Offense is a Roller Coaster and We’re Just Along For the Ride

| December 13th, 2023

Last night I dove deep into the Bears’ tape from Monday’s big win over Detroit — throughout the stream I talked through:

  • What are the Bears doing to create so much defensive chaos?
    • How much of their success is the players? How much is the coaching? Can it be both?
  • How are the Bears’ attacking 3rd downs defensively? What has their shift in attitude done to their 3rd down production?
  • Which young defenders have stepped up their game?
  • Who (or what) fueled the good parts of the Bears’ Sunday offense?
  • Where did Justin Fields win? Where did he struggle?
  • Who stood out on the Bears’ offensive line? Who was left lacking?
  • How much of what’s working for Chicago (both sides of the ball) is sustainable going forward?
  • The usual rants & ravings about the future of the Bears
  • And much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Your Turn: Have you jumped on the Bears’ playoff bandwagon?

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Fields and Flus: The Final Five? (‘Tis the Week 14 Game Preview with Movie Stuff Too!)

| December 8th, 2023

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?







Justin Fields. End of Story.

The Carolina Panthers are going to earn one of the top two picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. And that means – if you believe what has been written about this coming draft class – the Chicago Bears will be able to select one of the two “elite quarterback prospects” at the top of the draft: Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. And right now, it would be near impossible to see Ryan Poles passing on the position.

Justin Fields has five weeks to change that narrative.

Do you want to know what the league, at least those I know around the league, think about the situation? I sent two texts to individuals with other teams this week. Both texts were identical: “Do you think the Bears will pass on a QB and keep Fields?”

Response 1. “No.”

Response 2. “I think they might.”

I find it hard to believe the Bears have not already made their decision on Justin Fields, but if that’s the case, there’s very little left to watch over the remaining five games. So, let’s operate under the hypothetical that a verdict has yet to be reached. That creates a lovely bit of drama around the quarterback as we head into the new year.

My Ten Favorite Film Discoveries of 2023

One thing that becomes incredibly apparent as you engage any academic discipline, whether that be film studies or molecular biology, is that it’s incredibly difficult to know EVERYTHING. Every time I rewatch the films in my areas of expertise – All That Jazz, Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 12 Angry Men, etc. – there’s another film slipping through the cracks.

I didn’t see enough of the films of 2023 to compile a coherent list. But I did see about 100 films this year I had not previously seen. These were the ten most memorable for me.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America (Aki Kaurismaki, 1989). The Blues Brothers directed by Werner Herzog. On Criterion Channel.

A Moment of Innocence (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1996). Stands with Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up as the most remarkable cinematic achievements of post-revolutionary Iran. Rentable on Vimeo.

The Secret in Their Eyes (Juan Jose Campanella, 2009). The Academy Award-winning Argentine masterpiece. On Prime.

The Cancer Journals Revisited (Lana Lin, 2018). A harrowing, beautiful salute to Audre Lorde and survival. On Kanopy.

Woyzeck (Werner Herzog, 1979). The unsung collaboration of Herzog and Kinski. It is on this list because I spent months working with it and have grown to love every frame. On Kanopy.

Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023). There will be time, years, to write about this film. For now, I just encourage everyone to see it.

The Murderers are Among Us (Wolfgang Staudte, 1946). The most essential of the German “rubble films.” On Kanopy.

Rush to Judgment (Emile de Antonio, 1967). Emile de Antonio’s and Mark Lane’s stirring indictment of the Warren Commission’s conclusions. It is currently unavailable for home consumption.

The China Syndrome (James Bridges, 1979). One of the great 1970s American paranoia pictures, putting it in a corpus that includes The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, etc. Rentable everywhere.

Deadline at Dawn (Harold Clurman, 1946). The only cinematic work of Group Theater founder Harold Clurman, Dawn is a brilliant example of post-war feminist noir. Sadly, it’s also impossible to find if you’re not studying cinema at the university level or above.

Read More …

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A Big Game Looms Sunday — What Happens Next?

| December 7th, 2023

As we inch ever closer towards Sunday’s game, the Chicago Bears stand a pivot point — the results of these next 5 games may very well decide the direction of the biggest Bears offseason in recent memory, and if Head Coach Matt Eberflus wants to be on the safe side of that decision he’ll need to start winning games soon.

