The Chicago Bears are in a tailspin with no end in sight. Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts on the soul-crushing Week 4 loss. – Boston Herald
The Chicago Bears are in the muck right now and they’ve been there a mighty long time, so it stands to reason they lost a game in soul-crushing fashion after three noncompetitive affairs.
10 thoughts after the Bears led 28-7 with a little more than 15 minutes to play and managed to lose to the Denver Broncos 31-28 on Sunday at Soldier Field, falling to 0-4 and extending the club-record losing streak to 14 games.
1. There is a ton to unpack here.
- The Bears blew a 21-point lead for only the third time in franchise history and the first since the initial meeting with Tom Brady, a 33-30 loss to the New England Patriots on Nov. 10, 2002, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
- Justin Fields had far and away the best game of his pro career throwing the football (28 of 35 for 335 yards and four touchdowns), even if it came against a defense that was torched for 70 points in Miami the previous week. Yes, there were receivers running wide open at times and Broncos defensive coordinator Vance Joseph appeared to be 30 minutes of football away from being fired. Yes, Fields’ two fourth-quarter turnovers proved insurmountable. But he made more really tight throws with good timing and rhythm than he ever has packaged into a single game.
- The offense ran the ball better than it has all season with Khalil Herbert piling up 103 yards on 18 carries and the team finishing with a season-high 171 yards on the ground. Herbert’s final carry, when he was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the Broncos 18-yard line, will be talked about for a while. Not because Herbert didn’t move the chains but because coach Matt Eberflus opted against a field goal that could have given the Bears the lead.
- If the 2024 draft order were created by the current standings, the Bears would own the first two picks as the Carolina Panthers are the only other 0-4 team. The Bears own the Panthers’ pick from the March trade in which general manager Ryan Poles sent the No. 1 selection in 2023 to Carolina.
- Chase Claypool was made a healthy inactive and the Bears crossed their wires in the postgame messaging. At this point, you imagine the odds of the wide receiver being around much longer aren’t good.
We’ll dive into all of this and much more.
First, an analysis of the decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 with 2:57 remaining and the score tied at 28. The Broncos had one timeout remaining, so Eberflus had a decision between a 36-yard field-goal attempt for Cairo Santos, who is 22 of 22 from 30 to 39 yards since rejoining the Bears in 2020, or going for the first down.
A successful running play there possibly ices the game for the Bears. They could have burned the Broncos’ final timeout, gotten past the two-minute warning and placed the ball wherever Santos wanted it for a kick.
“You have a decision to make there,” Eberflus said. “I love the way our offense was running the ball at the time and we had a really good chance to seal the deal right there.”
Herbert had carried six times previously on the drive, which began at the Bears 25, for gains of 5, 7, 21, 6, 1 and 4 yards. The Broncos were trampled for 350 rushing yards by the Dolphins a week ago. Initially, Eberflus had Fields see if he could get Denver to jump offsides. That didn’t work, so he used his first timeout. Then, from a shotgun formation, Fields handed off to Herbert on a read option.
Center Lucas Patrick and right guard Nate Davis double-teamed nose tackle D.J. Jones with Patrick climbing to the second level on linebacker Drew Sanders. But left guard Cody Whitehair was pushed back by defensive end Zach Allen on the front side, and on the back side linebacker Alex Singleton shot through a hole that should have been filled by right tackle Darnell Wright. Between Allen stalemating Whitehair and Singleton arriving to hit Herbert low, the play had no chance.
“I love the decision,” Fields said. “It shows coach has trust in us to convert on that and in that situation. We’ve just got to execute. I think there was a missed block back side. That’s why somebody was able to sneak through and tackle Khalil. But in that situation it’s a tough spot, and as a player you want your head coach to be able to trust in you.”
The turnover on downs put the Broncos in position to win, and the Bears were on life support when Russell Wilson hooked up with rookie Marvin Mims Jr. for a 48-yard shot down the sideline on the first play.
