The Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy‘s search for the ‘whys’ after losses is sure to turn up some disturbing trends following their 38-3 obliteration at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The reigning champs got to rookie quarterback Justin Fields four times and hit him numerous others.
If there is one takeaway for Fields, it is that living to see another down is far more valuable than holding the ball waiting for his receivers to struggle more to get open. Especially when he has the kind of protection the Bears are currently providing.
Chicago Bears Head Coach’s ‘Whys’ are Coming from Inside the House
At the Helm
Rookies, in general, struggle. As such, it is imperative upon the coaches to put them in positions to succeed early on until they learn to do it for themselves. Then, the coaches continue to put them in those advantageous situations. At no point have we seen this coaching staff be able of tailoring a game plan to the game’s most important position.
To be clear, no one expected them to beat the Bucs. Not after they stole a victory against Brady and friends last season.
What we didn’t expect was to see them completely lose the ability to identify the proper personnel to execute their game plan. After having to place fill-in starting right tackle Elijah Wilkinson on the COVID list, they elevated Lachavious Simmons, a 2020 seventh-round pick.
He did not fare well, allowing several almost instantaneous pressures before being benched.
Alex Bars stepped in as his replacement and was an immediate upgrade which, all things considered, probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Bars has been active all season, appearing in every game so far, even drawing a “start” as an extra lineman against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 5.
Simmons was seeing his first action of the season against the best team in the NFL. That does not sound like a staff setting Simmons, Fields, or the Bears up for success.
Three of the Bears first six drives ended in turnovers while the Bucs scored on three of their first four and five of their first seven possessions. Fields could certainly do himself some favors. So could his handlers.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 24, 2021
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor deserves credit for establishing the Bears as one of the league’s best rushing teams. They entered Week 7 ranked seventh in team rushing yards. Rookie Khalil Herbert has done a tremendous job of stepping in for the injured Damien Williams and starter David Montgomery with 172 yards on 37 carries over the past two weeks.
He drew his second start against the Bucs, rushing for 100 yards on 18 carries. It was the most the Bucs have allowed to a single rusher all season. They hadn’t even allowed a team to rush for that much until the Philadelphia Eagles did it last week.
That’s about as far as the good vibes go as the passing game has been just as anemic under the former Bengals boss and Dolphins coordinator’s visage.
Fields again increased his passing yardage, this time throwing for 184 against a wounded Bucs secondary. However, he also threw his most passes yet bringing his average per pass down. More concerning, after mostly avoiding turnovers, he threw three ugly interceptions (two of which set the Bucs up in Bears territory) matching his season total in one game.
He also fumbled three times, losing two of them.
An argument can be made that Fields next lesson should be living to see the next play. He owns one of the highest average times to throw in the league, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He’s also among the most pressured passers and his receivers struggle to separate.
Fields and nominal number-one receiver Allen Robinson have yet to establish any sort of a connection with a failed scramble drill between the two leading to one of the picks.
As if starting Simmons over Bars wasn’t a bad enough look, the Bears had another player ejected for throwing a punch. This time it was defensive lineman Bilal Nichols who took a swing at Tampa center Ryan Jensen, a well-known instigator. The problem is this is the fourth time it has happened in the last two seasons-plus.
Javon Wims and Anthony Miller were victims of New Orleans Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s antagonistic ways. Miller wound up in Houston with the Texans but neither player is currently rostered
Defensive lineman Mario Edwards had a silly personal foul called for retaliating against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Tight end Cole Kmet tied with Herbert for the team lead with five grabs and led with 43 yards. Herbert had 33 receiving yards out of the backfield. It was as good of a game as the second-year tight end has had this season. That says a lot about his year, but even more about how bad this game was.
Robinson and Darnell Mooney combined for four catches and 55 yards. Both had some drops and, again, struggled to present a target for their under-siege quarterback consistently.
As much as we may want to (rightfully) slam the coaches for failing to scheme open the cast of pass-catchers they raved about in preseason, the players also have to hold up their end of the bargain.
Robinson has struggled with contested catches and Mooney had a ball deflect off of his hands directly into those of an awaiting defender. As much as things sometimes just break that way in football, it was a pass that should have been caught.
It goes on Fields’ stats but was on the receiver that time.
Bears ‘Whys’ Are Obvious
At some point, this becomes an exercise in futility. Over the previous three seasons, the Bears have been able to beat bad teams, sometimes handily. They have even caught the occasional contender slipping. But for the most part, everything about this operation has been a struggle, sold as another opportunity for fans to show their patience.
In reality, this is all just another season of testing said patience.
The on-field product has somehow overshadowed the elation of Fields’ selection and the pomp of a potential new stadium in the burbs.
Rodgers reminded the Bears (and their fans) that they would always be the “little brother”. Brady reminded the Bears that the modern game of football is in a different place than the one in which Nagy, Lazor, and so many in the Bears organization reside.
Fields has struggled this season, just as most rookies do and his fellow rookie passers have. The biggest difference is most of those players were allowed to soak up many of the tough lessons Fields is now during training camp and the preseason. We know how much of a farce the Bears process turned out to be.
This current regime has found a running game and maintained a defense. Great accomplishments but well short of the requirements to compete with the good teams. It has become something of a punchline.
A family ownership group that sells itself as prideful fans, they too must be feeling this same agony like the rest of Bears Nation. Right?
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