Could the Bears spark a win streak off of a divisional home defense? Cole Kmet seems to think so, but with a hungry Detroit team visiting town on a day that’s slated for snowy, cold weather, all we should expect is a knock-down, drag-out fight.

Anything could happen — after all, if Chicago manages to finish the season 9-8 they may very well land an NFC Wild Card spot. But before us fans dare to dream of the playoffs, first Chicago must force these Lions to settle a debt Detroit incurred only a few weeks ago. The Bears had the Lions within their grasp but let them slip away… if they’re to surge this season, they’ll have to start by winning on Sunday.

There’s enough within this game to unpack that Nick & I managed to record our longest Bear With Us episode yet — in this episode, Nick and I dive into…

  • How can we work to talk about Justin Fields as rationally as possible? What does he need to show by the end of the year?
  • What on earth has happened to the Lions’ defense?
  • Where are the Lions winning on offense? Where are they losing?
  • How does a healthy Bears team match up with this Detroit squad?
  • What does this game mean for every Bear involved
  • What have we learned about defense in the NFL from Eberflus’ 2023 season?
  • Is the league as down on Luke Getsy as most Bears fans are?
  • And much, much more…

I know I say this often, but this really is one of our best episodes yet — check it out and let me know what you think!

Your Turn: How do you feel about this weekend’s contest?

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Between Drafting a Quarterback & Sticking with Fields, There is No Bad Option in Chicago

| November 30th, 2023

If the Chicago Bears have a Top 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, chances are strong that I’ll advocate for a move at quarterback this offseason. Why? Because I love what both Drake Maye & Caleb Williams have put on tape.

I think they’re the kinds of quarterbacks you wait years to draft, each squarely in the realm of Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence. Both are cuts above your standard prospect, but through overuse of the word “generational” many have recently begun to view both Williams and Maye as “Overhyped”, “Not That Good”, and all kinds of other derogatory phrases.

Let’s set the record straight: Drake Maye has one of the gaudiest arms on the planet. Not only can he make any throw on the football field, he does make every throw on a week to week basis. Caleb Williams, on the other hand, processes the game at an outstanding level while consistently showing off a sublime combination pocket movement, arm talent, and awareness that allows him to make plays that other QBs truly can’t dream of making.

If the Bears have the option to take one of these two players, I want them to go for it. I think these players are worth it.

But, and here’s the key point I’m trying to make, wanting Chicago to draft a QB if given the chance doesn’t mean “Robert hates Justin Fields” — Fields is a Top 20 QB & a bona-fide starter, but he’s also a limited passer that takes a ton of hits & needs an offense to cater to him more than his peers do. He’s a dynamic runner, but we’ve seen most running QBs struggle to sustain rushing (while staying healthy) over the course of a 17-game season.

Too many have made this quarterback conversation obnoxiously black and white — it’s devolved into split sides shouting “Well actually Caleb & Drake suck” or “Fields can’t play”… but neither statement is true. The kids are good, and Justin Fields has played well enough in Chicago to become a topic of trade conversations around the league. Regardless of what you prefer the Bears do at quarterback this offseason, neither answer is objectively bad & neither side needs to be treated as such.

I personally think the Bears have the opportunity to build an ideal landing spot for a rookie QB. Exciting WRs, a talented young OL, and a proven safety valve TE should make up a strong supporting cast. Drafting any QB this high is risky, but I think these rookies are worth the risk involved in moving on from Justin — especially since sticking with Justin is no sure thing either.

But despite my personal preference, it’s also possible that the Bears could build such a strong team around Justin that not winning more games would be nearly impossible. I personally think this team would struggle to keep the QB healthy (Fields’ average time to throw went up against a blitz-heavy team in Minnesota) and would eventually face defenses they don’t have answers for on offense, but until the Bears line up, play, and lose those games there’s no sense treating a Fields-led unit as if it’s doomed to fail.