The flip side of putting faith in the offense would be to lean on the usually automatic Santos and stop the bleeding. The Broncos had stolen momentum and the Bears could have taken a three-point lead and kicked off. Stop the Broncos and win the game. Hold the Broncos to a field goal and head to overtime. It’s worth wondering if Eberflus had more faith in his offense at this moment than he did in the defense he coordinates — the one with two rookie starters at cornerback and an unproven free safety.
What seemed like the right decision to Eberflus at the time was the wrong one because it didn’t work. The offense didn’t execute. The defense allowed the biggest gain of the game on the next snap. And with a chance to rally, the Bears offense turned the ball over.
Remember the children’s book series “Choose Your Own Adventure”? It’s as if every time Eberflus has a decision, he makes the wrong one, winds up walking down a dark alley and gets clubbed over the head. If it can go wrong at this point, it does.
“Respect the head coach for making the call,” Patrick said. “I respect the hell out of it. It says they have faith in us. That’s the message I got.
“I’m going to say if you put on the silent tape (All-22) — I know a lot of you media, the pundits and all the Monday morning coaches don’t ever watch the silent tape — but we grew as a team today. I am proud of what we did. Proud of how we fought. Proud of how we ran the ball. Proud of how Justin threw the ball. We’re a good football team.”
There were areas of improvement in this loss, no question. But the Bears are unlikely to run into a defense as bad as the Broncos again this season. Denver is allowing 461.5 yards per game, well ahead of the pace of the 2012 New Orleans Saints, who were shredded for 440.1 per game.
The Bears still had opportunities after Eberflus’ decision. They didn’t pan out and Fields has yet to put together a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. This looks like the kind of loss that will be discussed for a while, especially if more setbacks follow.
2. The Bears are in a tailspin with no end in sight.
Matt Eberflus appears on his way to being two-and-done at Halas Hall. Any discussion about Eberflus’ status must account for what the team went through in 2022, when the roster was torn down, the club carried more than $85 million in dead salary-cap space and linebacker Roquan Smith was traded away. That was a no-win situation.
But this team has gotten off to a worse start than anyone could have imagined, and the Bears are struggling to do anything positive with consistency while battling through injuries.
Only three coaches in the Super Bowl era have a worse winning percentage than Eberflus with a minimum of 20 games:
Hecker, a former assistant under Vince Lombardi with the Green Bay Packers, was the first coach of the expansion Falcons in 1966. So that was a new roster that wasn’t good. The Bills were miserable after coming over from the AFL in 1970 and again in the middle of that decade before the arrival of Chuck Knox.
Here’s why I believe Eberflus is in serious jeopardy: The Bears seem highly unlikely to want to pursue a quarterback in the 2024 draft and then pair USC’s Caleb Williams (or whoever) with this coaching staff. I also find it difficult to believe they would want Eberflus in a must-show-big-improvement situation in 2024. If he doesn’t, then you’re looking at a coaching change and a new staff and a new system for a second-year quarterback in 2025. That would be suboptimal. It just doesn’t make sense.
While I doubt the Bears have had any discussions regarding this because 13 games remain in the season, it would require a massive turnaround — the kind of thing even the most ardent fans can’t believe in — to change the trajectory of the franchise.
3. The Broncos were stunned by the Bears and Justin Fields.
A trip through the visitors locker room after the game revealed that the Broncos planned all week for a run-heavy attack. Their defense was steamrolled the week before in Miami, and the Bears had failed to get their ground game going in the first three weeks.
The Broncos figured Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy would dust off some game plans from the middle of last season, when the offense had 237 or more rushing yards six times in an eight-game span.
Fields came out slinging the ball and was sharp. A haphazard Broncos secondary had no solutions. Fields was on the move. He wasn’t just completing passes, he was putting them where receivers could make plays. He completed his first 16 passes, breaking the franchise record of 15 consecutive completions by Shane Matthews against the Patriots on Dec. 10, 2000.
Fields’ first incompletion came on a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half. He went to the locker room 16 of 17 for 231 yards, three touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
DJ Moore scored on a 29-yard corner route when cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian fell down. Tight end Cole Kmet was left uncovered for touchdown passes of 22 and 3 yards. But Fields also made some big-time throws.
