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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Short Column: Progress Must Continue Thursday Night Against Washington

| October 10th, 2022

Justin Fields wasn’t brilliant on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.  But, for the first time this season, Fields looked like a fully capable professional quarterback, pitching to a rating of 118.8, and displaying discernible signs of progress at the position. That progress must continue Thursday night at Soldier Field, when a bad Washington Commanders team comes to town.

The leap Fields took from weeks one through four to week five was somewhat seismic. He was calm and confident in the pocket. He felt pressure. He surveyed the entirety of the field and consistently took the underneath options, completing more than 70% of his passes. When the play wasn’t there to be made with his arm, he used his legs to extend drives.

Was his running game there for support? No. Was his pass protection good? No. Did his receivers play well? Outside of one remarkable Darnell Mooney catch, no. But that makes the performance from Fields even more promising. Fans on social media never blame Fields for anything. If it’s not the receivers, it’s the blockers. If it’s not the blockers, it’s the play calls. Fields was indisputable awful over the first month of this season. But the young QB showed in week five what many of us have been preaching: progress is possible despite the lack of talent in his supporting cast. Fields’ teammates delivered their worst performance of the year. Fields delivered his best.

Now he needs to back it up. There is no talent gap between the Bears and Commanders; these are both bad football teams. Regression cannot happen. Bad habits can’t resurface. The Bears are not going to win many games this season, but this campaign will be a winning one should Fields build upon his performance in Minneapolis and establish real hope at the position.

The concrete was poured Sunday. The building begins Thursday night.

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