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.
- 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.
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 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.