A Win is a Win – and Matt Eberflus Needed a Win

| November 28th, 2023

Last night’s gritty, ugly 12-10 win over the Vikings may soon become a career-defining game for their Head Coach — Matt Eberflus took the helm in Chicago and immediately articulated a plan to create a tenacious, turnover-hungry defense that would win games behind a balanced ball-control offense, and that’s exactly the plan we saw in action on Monday Night.

Can this plan work forever? We’ll know more in two weeks’ time as they take their second shot at the Lions. For now, sit back and enjoy a rare victory Tuesday — we never get enough of them.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good:

  • Chicago’s defensive turnaround deserves more than just a hat tip. I’ve written thousands of words about how disappointed I am in Matt Eberflus’ tenure with the Chicago Bears, but Chicago’s defense is playing too well to not give the man his flowers. Young players are developing (Gervon Dexter had a great game, Kyler Gordon has a nose for the football, Tyrique Stevenson has flashed competency in his rookie year, etc), core pieces are producing (namely Montez Sweat, who’s tilted the field for Chicago on key downs), and now that the defensive line seems to be creating pressure somewhat consistently the DBs are beginning to shine.
    • It’s good old-fashioned team defense, and who doesn’t love that? Everyone’s getting their fair share of takeaways — linebackers, safeties, and corners alike are getting chances to catch the ball, largely because the Bears haven’t left many safe areas to attack within their defense. What a difference a little pressure from the DL makes!
  • Jaylon Johnson is playing phenomenal ball right now. CB Jaylon Johnson has blanketed his matchups over the last two weeks and is giving himself chances to make plays on the ball — he swung the tide of the game early by picking off Josh Dobbs’ attempt at a Cover 2 hole shot, nearly hauled in a Pick-Six on a 3rd-down route-jump later in the game, and even deflected away a pass that landed in the hands of TJ Edwards.
    • Don’t get too hung up on the Pick-Sixes that he’s failed to successfully haul in — he’s playing with great process, letting him break on passes early and make plays on the ball. The INTs will come, and with Jaylon already at a career-high 3 INTs on the year it’s hard to imagine that he isn’t turning a corner. An extension may be in order after all.

  • The Offensive Line came up big late in the game. With the chips down at the end of the game, the Offensive Line provided clean pockets galore for Justin Fields’ winning drive. The blitz gave the OL trouble early, especially when an injury briefly sidelined de-facto OL captain Teven Jenkins, but when their QB most needed protection this young, hungry OL unit delivered just that.

The Bad

  • Screens, screens, and more screens. Brian Flores brought the house throughout the entire first quarter, but did OC Luke Getsy really need to call what felt like 15 screens in order to slow down the pass rush? Getsy’s game plan felt gratuitous, haphazard, and seemed to lack trust in its’ quarterback — The All-22 will tell us more about the opportunities Chicago passed up on down the field, but for now I can’t condone the way Getsy ran the game. You won’t win many games with an offense that stalls out early in the 2nd quarter and never seems to regain its mojo.
  • Penalties are becoming an issue. Despite this regime preaching a lack of penalties as a positive throughout last year’s lost season, Chicago has now allowed 143 yards on 13 penalties throughout the last 2 weeks. These free first downs annihilate Bears’ offensive drives while extending the drives of Chicago’s opponents, and as we saw this evening those penalties add up over time.
  • Chicago’s three late fumbles should’ve spelled the end. Roschon Johnson & Justin Fields’ fumbles within Field Goal range on the drive that would’ve given the Bears a 2-score lead were inexcusable. There isn’t a more lenient word I can use, either — after collecting your 4th takeaway of the evening, it speaks to a lack of team discipline that both Chicago’s lead runningback and starting quarterback fumbled the ball, giving up a lead to Minnesota in the process. Then, with the game on the line, Fields gave the ball away to Minnesota one again via a 2nd fumble. The timing couldn’tve been any worse.
    • If this was an isolated incident, just one game, I’d mark tonight’s fumbles as a bizarre fluke that wasn’t likely to happen again. But between the Denver game and nearly all of 2022, is it fair to say that Justin Fields may always have fumble issues? I imagine that’s a question the Bears will look to answer within the next few weeks.

The Ugly

  • Barely scraping a win out of a dominant defensive performance feels unsustainable (and all too familiar). While I’d love to write about how the defense has a path to creating 3-4 turnovers in every given week, life in the NFL isn’t so easy — teams will adjust to what the Bears are doing defensively, and I imagine Chicago’s defense will settle down at 1-2 turnovers per game. But when they aren’t +2 or +3 in the turnover margin, is their offense capable of scoring enough to win games regardless?
    • We’ll find out soon, but I have my doubts — the Vikings have a budding defense, but 12 points given 4 turnovers and outstanding field position feels like an underperformance. This game should’ve never been close, an early touchdown might’ve shut down the Vikings out for good, but despite all of the advantages Chicago’s defense provided its offense with, the offense still needed a late rally to secure the 2-point win. How long can they keep this up? We’ll find out.

Postgame Podcast:

Nick and I recorded a podcast where we talked through the ups, the downs, the ins, and the outs of Chicago’s big win here:

Your Turn: How do you feel about yesterday’s game?

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