LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Monday began like many in the history of Chicago Bears football.
Fans and radio hosts found themselves in the usual cycle of trying to figure out why the offense was a mess in a loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Was it the quarterback or his play caller? What about the line not protecting or the receivers not getting open?
To use an old John Fox line, “It’s all a problem,” and it’s a movie we’ve seen before.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus didn’t offer analysis on Justin Fields after the game. Once he watched the tape, he had some thoughts on his quarterback.
“He knows he can play better; he knows that,” Eberflus said Monday at Halas Hall. “He’s well aware of that, and he’s going to work diligently to do that. It’s important that everybody looks that way. The offensive line, the receivers, the coaches, the defensive coaches, the defensive line, everybody. It’s all hands on deck to improve. Because we want to improve this season as we go. We want to be a stronger football team every single week. We have room for improvement, as you can see. So we’re excited about getting that done. It’s a challenge for our guys to work on that.
The Bears head to Florida this week to face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that allowed only 17 points to the Minnesota Vikings but 344 yards through the air. It’s hard to see the Bears’ Week 1 game plan leading to anything close to that. Here are our thoughts on the blame game to start the season.
Jahns: Fish, if offensive coordinator Luke Getsy tells us Thursday that he called so many lateral plays against the Packers because he was concerned about his offensive line and that he wanted the ball out quickly, I’d certainly understand his logic. I doubt he’ll say exactly that. But center Lucas Patrick and right guard Nate Davis didn’t play much in the preseason or even in training camp. It’s not surprising that they struggled. His game plan seemingly attempted to protect his own protection for Fields.
Justin Fields, Bears offense fail to show progress in Week 1. That’s a problem
According to TruMedia, Davis allowed a team-high seven pressures.
“It’s always first execution,” Eberflus said. “But with execution comes time on task, repetition. We all know that. That’s the nature of the business. Repetition, that breeds execution and breeds perfection. We just need to keep repping it and doing a good job.”
Fishbain: A lot needs to go right for those wide receiver screens to work. The ball has to travel pretty far in the air. The receivers need to get their blocks. And oh, yeah, the target needs to catch the ball, which has to get there on time.
Eberflus was straightforward when asked about the perimeter blocking Monday when he said: “That has to improve. That has to improve. We all saw that, right? So we’ve got to block the perimeter better. We’ve got to sustain our blocks. We’ve got to take better angles. That’s part of what we need to improve, for sure.”
My question is why was that even part of the game plan? You’re right. It’s probably because of the offensive line. But there are other things you can do if you’re worried about that. Maybe things were there that the quarterback — or offensive coordinator — didn’t see, like this play that Matt Bowen posted.
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Jahns: That play from Bowen is familiar to ones from last season. The throw is seemingly there, but Fields holds on to the ball. These are the passes that the Bears need Fields to attempt and complete. This is the next step for him. He’s dynamic with his legs. Fields showed that again against the Packers, especially when he spun around cornerback Jaire Alexander’s blitz. But when the protection is there and receivers are coming home, he’s got to let it loose. According to TruMedia, the Packers played zone coverage on every snap but one Sunday. Other teams will do the same. They’ll dare him to beat them through the air while they try to contain his running ability. On top of it, Green Bay blitzed Fields on 31.3 percent of his dropbacks. The Packers went after Fields.
📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/CeXbiHg3Nh
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) September 10, 2023
Fishbain: And that brings us back to the great debate sweeping our great city. Is it on Fields or Getsy? Or Eberflus? What about general manager Ryan Poles? Fans are understandably upset after another bad loss to the Packers — this one to Jordan Love. I had too many flashbacks to the old Matt Nagy/Mitch Trubisky dynamic, where too often Nagy’s offense asked Trubisky to do things that weren’t in his wheelhouse. This staff is supposed to put guys in a position to succeed. Where were the designed runs for Fields? Why not move the pocket? I’m having deja vu all over again.
Jahns: It felt like the beginning of last season, right? The big adjustments came after the Bears’ mini-bye between weeks 6 and 7. The Bears can’t wait that long this season. I’m also sure they’d like to expand their offense. To do that, you need to see more from QB1. It’s just the nature of the business and the position Fields plays. The Bears offensive line needs to be better. The offense can’t play behind the chains because of their gaffes. That happened Sunday. But Fields needs to be better, too. He was sacked four times, but TruMedia, which uses data from Pro Football Focus, had only two of them on the offensive line. Two were on Fields, including the first one when rookie defensive end Lukas Van Ness grabbed him and threw him out of bounds in the red zone.
“I talked to Justin right after that; he knew that,” Eberflus said. “He said, ‘Get rid of it.’ He doesn’t need to take that one.”
That said, this is an “all of the above” situation. Everyone needs to be better: Fields, the linemen, the receivers, Getsy and so on.
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Fishbain: The first question Getsy might get Thursday, which will go in the crowded annals of highly anticipated Bears offensive coordinator news conferences, will be about DJ Moore’s usage. He had only two targets. He’s supposed to be what makes this offense different. Per Bowen, Fields missed Moore on one play.
Eberflus acknowledged, in so many words, that they have to get Moore going. “It’s important for us to be able to get the ball to our best skill (players),” he said. “We need to do that. We need to do that as an offense. We have to do a better job there. Were the plays designed for him to go there sometimes? Yep. And they had some different coverages rolled up to him at times and different things that they were doing, which some teams are going to do, but we certainly have to find ways to feed DJ and feed our skill.”
Questions about targets for the No. 1 receiver. Questions about too many screens. Questions about offensive line play. Questions about the quarterback’s decision-making. Questions about the lack of a downfield passing game. It’s all way too familiar for a team — and quarterback — that needs things to be different.
(Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)
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