A Fields-led 2024-2025 team has a better shot of winning 9-10 games & making the playoffs each year than drafting a rookie QB does — if that’s the direction Chicago goes, it’ll be the best pair of seasons they’ve had since 2005 & 2006. It’s been that long since Chicago won 9+ games in consecutive years — this result would not be “bad”.

But I also think the opportunity Caleb Williams & Drake Maye present gives Chicago a better shot at becoming a Super Bowl contender than sticking with Fields does. Explaining why each quarterback excites me so much will take full scouting reports, so we’ll save that for the offseason — but the prospects’ talent & the opportunity to reset the rookie contract clock (allowing Chicago to pay for an extra pair of Free Agents) allows Chicago to build a team that can compete with (and beat) the Chiefs, Ravens, and 49ers by 2025.

Regardless of which ‘side’ you’re on, I think that’s an exciting thing to talk about.


Nick and I recorded a podcast where we talked through Justin Fields in much greater detail — his strengths, his weaknesses, what we should expect to see him improve on, and where we think he’s likely done growing. Check it out here:

Your Turn: How do you feel about Chicago’s signal-caller?

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Five Questions, with Five Games Remaining

| November 29th, 2023

(1) What do we make of Matt Eberflus’ defensive success? The Bears are now 9th in yards allowed per game, with the game’s best rush defense. The addition of Montez Sweat has dramatically improved their pass rush, seeing sack and interception totals rise. Eberflus has been a net-minus as a head coach, but he’s been a net-plus as the defensive coordinator, with only the late-game collapses against Denver and Detroit marring his 2023 record. This defensive program is clearly working. Will continued success over the final five games be enough for him to keep his job?

(2) What about the availability of high-profile offensive minds? Frank Reich, a terrific OC with clear ties to Eberflus, is now available. Josh McDaniels, a bad head coach but good OC, is now available. Eric Bienemy will be available (and should be in demand as a head coaching candidate) come January. Could Eberflus sell the front office on his defensive success with a retooled offensive structure?

(3) Is the quarterback’s tenure in Chicago officially over? If the season ended Monday night, that answer would surely be yes; the lack of week-to-week consistency would not prohibit the Bears from using one of their high draft picks on a quarterback prospect. Fields has ability; he is a brilliant runner capable of making dynamic plays off-script. But if you listened to Troy Aikman on Monday night, you heard an analyst incredibly skeptical of Fields’ ability to play the position from the pocket. Folks in the building share that skepticism.

(4) Where will the Carolina pick land? The Bears don’t have a particularly good team left on their schedule. It is likely they finish 2-3 or 3-2 over the final five, with the latter moving their own draft pick outside the top ten. Carolina’s finish will play an important role in the composition of the 2024 roster. If they finish with a top two pick, it feels a sure thing that the Bears hit restart at the quarterback position. But what if Carolina win a few games down the stretch and that pick falls outside the Caleb Williams/Drake Maye realm? (Side note: I’ll be rooting for the Bears to take Drake because then we can call him The Hotel.)

(5) How much money are the drops costing Jaylon Johnson? If Johnson could catch, he would be a pick-six machine, and those drops are the only thing preventing him from entering the “best corner in the league” conversation. Eddie Jackson’s career is over, but the Bears have productive young players throughout their secondary. Poles should just suck it up and Johnson what he wants to avoid the tag ballet that follows situations like this. The dropped pick sixes have actually rendered Johnson cheaper than he should be.

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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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Reflecting on Matt Eberflus’ Latest Unbelievable Loss

| November 20th, 2023

To be honest with you, I still can’t believe the Bears managed to lose that game yesterday.

Statistically speaking, it was a historic loss — it’s the first time any team lost in regulation with a +3 turnover margin and 40+ minutes time of possession (Teams were 48-0 prior to Sunday), it’s a loss that saw ESPN qualify Chicago with an even higher Win Probability than their peak in the Denver game (98.4% today versus 98.1% in Week 4), and because it’s a divisional game you can be sure Lions fans will never allow this game to be forgotten.

But beyond that, beyond the nearly historic levels of embarrassment that Matt Eberflus has left the franchise answering questions about in postgame press conferences, today’s loss was a grim reminder of a truth we’ve all known for some time now:

Matt Eberflus’ football identity simply does not win in the modern NFL.