He hit a window along the sideline for a 24-yard shot to Moore, who withstood a huge hit to the backside from safety Delarrin Turner-Yell. As Fields was hit by linebacker Jonathon Cooper, he found Moore in a tight window for an 11-yard gain on third-and-10.
He wasn’t locked on to receivers. He moved well in the pocket. He took check-downs when appropriate. He didn’t look anything like the quarterback who struggled to 99 passing yards in a 31-point loss in Kansas City the week before, unable even to pad statistics in garbage time.
You have to account for the step down in class. The Broncos defense is embarrassing and coordinator Vance Joseph isn’t long for his role. But Fields did what everyone has been looking for, and in a lot of ways it resembled Mitch Trubisky’s six-touchdown game against a horrid Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense in 2018 at Soldier Field. The Bucs were stuck in Cover-3, Matt Nagy kept calling Cover-3 beaters with half-field reads and it was a huge day.
“We were in a rhythm,” Fields said. “Luke was dialing it up. Guys were protecting up front and the receivers were getting open. So we were definitely in a rhythm, but at the end of the day, we lost the game. So it really doesn’t matter.”
The offense couldn’t sustain the momentum into the fourth quarter. The Broncos pulled to 28-14 with 14 seconds remaining in the third, and the Bears went three and punt with Turner-Yell breaking up a third-and-5 throw to Kmet. The Broncos drove to score again and get within a touchdown.
That’s when things fell apart for the Bears, and the Broncos executed their No. 1 objective for the week.
“Thirty-one fumbles going into our game,” one player said in the locker room, referring to Fields’ career total. “No. 1 emphasis. That was it.”
While the game plan to stop the run was foiled, that coaching point was spot on.
On first-and-10 from the Bears 48-yard line in the fourth quarter, the Broncos blitzed. Fields, on a play fake, had his back turned as linebacker Nik Bonitto came screaming off the edge from the offense’s right side. Bonitto was left unaccounted for in the blocking scheme, while Cooper was coming off the opposite edge and was picked up by running back Khalil Herbert.
Bonitto was Fields’ responsibility in this case, and he didn’t see him until it was too late. The ball was jarred loose and Cooper scooped it up and raced 35 yards for a tying touchdown.
“Just recognizing he was kind of high (in his drop) and knowing the guy coming across (Kmet), he wasn’t really coming too hard at me,” Bonitto said when I asked why he didn’t slow at all on the play action. “I kind of felt it.”
Said Fields: “It’s tough because the rule on boots, nakeds, is no sack. So in that situation, of course you’d rather have a sack than a fumble, scoop and score for a touchdown. I turned around, he was right there.
“I don’t know if I can really do anything on that one, to be honest with you. I just tried to get the ball out and I don’t know what the down and distance was on that play but just make an incomplete pass and move on to the next play.”
The Broncos ended the Bears’ comeback bid when safety Kareem Jackson intercepted Fields with 32 seconds remaining at the Denver 36-yard line. It was third-and-13 and Fields was trying a shot down the middle to Kmet.
“He had read zone,” Kmet said. “I had read more man match where the safety was carrying me, so I decided to whip. Justin thought I was going to sit. So when I whipped out, (Jackson) was in the spot that I would have been if I had read it as a zone.”
In the Denver locker room, multiple players told me the Broncos were in Cover-1 on the play. That’s man coverage.
“All in all it’s my fault,” Fields said. “Against man coverage, (Kmet) is supposed to do what he did. I wanted him to just play football and kind of sit down in space. That’s why I threw it to a spot. It was really a miscommunication.”
Since the start of last season, nine of Fields’ 21 interceptions have come in the fourth quarter, and 13 of his 25 career picks have come in the fourth. When the Bears have their backs against the wall, bad things tend to happen.
The Bears are 1-for-15 on possessions in the final eight minutes with a chance to go ahead or tie since the start of the 2022 season. The one score was a 30-yard Cairo Santos field goal after a 0-yard drive followed a Roquan Smith interception in Week 3 last season.
