moved all week. I heard a few Bears media members question the spread wondering, not just why it was so large, but why the Bears weren’t actually favored. I think now we know why. They were out played and out coached in virtually every area today.

It was a tough game for quarterback Justin Fields in his first NFL start. The rookie looked exhausted at the end of this beating and you could understand why. The Browns threw a variety of stunts and blitzes at the Bears offense and you have to wonder, even if they had seen them all on film and prepared for them, if they could have stopped them. It was impossible to even begin to judge his performance because he never had a chance. Fields has certainly never played in a game like that in his entire life. You only hope now that he has what it takes to fight back and recover rather than allowing this game to psychologically damage him to the point where his chances of success in the league are seriously affected.

At least some of the sacks were on Fields. But most of them were a result of an offensive line that was overwhelmed and unprepared for the onslaught and which got very little help once it because evident that they were having trouble handling it. If the Bers were going max protect to help their beleaguered quarterback, I didn’t see it much.

The Browns defensive backfield, supposedly the weakness of their team, had a field day against the Bears receivers in man coverage. Knowing that the Bears had to get the ball out fast, they sat on short routes and made it impossible for Bears receivers to get open.

It will be on head coach Matt Nagy to clean up this mess. It is now his task and that of his coaches and players to face the film, try to get a handle on the many problem that this game exposed and to formulate a plan to tackle the massive task of correcting them. It going to be a long week and beyond as the team pulls itself together. We will find out what they and their young quarterback are made of in the process.


  • The Bears appeared to play a lot of two deep zone defense today as they usually do. Quarterback Baker Mayfield did a good job of trying to hit the soft spots in the zone and was generally effective despite some problems with his accuracy.
  • It was a really good day for the Bears defensive front today. It would not be going to say that the front seven was dominant when rushing the passer, putting Baker Mayfield under good pressure for most of the day. Khalil Mack had 2 sacks despite leaving the game early along with Akiem Hicks. Both came back. Robert Quin had 1.5 sacks as he continues to recover from a miserable year last year. The team as a whole had 5 as Bears defensive coordinator continued to scheme sacks for them in a way that Chuck Pagano never did.
  • It helped that the defensive line got Mario Edwards Jr. back from a two-game suspension. He reportedly was one of the best players in training camp, constantly getting into the backfield. He had 1 sack and was disruptive as was Jeremiah Attoachu.
  • The Bears allowed 215 yards rushing (5.1 yards per carry) and you could say that the loss of Eddie Goldman to a knee injury affected the game. But in fairness, the Browns have two dynamic runners in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and a strong offensive line. And it didn’t help that the Bears defense wore down after being left out on the field for almost 40 minutes as the Browns dominated time of possession.
  • Duke Shelley gave up a lot of key completions last week and had a miserable day. Cooper Kupp got loose against the Bears in the opener as he caught four passes for 83 yards going against Marqui Christian. Shelley replaced Christian against the Bengals, and they completed six of seven passes targeting Shelley for 72 yards and a 109.5 rating. According to Pro Football Reference, opponents had a 118.1 rating throwing against Shelley last season. However, I didn’t see that much wrong with what Shelley did today. It was a nice job of recovering after such a terrible game and the effort may make Bears fans feel better about the nickel corner back position from here on out.
  • The Bears linebackers had a tough day in coverage. Both Hunt and tight end Austin Hooper had big chunk gains against the Bers defense. Running back Demetric Felton also had some good gains early.
  • I’m surprised Alec Ogletree hasn’t been exposed that much in coverage yet. Most of the burden appears to have fallen to Roquan Smith and doesn’t look like he’s been asked to do it much. Ogletree has generally looked OK and is more mobile than Danny Trevathan at this point in his career. Before today he has been on the field for 80 of 107 defensive snaps (74.8%) and has eight tackles with a quarterback hit that led to defensive lineman Angelo Blackson’s interception Sunday.