Eberflus coaches like every coach I grew up watching back in the early 2000s — defensively, he wants a team that’s simultaneously passive in their zone coverages but also aggressive in taking the ball away. Offensively, he wants a ball-control ground attack that eats up clock, churns out 1st downs, and protects the football at all costs. Today, he couldn’tve asked for more from his team:

  • Four turnovers on defense (finishing +3 on the day)
  • Clean game from his offense (one turnover, more 1st downs than Detroit)
  • 250+ combined yards from his QB
  • & and outstanding clock-killing drive late that left Detroit with less than 4:15 on the clock to pull off a miracle.

But, despite nearly everything playing out exactly according to Eberflus’ plan, Flus’ conservative nature continued to leave the door open for Detroit to creep back into the game because of the decisions Flus made in the highest leverage situations.

When Chicago scored in the late 3rd quarter to go up 19-14, Chicago very obviously should’ve attempted a 2-point conversion and tried to go up a full 7 points. A 5-point lead is as good as a 6-point lead, but a 7-point lead protects you against a potential opposing score — instead, Chicago kicked the extra point. Surely that won’t come into play later.

Then, as Chicago failed to convert a 3rd & 1 on their ensuing drive, the difference between a 6-point lead and a 7-point lead began to affect Eberflus’ decision-making — despite the Bears’ excellent record since Week 2 in 4th & 1/inches situations, Eberflus needed protection against an opposing touchdown. A 9-point lead is a 2-score game, whereas a failed conversion (no matter how unlikely) would’ve left the Bears vulnerable. Eberflus kicked, thus setting up what ultimately became Flus’ defining moment in this football game.

The Bears offense grinds their way down to the Detroit 23 to set up a 3rd & 7. The score is 23-14 and Chicago has killed almost 7 minutes of clock — a first down almost assuredly wins this game, as a conversion and the ensuing 3 plays would cost Detroit too much time (brings the clock near 2 minutes or begins burning timeouts). But what did Matt Eberflus do?

They ran the ball between the tackles into a 7-man box. They had 6 blockers. The free man picked up RB Roschon Johnson immediately and the play was stopped for a 2-yard gain. They played for the Field Goal, and they got what they wanted.

Holding only a 9-point lead, Matt Eberflus coached his team afraid of a Detroit reversal. Kicking the field goal ensured that Detroit needed 2 touchdowns to win. But had Chicago shown any aggression earlier in going for the 2-point conversion up 5, they could’ve entered that 3rd down with a 10-point lead and might have coached 3rd & 7 unafraid of Detroit scoring a touchdown & field goal in quick succession. They could’ve played to win the game.

But instead, they played not to lose it. They followed a decision-making pattern that’s become antiquated and they got punished for doing so. Once the Lions scored to bring the game within 5, nothing could’ve been more predictable than Chicago’s back-to-back runs up the gut that landed the Bears in an impossible 3rd & 10 with too much time left on the clock. Unsurprisingly, Chicago failed to convert, surrendered the lead, and lost a game that even Eberflus’ harshest critics thought he had in the bag.

This is Matt Eberflus’ legacy — he’s a true throwback to 2006, a conservative defensive mind that emphasizes playing hard within archaic defensive schemes & ground-and-pound offense, but his total lack of aggression speaks to his failure to innovate on both sides of the ball. In a league of innovators, he will always be (at least) one step behind.

He’s not the guy. He simply cannot stay past 2023. Thankfully, with now two games like this on Eberflus’ 3-8 record, George McCaskey would be hard-pressed to keep him.

We’ll save Good, Bad, and Ugly for tomorrow. Today, keep the focus on Flus.

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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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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Checking the Tape: Bears vs Vikings

| October 18th, 2023

Watching the Bears’ tape is a mess — nothing meshes together. What Getsy wants to do isn’t what Fields wants to do, and the Bears can’t do anything that Fields wants to do well against blitzing teams.

You can tell Getsy’s answers to Minnesota’s blitzes were quick throws out wide, but Fields couldn’t execute some of them and Whitehair’s snaps ruined others.