That’s something Fields and the offense have to conquer or this team won’t show any improvement. Before the strip-sack and pick, it was a banner day for Fields. The 335 yards and four touchdown passes were career highs. He didn’t look anything like the “robotic” quarterback who struggled through the first two games.
Maybe it’s something the Bears can build upon, but the Washington Commanders defense waiting for Fields and Co. will look different Thursday night at FedEx Field.
“That’s why it was tough,” Kmet said. “I thought we were really high-functioning. There was a point, what was Justin’s completion percentage (80% for the game)? You could feel that. Even just simple things. We were hitting little spot routes that were turning into 8-, 9-yard gains, and those are the things that keep drives going.
“He was doing a great job and you could tell he was playing really confident today. When he gets moving outside of the pocket, he can do some good things with his eyes and then take off and run. Opens up some guys. We were really efficient today, definitely playing toward his strengths and guys were executing well for the most part. At the end, we’ve got to be able to finish that thing out.”
4. Apparently the second chance the Bears gave Chase Claypool after his lackluster performance in Week 1 was a mistake.
Claypool was a healthy inactive Sunday, two days after he was asked if he felt he was being put in the best position to showcase his talent and Claypool responded, after a long pause, “No.”
Matt Eberflus bases his entire approach with players on his HITS principle, which begins with hustle and intensity. Claypool violated that in the season opener against the Packers, and allowing him to apologize and work back into good graces enough to suit up and play the next week at Tampa Bay was a mistake in retrospect. If HITS is everything Eberflus stands for, how are there any teeth to it if a player can have such a sloppy game and not pay the price?
Now the Bears are in a real jam and not just because the messaging after the game was fumbled. Eberflus said the decision to sit Claypool and play Equanimeous St. Brown (41 snaps by my unofficial count) had nothing to do with his media comments Friday. OK, then what?
“When you look at actives or inactives every single week, what we do is we obviously evaluate meetings,” Eberflus said. “We evaluate walk-throughs. We evaluate practice, and we do that every single week and then we declare actives or inactives based on that. And this week, Claypool was inactive.”
OK, so Claypool didn’t meet the standard based on meetings, walk-throughs and practice. It’s not like we couldn’t have seen that coming after his performance against the Packers.
Eberflus said he expects Claypool back at Halas Hall on Monday morning. I don’t know if there is a path for him to return to the field for the team. One source with another team speculated the Bears might be seeking a fifth- or sixth-round pick to trade Claypool. If so, that tells me the Bears would accept a pick swap to unload the receiver they acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a second-round pick during the middle of last season. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility Claypool is waived. He has 18 catches for 191 yards and one touchdown in 10 games for the team.
The situation got messier after the game when Eberflus indicated Claypool had the option to attend the game — which all inactive players do — or remain home, an unusual step.
“We told him that it was a choice,” Eberflus said. “And he’s at home right now.”
Later, a club official said the team ordered Claypool not to attend the game. Confused yet? What’s really puzzling is Eberflus seemed surprised by some of the questioning when this involves a guy who should be a main cog in the offense.
Quarterback Justin Fields said the team found out Claypool would not be active during meetings on Saturday.
“You know, I called Chase after whatever happened,” Fields said. “And I was just checking up on him, making sure he was in good spirits.”
Unless the Bears believe in third chances, Claypool’s days figure to be numbered. His base salary for this season is $2.993 million, so there is a little more than $2.16 million remaining.
5. Cornerback depth has been an area where the Bears have been skating by for a while now.
It’s easy to say a team should establish premium depth at the position because it’s a passing league. Finding quality, durable cover men isn’t easy. It’s why the good ones are usually off the board by the middle of the second round every year and it’s why the elite ones make a mint in free agency.
But going back to about the midpoint of the Matt Nagy era, the Bears have always appeared a little thin at cornerback. For the most part, they’ve proved to be relatively durable, so maybe it hasn’t been a glaring issue.