  • The Bears also really struggled to cover Odell Beckham in his first game back after suffering an ACL injury last year. Beckham really made a statement as it didn’t matter who was covering him. He couldn’t be handled.
  • Its notable that the Bears got burned by the back shoulder throw a couple times this game, once by Beckham and once by Donovan Peoples-Jones. This pass is almost uncoverable when executed well and I’ve wondered why more teams don’t do it more often.


  • The Browns gave up 544 yards passing in the first 2 weeks of the season. The Bears had 86 yards passing last week against the Bengals. This game was always going to come down in large part to which was worse, the Browns secondary or the Bears passing offense. I think that statement was definitively made. The Bears had 41 yards of offense and 2 first downs at halftime. Their game total was a miserable 47 yards with 1 yard passing. You read that right – 1 yard passing. The time of possession was only 20:26 as they were dominated in every phase of the game.
  • The Browns defense have two game-wrecking pass rushers in defensive ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney (2 sacks) and both showed their quality, especially Garrett who had a career day with 4.5 sacks. The Bears offensive line was virtually helpless giving up 9 sacks total. Not all of them were their fault. But most were. Pressure came from the outside, it came from the middle, it came from everywhere. Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods put together a package of stunts and blitzes for Fields, at least some of which the Bears had likely not seen. Fields may have been part of the problem but the offensive line was the vast majority of it as they handled everything poorly today. It was noticable that head coach Matt Nagy did very little to help the line out. I didn’t see much max protect out thee and I don’t think the tight ends gave a lot of help to the offensive tackles.
  • We saw the Bears make a more of an effort to push the ball downfield against the Bengals but the Bears were still near the bottom of the league going in yards per attempt going into the game today. This game won’t help (0.0 yards per attempt!) as the Bears had to get the ball out fast to protect Justin Fields from the vicious Browns pass rush. This also allowed the Browns to smother the Bears receivers knowing that they weren’t going to be going downfield with the ball. I was worried that the Bears weren’t going to be able to beat man coverage when the season started. I’d say this game didn’t ease those concerns.
  • Justin Fields threw 13 times last week and virtually every meaningful pass was to the outside. Its hard to judge when there is so little success offensively overall and ahough they didn’t complete many (if any), I was glad to see that they at least attempted a few over the middle today.
  • A big story going into this game was going to be whether head coach Matt Nagy was going to do anything to help Justin Fields out. It’s very hard to judge under the circumstances but I would say that Nagy did. Nagy made a concerted effort to help Fields by running the ball with a heavy doese of David Montgomery. I saw some designed runs and some roll outs and a fair bit of play action. So I think its fair to cut Nagy some slack on that front.


  • In some ways this was a clean game. There were no turnovers and few if any dropped passes. The Bears had 5 penalties (44 yards) and the Browns had 7 with only a 48 yard pass interference call thtat was really damaging – and it was a very poor call by the official. Bears special teams had a little trouble in coverage and the Browns special teams unit had at least two penalties by my count so there might be some things to clean up there. But over all it wasn’t bad.

Quick Game Comments: Bengals at Bears 9/19/21

American Poet Mark Strand once said, “The future is always beginning now.” Never was that more true than today. Most Bears fans will agree that this game was really about Justin Fields emergence from the sideline to play his first significant half of football. And, oh, by the way, they also won the game over the Bengals.

I wouldn’t call this a great game by Fields but I will say that he looked like he belonged and he deserves credit for doing just enough to help the team win.

Some felt that putting Fields out onto the playing surface for isolated plays here and there was too disruptive to the flow of the game for both Fields and Andy Dalton. Well, no one will be saying that today. After Dalton injured a knee near the end of the first half, Fields entered the game. Dalton came back in for a series but in the end he had to go to the locker room, perhaps never to play again for the Bears. It was evident that he thought he could still play. They Bears decided that they wanted to see more of Field. He got the rest of the game to show what he could do.