Then, the Bears pivoted towards more max protect. Fields looked more comfortable, but the OL couldn’t ID blitzes properly and gave away bad matchups (like Foreman on Hunter/Foreman on a blitzer with runway) leading to more pressure, no throws downfield, and the QB taking more hits.

Some of the above is still on Getsy, because plenty of routes too WAY too long to resolve against the blitz — Mooney jukes the air in the red zone, Trent Taylor runs the longest whip route in existence, etc. Of course, neither is open in time to beat the pressure (and one leads to the INT).

It’s easy to make this out to be a QB-only problem, but it’s the same problem we’ve seen all season — when the Bears’ initial plan doesn’t work, Getsy and Fields’ philosophical disagreements result in awful football that can’t even compete with opposing defenses.

Of course, this magnifies every mistake that the OL makes — if CHI doesn’t get the exact look they want and perfect protection up front, the play might as well be over. It doesn’t feel like there’s much chemistry between the QB and his outlets when things go haywire.

But if all the above wasn’t bad enough, sometimes the Bears do get the exact look they want with perfect protection up front, like the play shown below (Yes, it’s the tweet that includes this very thread):

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Someone’s Era Is Over In Chicago, But Whose?

| October 16th, 2023

Having been a Bears fan for over a decade, I’ve seen Sunday’s game more times than I’d like to admit.

Chicago was given a myriad of circumstantial advantages heading into the weekend’s tilt against a listing 1-4 Minnesota Vikings team. These advantages included (but were not limited to):

  • A ‘Mini-Bye’ that afforded Chicago extra time to rest, scout, and prep for this game
  • A surprise Wednesday announcement that Vikings’ superstar Justin Jefferson would be placed on IR, undoubtedly causing the Minnesota to scramble while planning their offense
  • Plenty of tape on how the Vikings would handle Justin Fields defensively (thanks to Jalen Hurts providing a close comparison)
  • A parade of returning Chicago starters (Kyler Gordon, Jaylon Johnson, Teven Jenkins, and Eddie Jackson) that looked to boost both sides of the ball
  • All of the intrinsic momentum that winning your first game of the season provides

And yet, despite these advantages, Chicago lost the game and fell to 1-5 on the season. That may be the death knell for any playoff hopes the organization still had.

It’s a damn shame they managed to lose too. The Bears’ defense held the Vikings’ offense to 220 total yards and 12 offensive points, yet Chicago allowed its 4th defensive touchdown in 6 weeks and lost 19-13 all the same. The 2023 Bears always make one mistake too many — that’s a direct indictment on their coaching, if you ask me.

There are conversations to be had about Fields’ eyes against Brian Flores’ blitzes, how strange it was to see the Bears abandon the run while it was hot, Tyson Bagent’s overall performance & more, but now that Chicago’s starting Quarterback is likely to miss time with a dislocated thumb, the story of the season may change in a flash — next the Bears host a “Bad, But Not That Bad” Las Vegas Raiders team in a game that would’ve been winnable with Fields but has now become a battle of backup QBs.

If this team falls to 1-6, what keeps them competing?

What do Matt Eberflus’ season goals become?

Does a total reset of the organization become inevitable?

We’ll cross some of those bridges when we get to them, but I can’t help feeling like an era ended on Sunday. I’m just not sure whose era it was.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good:

  • Everyone on Defense chipped in. The 2023 Bears defense has received plenty of grief on this site this year, but with the season in the balance they played as good a game as you could ask yesterday. Jaylon Johnson broke up passes, Tyrique Stevenson stopped Jordan Addison on a key 3rd & long, Zacch Pickens added a TFL, and TJ Edwards powered past Alexander Mattison to get home on a blitz & tip a Kirk Cousins pass in the air & create a huge interception that Tremaine Edmunds was ready for.
    • It wasn’t the Vikings offense’s best game (I’m still not sure why they were so averse to spreading out their WRs and passing relentlessly), but that’s not important — the defense did what they had to do on Sunday by shutting out Minnesota in the 2nd half and offering their offense 6 opportunities to take the ball and score. Plenty of good from that unit.

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