The current team’s depth is being put to the test and not just at cornerback but at safety as well. Before we dive into some numbers, I think GM Ryan Poles identified this as an area that needed improvement. He drafted two corners in Tyrique Stevenson (Round 2) and Terell Smith (Round 5). A year ago, the Bears had some success with undrafted defensive backs, claiming Josh Blackwell off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles and signing cornerback Jaylon Jones and safety A.J. Thomas.
The Bears used 11 defensive backs through the first three games and that’s on defense, not just special teams. Nickel cornerback Kyler Gordon (broken right hand) and backup nickel Josh Blackwell (hamstring) are on injured reserve, and free safety Eddie Jackson missed his second consecutive game Sunday with a foot injury.
That forced Stevenson and Smith to start at cornerback with Greg Stroman, promoted from the practice squad last week, playing nickel. Elijah Hicks, a seventh-round pick last year, made his second start in place of Jackson.
It was the combination of Smith and Hicks that allowed a huge play with the game on the line when Russell Wilson connected with Marvin Mims for a 48-yard gain that put the Broncos in position for Wil Lutz’s game-winning 51-yard field goal.
Broncos coach Sean Payton was expecting Cover-2 and got it. The Broncos were able to hold Hicks in the middle of the field with slot receiver Jerry Jeudy. Smith needed to get more depth, but Hicks didn’t arrive until after the completion.
“Mims did a great job,” Wilson said. “Kind of looked inside and hit the little turkey hole on the right side — (that’s) what we call it.”
Hicks has to be in a position where he can drive downhill at a 45-degree angle to the boundary throw, and he was late. Payton knew the tendencies of the scheme, and the defensive call was safe and usually works with experienced players. It’s a shame because otherwise, I thought Smith held up well. He broke up a pass to Courtland Sutton after the bomb to Mims. He was solid in run support.
The Bears have played 251 snaps on defense through four games. Seven defensive backs have 61 or more snaps. Jones has 45 and rookie Quindell Johnson has 34. It’s a big issue for Matt Eberflus and one that will hopefully be helped out if Jackson can return soon. Gordon is eligible to be activated after Thursday’s game.
6. Marc Trestman was fired after two years following the 2014 season.
As bad of a start as his Year 2 got off to — remember, linebacker Lance Briggs had an excused absence six days before the opener to be at the opening of the Double Nickel Smokehouse in Elk Grove, Calif. — this has been worse. That team started 2-1, and after two more losses it went to Atlanta in Week 6 and Jay Cutler threw for 381 yards to lead a 27-14 victory over the Falcons. That evened the record at 3-3.
The next week, the Bears fell to the Dolphins 27-14, the team’s third straight loss at Soldier Field, and things really began unraveling. After the game, a voice — believed to be that of wide receiver Brandon Marshall — could be heard yelling in the locker room, “When you play with heart, it’s supposed to hurt! You just kick the ball.”
When Marshall was asked if he was yelling at kicker Robbie Gould, he said any exchanges in the locker room were team business. The team had been cracking for some time.
“That’s a very sick locker room right now,” Trestman said afterward.
In the next two games, the Bears became the first team since the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons to allow 50 or more points in consecutive games. At one point, the Bears scored only 42 first-half points in an eight-game stretch.
Before the season ended, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer criticized Cutler to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport and then came forward and outed himself as the source in an offensive team meeting. Marshall said on WMVP-AM 1000 that he would have buyer’s remorse if he had signed Cutler to his blockbuster contract. The receiver also challenged a Detroit Lions fan to a boxing match via Twitter. Late in the season, Trestman benched Cutler, who led the league in turnovers, in favor of Jimmy Clausen.
It was a full soap opera from start to finish as Trestman had no control of the locker room. When it ended, George McCaskey infamously said, “She’s pissed off,” referring to his mother, Virginia. “I can’t think of a 91-year-old woman that description would apply to, but in this case, I can’t think of a more accurate description.”
Matt Eberflus’ team doesn’t have anywhere near the drama and chaos. Yes, wide receiver Chase Claypool expressed frustration Friday and wound up being inactive Sunday, a matter made worse by the crossed signals postgame. Quarterback Justin Fields referenced coaching as one potential explanation for “robotic” play before the Kansas City game, but that is water under the bridge and he looks to have bounced back.
