Disappointed, But Not Surprised

| November 6th, 2023

I’ve been trying to come up with something passion-fueled to say this morning, but honestly yesterday’s Bears game was one of the most ho-hum performances I’ve ever seen.

The Bears’ offense surprised early and moved the ball with ease, but ultimately their UDFA Rookie QB struggled with turnovers late and became yet another Bears QB that can’t seem to score points in the 4th quarter.

The Bears’ defense held the Saints’ offense to a hair over 300 yards on the day (and a very solid 4.9 yards per play), but when you take a look at Derek Carr’s passing chart it becomes clear that Chicago didn’t challenge the Saints to do anything dangerous and the Saints offense willfully obliged. For the fourth time in the Eberflus era, this resulted in zero sacks and zero takeaways on what must’ve felt like an easy day for New Orleans.

This game played out so similarly to the rest of the Matt Eberflus era that I don’t have it in me to get mad about results like this anymore. You could say it was ‘Disappointing, but not Surprising’ and I’d agree with you. Chicago’s defensive head coach needed his offense to be the leaders today, and ultimately that was too tall an ask for a Rookie UDFA QB playing against DVOA’s 8th toughest defense in football. As usual, that added up to a loss.

Oh well. Onwards to Thursday!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good:

  • Cole Kmet, Take A Bow. Kmet has been a lightning rod for criticism ever since Matt Nagy picked him in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft, but against New Orleans the 24-year-old tight end stepped up in a huge way. He capped off the Bears’ first drive with the most physical catch of his life (turning a potentially dangerous throw into a touchdown in the process), added another score just two drives later on a perfect block/release route, and stacked big first downs for his quarterback throughout the rest of the game.
    • Most Fantasy Football experts have identified a Tight End’s ‘breakout age’ to be between 25 & 26 — could Cole Kmet’s best days be ahead of him? Days like Sunday make you believe he just might have a ‘next step’ in him.
  • Who doesn’t love good offensive line play? Darnell Wright played another stout game on the right side, Teven Jenkins buried multiple defenders in the run game, and Braxton Jones slotted in at Left Tackle as if he hadn’t missed any time at all… until his coaches pulled him and set him & Larry Borom on another one of the OL Rotations we’ve become accustomed to in Chicago. Still, the young core of the offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage for the majority of the game — nothing could be more important for the Bears’ future than seeing that become consistent.
    • NFL Next Gen Stats has Tyson Bagent’s Time To Throw clocked at 3.29 seconds, yet the young QB only took 2 sacks on 30 dropbacks — I’d call that a credit to Chicago’s offensive line, especially since New Orleans’ EDGE Rushers are a difficult pair to keep at bay.
  • The Defense tackled well, but I’m waiting for the All-22 to assign credit. Everyone flew around throughout the day — Jack Sanborn, TJ Edwards, Montez Sweat, and all the DBs made tackles chasing down RBs and cutting down underneath WRs. Ultimately the performance wasn’t enough to keep New Orleans at bay, but the broadcast copy didn’t seem to point the finger at any particular defensive player moreso than the scheme itself. The players played the scheme admirably.

The Bad

  • Tyson Bagent, rookie or not, was too chaotic down the stretch. Tyson Bagent had a fabulous first half — he distributed the football, he took shots past the line of scrimmage, he targeted NFL windows, and he navigated pockets with poise. Unfortunately, as the Saints defense shifted away from Zone coverage and mixed in more Man coverage looks, windows got tighter for Bagent as the clock ticked down and it seems nerves got the better of the young signal caller. Suffice to say, no QB is going to succeed when they turn the ball over three times in the 4th quarter.
    • A big-picture note on Bagent: Too many on the internet laid unreasonable expectations on a UDFA rookie and are now acting disappointed that he looks like a rookie QB. I’m not a fan of that. Tyson Bagent only started repping the Bears’ in-season offense 6 weeks ago (he was surely running scout team until he was named the backup in Week 5), so he’s learning what he can & can’t do against NFL starting defenses on the job. If anything, I’m surprised a performance like this didn’t happen sooner.
    • In the bigger picture, Bagent showed during the first half that he can operate an NFL offense efficiently when his run game is working for him and the score is close. That is much more than anyone should’ve expected from a UDFA Rookie QB, especially given that his background compares better to 5th round pick Clayton Tune and UDFA Veteran Backup Brett Rypien than other starters around the league. The moment he started getting compared to Justin Fields, Brock Purdy, and other starters was the moment he’d already vastly exceeded expectations — don’t let four nasty turnovers in his 2nd road start seal your opinion of him.
  • I hate this staff’s willingness to rotate OL. I’ve never seen an organization so willing to create chaos on the offensive line for the sake of ‘getting a guy some work’ — the only traditional times we see offensive lines change mid-game is when players get hurt, but this Bears org willingly creates that change when they rotate in offensive linemen coming off of injuries. I don’t want to be blind to an injured player’s stamina/conditioning, but is it really so surprising that Tyson Bagent’s strip sack came with Larry Borom in the game? I can’t (and won’t) pretend to understand how the rotation helps.
  • The defensive game plan will never stop frustrating me. Eddie Jackson ‘said that on film, [the Bears] saw a Saints team that threw it downfield. They expected more chances at INTs’. I don’t know why they expected that after a week where Justin Herbert checked the ball down to extreme success. The Bears’ defensive willingness to call Cover 2/Tampa 2 with a 4-down rush opens them up to major gashes underneath when they don’t tackle. It also opens up the middle of the field when their linebackers overreact to Play Action handoffs. Want to guess where New Orleans made their hay?

The Ugly

  • ‘Playing the Vets’ defeats the purpose of the season. Gervon Dexter & Zacch Pickens got less than 15 snaps each despite Dexter clearly making strides. Tyrique Stevenson got benched as the game got close despite Carr rarely testing the outside boundary. Matt Eberflus clearly smelled a chance to win his 6th game in his Bears tenure and elected to play experienced players over the rookies that stand to be part of this organization for longer than he does, and I see that as a glaring lack of understanding.
    • I mean no disrespect to Jaylon Jones in saying this — the former UDFA has played well when given chances throughout the 2023 season, and you truly can never have too many good DBs. But I didn’t see Tyrique do anything bench-worthy before Jaylon got sent in the game. To me, this felt like a coach under pressure trying to ‘control what he can control’ — I’m not a fan. Do what’s best for the organization and get rewarded by the rest of the league.
  • The Bears’ inability to close out games is a disease. The Quarterback has changed, the Wide Receivers have changed, the Offensive Line has largely changed, but one truth still remains — once the 4th quarter starts, the Bears’ offense can’t pass the ball. The defense gave them four chances to simply tie the game, and all four ended in either a turnover or a 3-and-out. Eventually, the coaching staff has to answer for results this consistent.

Postgame Podcast:

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

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

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