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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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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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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Bears at Commanders: Thursday Night Football Game Preview

| October 5th, 2023

Abbreviated game preview for an abbreviated week.

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?







Eberflus Era Effectively Ended. 

Mike Francesa is a legend of sports radio, a national pioneer of the form, and a New York City icon. Much of how I think about the world of sports has been framed by Mike and his longtime partner, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, as the pair provided the soundtrack of my youth, their voices blaring from an old beat-up radio as my brothers and I engaged in a series of intense Wiffle Ball battles in our driveway. Many of the phrases I fall back on as a sportswriter came directly from their mouths.

Mike does a podcast now, and during football season he reflects on each Jets and Giants game immediately after the games conclude. Late Sunday evening, he took a single detour from his commentary on the Jets loss to the Chiefs, to laugh at Matt Eberflus. Why? Because Matt Eberflus is now a national punchline.

When projecting the Bears to an 8-9 record this season, a campaign meant to be defined by progress, two assumptions were made. First, that the quarterback would elevate his game from a C+ to a B+ and provide the evidence required to end the endless search at the position. The second, far less ballyhooed, that the coach would be a stabilizing force within the organization; his program one that can produce a champion. The former is still a question to be debated. The latter is a question settled. Eberflus cannot be the head coach of the Chicago Bears in 2024. The question that remains is should he remain the head coach in 2023?

Eberflus is a defensive head coach, and the Bears have the second-worst defense in the league in his second year. We can criticize the talent on that side of the ball all we want but Flus had the assets required this off-season to build whatever defense he wanted. What is the point of having a defensive head coach in the modern NFL if that coach CAN’T DO MORE WITH LESS? If Flus requires stars at every level of the defense, he is no different than three dozen other defensive coaches around the league, most of whom carry titles like “Outside Linebackers Coach” (and the appropriate salary to accompany that title).

And his in-game management is shocking. He has no feel for his own players. He has no feel for the opposing players. He is a nightmare when it comes to clock management. And last Sunday, he quite simply cost his team a victory with decisions late that defied reason. It’s over for Eberflus. To quote the great Clifford Odets script for Sweet Smell of Success, “The cat’s in the bag and the bag’s in the river.”

If the Bears lose tonight, the organization needs to be strong and move on from Flus tomorrow.

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The Chicago Bears’ Offense is an ‘Everyone’ Issue

| September 26th, 2023

The 2023 Bears season hasn’t started the way anyone wanted it to, especially on offense. At times, the play has been downright ugly.

But Chicago’s issues aren’t as simple as a Quarterback, an OC, an OL, or anything else — it’s an ‘everyone’ issue. And in today’s Dissecting a Drive, I take you through 11 great examples of exactly what is (and isn’t) going wrong across the board.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Notes from Bears @ Buccaneers

| September 18th, 2023

This Bears season has gotten off to the worst start possible — they haven’t just lost two winnable games, they haven’t just watched the coaching staff struggle, but the QB that carried the weight of the franchise into the 2023 season looks like the most worry-fraught version of himself imaginable. Right now, every part of this football team is ugly to watch.

Worse yet, if you listen to the early portion of the Twitter Spaces that Jeff and I recorded pre-game, it’s as if we could see this loss coming. After so much struggle in Week 1, how far could the team truly bounce back in Week 2?

It’s heartbreaking. If Chicago loses to the Chiefs next week (and certainly if they lose to the Broncos the week after), the season may be over before it fully started. So how do we assess the blame?

The Head Coach

Let’s start at the top. Matt Eberflus took over for Alan Williams as the defensive playcaller in yesterday’s game, but the results were every bit as uninspiring as they were the week before.

It’s not as if the Bears didn’t try to make changes — Matt Eberflus called quite a few blitz/pressure looks early, but Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers offense handled the extra rushers and punished the Bears with the brutal efficiency of a bona fide NFL offense.

Now 2 weeks into the 2023 season, the Bears’ defense has allowed an almost perfect passer rating on 3rd & 4th downs — that’s unacceptable. It’s one thing to understand that Chicago’s defense lacks talent in the front 4, but to invest the money and draft picks that they did into their defense & produce so poorly on key downs is untenable for a coach that specializes in that side of the ball.

Expectations for this defense were never high, but after signing 3 new defensive linemen in Free Agency (DeMarcus Walker, Yannick Ngakoue, Andrew Billings) and drafting 2 more with Top 70 picks (Zacch Pickens, Gervon Dexter Sr) I think it’s fair to expect better from this unit than what what may be the worst results in football for the 2nd year running.

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Dannehy: Eberflus Defense Can Be Productive Without Pressure

| June 15th, 2023

Much of the current discussion regarding the 2023 Chicago Bears has been about the need to add another pass rusher. While that certainly would be nice, Eberflus has already shown us he doesn’t need a great pass rush to have a productive defense. Do the Bears certainly need to get after the quarterback better than they did in 2022, when they managed an abysmal 20 sacks and pressured quarterbacks on just 15.9 percent of drop backs, ranking 32nd and 31st in the league? Of course. But the truth is, Eberflus never had a great pass rush in Indianapolis and still managed to produce quality defenses every year.

In his four seasons as the Colts defensive coordinator, the team never ranked better than 18th in pressure percentage (per Pro Football Reference) or 12th in sacks and were never worse than 18th in scoring defense or 16th in yardage. The key to Eberflus’ defense is takeaways, something he has managed to do annually despite not getting pressure.

The Colts were top ten in takeaways every year Eberflus called their defense. In his final season in Indianapolis, they were second in takeaways, despite ranking 31st in pressure percentage and 25th in sacks. Even last year, the Bears did a good job taking the ball away, finishing 14th in the league, despite their inability to breath on opposing quarterbacks.

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Dannehy: Good Off-Season Plan Should Have Bears in Division Mix

| May 18th, 2023

Criticism of Ryan Poles’ first year is arguably warranted. Not only did he construct the worst team in the league, but the Bears didn’t come away with a clear answer on if Justin Fields is the franchise quarterback. This offseason, however, should remedy both issues. The key will be two Poles evaluations: Fields and head Matt Eberflus. The good news is there’s reason for optimism in both cases.

From Weeks 4 to 16, Fields was 10th amongst quarterbacks in EPA per play. While that takes into account his rushing totals, why wouldn’t one take that into account? In that time span, Fields had a passer rating of 95, while putting up per game averages that would equate to more than 4,300 total yards and 33 touchdowns. It doesn’t really matter how he got the yards and touchdowns; it all counts the same.


Protection improvements, as well as the addition of DJ Moore, should help Fields as a passer. And while fans may have to accept that Fields is unlikely to ever become Patrick Mahomes from the pocket, he has shown enough to think he can be along the lines of Jalen Hurts.

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