Trestman’s last team finished 5-11. This Bears team is 0-4 and has lost 14 consecutive games dating to the last win on Oct. 24, 2022, at New England. To reach five victories this season, the Bears would have to become a lot more competitive and do so quickly. Does anyone see a path to five wins in the remaining 13 games? The 2014 Bears are the franchise leaders for dysfunction in the last three decades, but this group is on a path to the most futility and the Claypool incident sure makes the mind wander back to nine years ago.
7. For the longest time, coaches talked about the NFL schedule in terms of quarters.
It was so prevalent that many still look at the 17-game schedule in blocks of four games even though the math doesn’t add up. In the first quarter of the season, coaches want their team to find its footing, have new players fit in and see players trending up.
The group of teams not in this category and not showing signs of being competitive are already being talked about in terms of the Caleb Williams sweepstakes. The USC quarterback is widely expected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft.
With the Bears in the mix of struggling teams — and owning the Panthers’ first-round pick — this will be the first in a semiregular update of the race for the No. 1 pick because, for some, draft season cannot arrive soon enough.
The winless teams
Next: at Commanders, Thursday
One-win or worse teams remaining on schedule: Panthers (0-4), Vikings (1-3) twice, Raiders (1-3), Cardinals (1-3)
The path to No. 1: Having lost 14 consecutive games, the Bears will require some lessons on how to win.
Next: at Lions, Sunday
One-win or worse teams remaining on schedule: Bears (0-4)
The path to No. 1: This is actually the path for the Bears as they own Carolina’s first-round pick. There simply isn’t much talent around Bryce Young. The Panthers have five games on the schedule against teams that are already 3-1, including two with the Buccaneers.
The one-win teams
Next: at Cardinals, Sunday
One-win or worse teams remaining on schedule: Cardinals (1-3), Vikings (1-3)
The path to No. 1: Joe Burrow’s lingering calf muscle injury is a concern as Cincinnati attempts to rebound from another slow start. It’s impossible to imagine a roster this talented in the discussion too much longer, even if it’s a sour season for the Bengals.
Next: vs. Jets, Sunday
One-win or worse teams remaining on schedule: Jets (1-3), Vikings (1-3), Patriots (1-3), Raiders (1-3)
The path to No. 1: Seemingly anything is possible with a defense this bad.
Next: vs. Bengals, Sunday
One-win or worse teams remaining on schedule: Bengals (1-3), Bears (0-4)
The path to No. 1: Arizona was the favorite to land the No. 1 pick before the season, but first-year coach Jonathan Gannon has his team playing hard with Josh Dobbs at quarterback and the Cardinals stunned the Cowboys in Week 3. It’s a victory that could have significant meaning at the end of the year.
Next: vs. Seahawks, Monday
One-win or worse teams remaining on schedule: Jets (1-3), Raiders (1-3), Patriots (1-3)
The path to No. 1: The offense under newly paid quarterback Daniel Jones has produced six points in the first half through three games. Things are amiss.
Next: at Broncos, Sunday
One-win or worse teams remaining on schedule: Broncos (1-3), Giants (1-3), Raiders (1-3), Patriots (1-3)
The path to No. 1: With Zach Wilson at quarterback in place of Aaron Rodgers, a lot of losing is possible. But Wilson showed a little spark Sunday night in a loss to the Chiefs, and the defense is elite. There are enough bad teams on the schedule for New York to play its way out of contention.
Next: vs. Saints, Sunday
One-win or worse teams remaining on schedule: Raiders (1-3), Giants (1-2), Broncos (1-3), Jets (1-3)
The path to No. 1: Mac Jones was benched Sunday in a disastrous loss at Dallas. Whether it’s Jones or Bailey Zappe, losses could mount.