To me the big question with Fields has been whether he can play from the pocket. No quarterback can truly succeed in the NFL long term without being able to do that. The evident goal has been to get Fields to the point where he could and he hadn’t shown it to this point. Most of his best plays were when he made his read, didn’t find a receiver and ran. That was true again today.

Fields was just a little bit off for most of the half. He generally held the ball too long. His balls tended to be just a tad bit late and/or just a little bit too far out in front of the receivers. He looks like he still needs to work on his timing. He had some trouble with some false starts when it looked like he was trying to get the snap and he was laying back on his back foot in anticipation of getting it. He’s going to have to clean that up. And, of course, he threw a bad interception deep in Bears territory with the team up by 10 points late in the fourth quarter. It resulted in a Bengals touchdown and a razor thin 3 point lead which the Bears managed to hold onto in the end.

So Fields was generally up and down when he wasn’t running with the ball. But as expected, it was his mobility that made the difference and he used it to good effect to make plays to finish the game out.

It wasn’t a great start. But it was a start and probably a new future for a franchise badly in need of one.


  • The Bears didn’t do much play action last week despite the fact that the running game worked quite well. So it was nice to see Andy Dalton throw a play action pass the first play the game. I wish they had done more of it as the game wore on.
  • And that’s because David Montgomery picked up where he left off from last week and came out running well. Montgomery ran 20 times for 61 very tough yards where he frequently made a few yards out of nothing. Overall the Bears ran for 123 yards and it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that Montgomery was the beating heart of the offense.
  • Last week the Bears hardly ever threw the ball beyond 10 yards. They threw at least four passes beyond that much on the first drive alone, ending the drive with a pass to Allen Robinson. Over the course of the game they averaged a very disappointing 3.1 yards per pass and that has to come up. But I’ll give them credit for at least taking their shots on occasion. Now they just have to complete more of them.
  • The Bears were not good on third down and terrible on fourth down last week against the Rams despite working on this aspect of their game all summer. They were a substandard 6 for 15 on third down and 0 for 1 on fourth down today. So more work needs to be done in this critical area.
  • Supposedly the Bengals were going to play single high safety man-to-man coverage. However the Rams had a lot of success playing a two deep safety zone against the Bears last week. As it turns out the Bengals chose to follow the Rams game plan this week. However the Bears attacked the zone this week instead of simply throwing short and the results were better and they moved the ball to much greater effect. Eventually they went back to man-to-man And although they weren’t pressing the Bears like I thought they might, it was still more effective.
  • I thought that it was interesting that the Bengals started off by rushing three and trying to confuse Fields by playing coverage. It didn’t work very well as Fields was left with all day to survey the field and wait for someone to come open. Eventually they started to blitz him and that had a much greater effect. Assuming Fields continues to start, I think that’s what we’ll see a lot of until Fields shows that he can burn the teams that try it.
  • My guess is that smart defenses will avoid fancy adjustments and simply play the Bears offense in the way that best fits their own strengths from here on out figuring that they can beat the Bears if they make them play their own game the way that the Rams and, ultimately, the Bengals did.

  • Tough day for the interior of the Bears offense of line. They gave up a number of sacks and pressures and were generally dominated by the Bengals defensive tackles. That has to get better. They are supposedly the strength of the unit.


  • To my surprise, the Bengals came out and attacked Jaylon Johnson this week. I would’ve thought they would’ve gone after Kindle Vildor, who you would think was the weakest link on the outside in the Bears defensive backfield. On the other hand they also attacked Duke Shelley, who started this game after he was a game day inactive last week. And that was not a surprise. Shelley reclaimed the job today after spending the offseason as the starting nickel cornerback. But coaches went with Marqui Christian against the Rams. It didn’t matter as Shelly has a miserable game.
  • I think we can officially consider nickel cornerback to be a serious issue.

