- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune has 10 thoughts after the Bears loss to the Vikings on Sunday.
“On the first snap Sunday, the Vikings showed six men at the line of scrimmage. The Bears were in an empty formation with quarterback Justin Fields in the shotgun. Outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum came off the offense’s left edge unblocked. Left tackle Larry Borom was turned inside, engaged with a blocker. That left Wonnum with a free run at Fields and a blindside sack for a 7-yard loss.
“That set the tone for the Vikings immediately.”
I wrote basically the same thing on my note pad when it happened.
Head coach Matt Eberflus later acknowledged that Fields was responsible for Wonnum. He was supposed to get rid of the ball with the free blitzer coming. He didn’t.
Like so many things about the game Sunday, this was very predictable. Its happened over and over again to Fields against teams that blitz far less than the Vikings do. Field had to anticipate the possibility that free guy might come off the edge and be prepared for it. He didn’t.
I knew before the game even started that this was going to happen and I’m not a football genius by any stretch. Either the coaches didn’t prepare Fields for it or he just can’t execute the plan. I’m betting the latter but either way this is a bad, bad sign.
- Biggs takes pains to make sure that all of the burden of the poor offensive play doesn’t fall on Fields. Here he quotes tight end Cole Kmet.
“Kmet said: ‘I’ve got to take a look at the film, honestly. A lot of things we saw on tape, I think we saw on the field. It just comes down to our execution. It has to be better.’
“‘Everything,’ Kmet said. ‘Timing. Guys knowing who to go to. Depth on routes. Everything. We can be better up front. I was really involved today in the protection schemes. Guys coming off the edge, have to pick up there, chipping guys, whatever it is. We’ve just got to be better all around.
“‘So that’s communication on the line, making sure everyone knows who we’re going to. Knowing who our hots are. Guys getting open. All that stuff. It was a conglomerate of things but definitely have to take a look at the film.'”
When you ask someone what went wrong and the answer is “Everything” you know what the issue is. Its not talent. Its not individual players breaking down here and there where you can put it on individuals in key situations.
Its preparation and coaching.
The Bears knew what was coming just as five other teams knew what was coming when the Vikings played the games before the Bears. They were 1-4 and thought to have among the worst defenses in the league. The Bears just didn’t execute on a massive scale and failed where other teams have consistently succeeded. You don’t have to know the nitty gritty specifics to know that’s a coaching problem.
- Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic has some things to say about Fields and the state of the offense:
“So much of the 2023 season has been about evaluating Fields. It was supposed to be easier than in 2022 when he had the worst roster in football around him. Injuries up front and in the backfield, a receiver who got traded and an in-season changeup to how the offense looks have robbed him of that stability.
“He also hasn’t been consistent, with two great games and four that have been well below average, and now is dealing with an injury. If he can return after missing only one game, he’ll be on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers and their fifth-highest sack rate, and then on the road in the Superdome against the New Orleans Saints, a defense fifth in the league in interception rate.
I completely agree with this.
Fields injury is really problematic for the Bears. With all of the talk about losing and having high draft picks again in the 2024 draft, its important to not lose sight of the fact that this is season is mostly about evaluating Fields in his third and most critical year. The Bears have to know what they have in Fields before this season is over.
So far I can’t say that I’m optimistic about the chances that Fields is going to be the franchise quarterback that the Bears have been searching for. But its sill too early to tell definitely. The Bears need to see more. They need to see what they can get out of Fields with his limited field vision and whether that will eventually be enough with all of his other talents.
Fields is who he is now. But no one is perfect and even mediocre quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. And he has his strengths.
Could Fields get to the point where he recognizes pre-snap looks better? Could the Bears design an offense that limits Fields need to make every read and improve his decision making on those he makes? Will he be good enough to make the Bears competitive?
We just don’t know the answer to that and we won’t know unless both Fields and the team have a chance to further adjust to the current situation. Here’s hoping Fields makes a quick recovery.
One Final Thought
Biggs was also answering your questions this week:
“Where is Kevin Warren? Wasn’t he hired for this exact reason? Once again, the Bears’ total incompetence from the top down is an embarrassment to the fan base. — @heapbig
“What would you propose Warren do right now? It would be great if he could rush the quarterback or fill one of the holes created by injuries on the offensive line. But he was a basketball player in college.
“I’m pretty certain Warren’s No. 1 order of business is the new stadium initiative, which seems sort of stalled months after the team finalized its purchase of the land in Arlington Heights. Warren is overseeing all aspects of the organization. He has been at the road games. He’s prominent at Soldier Field on game days. I’d bet good money he’s as disappointed as you are with the 1-5 record.
“Maybe you would like to hear Warren publicly say he’s not happy with the team’s struggles through the first six games. Perhaps that would make you feel like he’s on your side and devoted to cleaning things up. Would that really make a difference, though? That might send a message to potential future hires that the Bears have an overbearing president/CEO who doesn’t have a background in football personnel. Would that help the Bears the next time they are seeking to fill a key position?”
I couldn’t agree more with this. With both Biggs and the Bears.
I haven’t said it recently because the Bears have done exactly what I would have over the past 10 years or more but there was a time when I was constantly harping on the fact that Bears general managers, mostly Jerry Angelo, had a bad habit of popping up with comments mid-season.
If I’m running the Bears I want the players hearing one voice and one voice only and that’s the head coach. This is his time and he’s in charge. They don’t need to be confused by messages coming from the front office.
The time for upper management to speak is when the season is over and high level decisions need to be made in the month of January. Once that is done its up to the GM until the season starts again.
One organization. One voice at a time. One message. No confusion.