Next: vs. Packers, Oct. 9
One-win or worse teams remaining on schedule: Patriots (1-3), Bears (0-4), Giants (1-2), Jets (1-3), Vikings (1-3), Broncos (1-3)
The path to No. 1: There are so many struggling teams littering Las Vegas’ remaining schedule that the Raiders would really have to go in the tank to be in striking distance come January.
Next: vs. Chiefs, Sunday
One-win or worse teams remaining on schedule: Bears (0-4) twice, Broncos (1-3), Raiders (1-3), Bengals (1-3)
The path to No. 1: The Vikings got their first win Sunday at Carolina, but they’re highly unlikely to remain in this conversation unless they continue spiraling and then trade quarterback Kirk Cousins.
8. Justin Fields’ big game got the skill-position players going.
Wide receiver DJ Moore and tight end Cole Kmet were featured and they delivered. Both had nine targets with Moore catching eight passes for 131 yards and Kmet hauling in seven receptions for 85 yards. They accounted for three touchdowns between them.
Volume has been an issue with Moore, and if this is a start, the Bears are headed in the right direction. Moore and Kmet are tied with a team-high 24 targets. Chase Claypool has 14 and Darnell Mooney has 12.
Comparing the Bears’ skill-position players to some playing with other young quarterbacks, the offense is still behind.
In Houston, where the Texans are starting rookie C.J. Stroud, wide receivers Nico Collins (32 targets), Robert Woods (31) and Tank Dell (24) have been heavily involved and tight end Dalton Schultz has 17 targets.
With Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, Michael Pittman has been targeted 39 times followed by Josh Downs (27) and Alec Pierce (14), while tight end Kylen Granson has 19.
In Carolina, where rookie quarterback Bryce Young is starting, wide receiver Adam Thielen has 33 targets followed by Terrace Marshall Jr. (24) and Jonathan Mingo (19).
So the Bears are trending in the right direction, but they need more afternoons like Sunday, when eight of their 10 possessions were five plays or longer and five were seven-plus plays.
9. Right guard Nate Davis returned after missing the previous two games.
With his return, the Bears had their fourth lineup on the offensive line in four games. Left guard Teven Jenkins is eligible to be reinstated from injured reserve beginning Monday. He missed the first four games recovering from a right calf muscle injury sustained in a conditioning drill between the end of joint practices in Indianapolis and the start of the preseason game against the Colts.
The challenge in promoting Jenkins this week is the Bears will not practice this week. They are holding walk-throughs Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s game at Washington. That’s normal procedure in the NFL as players need recovery time from a game and a chance to freshen up in a short week.
The Bears were hopeful Jenkins’ IR stay would be close to the minimum of four games, and my best guess is he’s ready to go for Week 6 against the Vikings. It just doesn’t make sense to roll him back out there without a single practice.
I’m curious to see, as the season unfolds, if the team finds a way to get guard Ja’Tyre Carter back on the field. He filled in for Davis the last two weeks and looked solid. The only way to find out if he’s a player to build with moving forward is to give him more action.
10. The 103-yard effort by running back Khalil Herbert, the third time he has reached 100 yards in his career, was good to see.
There’s a lot more for the Bears to build on with their ground game. Herbert showed why he has been the featured back. He got the hot hand and the team rolled with him, but we will continue to see more opportunities for Roschon Johnson. For offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to find success, he has to build everything around the rushing attack and stack the passing game on top of that.
10a. Entering Week 4, the Bears were last in the NFL with an average drive start of their 24-yard line. They averaged their 27 in the loss to the Broncos, so not much better. Six possessions started at their 25 after touchbacks. They did start one possession on the Broncos 44 after forcing Denver to punt from its 6.
Conversely, the Bears entered the week last in the league for their opponents’ average drive start at their 35.5-yard line. The Broncos averaged starting on their 21, so there was improvement. There is hidden yardage in these numbers through four games, and it adds up.
10b. The Bears went without a takeaway for the third game, a week after intercepting Chiefs backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert twice.
10c. The Amazon Prime crew of Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit and Kaylee Hartung will call Thursday’s game at FedEx Field against the Commanders.
10d. The Commanders opened as a six-point favorite over the Bears at Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.
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