  • Sean Desai did a good job of designing pass rushes upfront to take advantage of the talent in the Bears front seven. There were lots of twists and stunts and other games that were being played upfront that were reasonably effective at getting pressure on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
  • The Bears have been starting young draft picks at quarterback in an effort to save cap space at other positions for 5 years now. Starting with Mitch Trubisky and now with Justin Fields, not having to pay a franchise quarterback allowed the Bears to pay money to a lot of other players at a lot of other positions. They’ve invested money into the pass rush (Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn) and into safety (namely Eddie Jackson). And over the last two years the players at these positions have consistently failed to live up to their billing. And their salaries.
  • Today was different however and I thought these players came through. Khalil Mack had a sack as did apparent free agent bust Robert Quinn. Quinn also looked like he was penetrating and generally causing some havoc today. Eddie Jackson caused a fumble that resulted in a Bears field goal in the third quarter. All in all a good day for the Bears cap space. That needs to continue.


  • The Bears looked flat in their first game last Sunday and they needed to play with an edge today. I thought that they came out and played with much greater energy at the beginning of the game this week. I found that to be encouraging.
  • The Bears opened as a 3 point favorite against the Bengals at home but it was a bad sign when that line fell to only 2 points on Friday when the sharp money came in. Apparently the bookies had it right in the beginning. Although the Bengals looked to me to be the better team when I watched them play the Vikings last week, I thought they came out just a bit flat today after what was probably a big win for them.
  • As it so often is, turnovers were the story of this game. The Bears really made hay on them today as a fumble caused by Jackson resulted in three points and a pick-six by Roquan Smith resulted in seven more. An interception by Johnson would have given the Bears three more points but in offensive pass interference Cole Kmet took the Bears at a field goal range. The situation was saved by and Angelo Blackson interception on the next pro possession which resulted in a field goal.
  • On the negative side was Fields’ his first career interception deep in Bears territory with the Bears up by 10 points. The Bengals pulled to within three points with the resulting touchdown. This is a situation where you just can’t throw it late in the game while protecting such a lead and it could have led to a disastrous finish.

  • This was a game where the Bears coaches had to make corrections, especially in the Bears defensive backfield and I’m not sure that they did so successfully.
  • Last week the Bears picked up right where they left off last season: they had an offense that couldn’t score and had a defense that is no longer dominant and may not even be top 10 in the league. It was the performance of that defense that was most disappointing. In particular, the tackling was poor and this veteran defense committed a number of mental errors, allowing the Rams to score quickly,
    often and far too easily.
  • The Bears defense has been living off of its reputation far too long and it is time for it to stop talking about setting a high standard and to actually start living it. That process needed to start this week as the defense needed to make adjustments and corrections based upon the many mistakes that it committed last week. Veteran players needed better preparation and better concentration during the game to avoid costly mental errors that the Bears deficient office could not make up for.

    “(It was) just making sure that we focus on little things,” cornerback Kindle Vildor said. “The stuff that we got beat on, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this person was just better or stuff like that.’ It was little, small fundamental things that we didn’t make sure we took care of. So we pretty much buckled in on that this whole week to get ready for Sunday.”

    It was inattention to the little details that killed the Bears defense last week. You could argue that its been inattention to the little details that prevented the Bears as a whole team from executing and performing to the level of a championship caliber team for going three years now. So I was a bit disappointed to see some of those problems continue today.

    Bengals’ receivers were frequently left all but alone as they wandered through the Bears secondary. Both Johnson and Vildor let receivers get behind them deep in the fourth quarter as the Bears were protecting a 17 point lead. Penalty after penalty, some of them extremely stupid (I’m looking at you Quinn and Gipson) cost the Bears time after time as poor Montgomery had a couple very nice long runs eliminated. In the first quarter deep in their own territory the Bears once again called a time out as the play clock wore down and, coming out of the time out, got a false start penalty.

    The Bears organization thinks that they have a good, competitive team here. But these are things that good, competitive teams cannot do. Eventually they have to come to an end if the team is going to have a chance to beat teams near the top of the league.

Game Comments: Bears at Rams 9/12/21

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:>
  • “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.

  • 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.


  • 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:
  • “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.

  • 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.


  • 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.