The Bears won ugly on Sunday. And that’s ok!
By Herb Howard
If you’re reading this, chances are you watched the Chicago Bears defeat the San Francisco 49ers 19-10 on Sunday. I don’t have to tell you what happened in the game. But let me tell you what I saw! Here are 5 things I already know about the Chicago Bears after their Week 1 win over the San Francisco 49ers:
The Chicago Bears are a committed football team! They are committed to the H.I.T.S. principle. They are committed to playing a full 4Qtrs. They’re committed to getting better every single day. They’re committed to playing harder. And they are committed to finishing plays.
Head Coach Matt Eberflus has been preaching about the style of play he demands from his players since he arrived in Chicago, and it was on full display Sunday against the 49ers. The Bears played with great hustle and intensity, they took away and took care of the football, and they played smart situationally.
The Defense was flying around and rallying to the ball. Rarely did you see the Bears have to make a 1-on-1 tackle, they were constantly getting 4, 5, 6 defenders to the ball. They played tough, hard-nosed defense the entire game. They kept the score within 7 points during a first half in which the Offense did absolutely nothing. And they forced two huge turnovers that were deciding factors in the game.
Offensively, the Bears just kept fighting. In the first half they couldn’t get anything going. They couldn’t run the ball. They couldn’t hold up in pass protection. They weren’t even able to move the ball enough to flip the field position. The Bears average starting field position for much of the first half was their own 12yd line. Meanwhile the 49ers were starting their drives at their 43yd line. Even more reason to praise the Defense for allowing the Bears to go into Halftime only trailing 7-0. But the Offense, led by Justin Fields, didn’t quit. They kept fighting, they kept pushing, they never seemed to lose confidence in themselves nor belief in one another. Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy continued to dial up the run, even though it wasn’t yielding much yardage. That decision would pay dividends as the game went on and that 49ers Defense began to wear down.
Justin Fields, unaverred by the lack of production throughout the first half, continued to use his athleticism to make plays with his legs, extending plays, and drives, with his feet. Things turned around for the Offense on a play where Fields spun out to his left, avoiding a sack before finding a wide open Dante Pettis for a 51yd TD down the right sideline.
A still-developing offensive line competed for 4Qtrs against one of the very best defensive fronts in the NFL. The Bears knew they would give up some plays to the likes of Nick Bosa and others. All week they spoke of having a next play mentality, and they did that on Sunday. They stayed committed to improving throughout the game. They kept swinging until finally some of their punches began to land.
Justin must improve post-snap.
Justin Fields has clearly gotten to the point where he understands what the defense is trying to do to him pre-snap. He can read the coverages and identify pressures based on how the defense is aligned. And of course he knows what he wants to do offensively pre-snap.
The next step in Justin’s development will be to understand what the defense is doing post-snap. He has to be able to immediately decipher what the defense has changed after the ball is snapped, and quickly find his answers offensively. Did they adjust the coverage, rolling from one look to another? Did they show pressure then drop out? Did they disguise a blitz and bring an extra man?
On his interception Sunday, the 49ers had walked the Safety down to the line of scrimmage, giving Justin a Cover-3 look. Then, right at the snap, that Safety bailed out, almost creating more of a Cover-2 look. I don’t believe Justin ever saw that adjustment, and believed he could get the ball to an open Darnell Mooney. But the Safety who had dropped back came over and made the easy interception.
These growing pains for Justin are not unexpected. He’s a 2nd year quarterback, already learning his second system. It’s going to take time. He needs more game reps. He needs to see more of these post-snap adjustments on tape. I have no doubt that Justin puts the necessary work in. And he certainly has all the physical tools, and mental makeup to take this next step. It’s just going to take time. Anything he can do to expedite that process will go a long way towards helping the Bears improve offensively.
This could be an All-Time draft class.
I don’t think it’s too early to acknowledge the immense potential of the Chicago Bears 2022 Draft class. First time General Manager Ryan Poles may come away with a legendary haul of players in his first NFL Draft as GM. Poles entered the NFL Draft with only 5 picks at his disposal. He actively maneuvered throughout the Draft to acquire more picks, ultimately ending up with 11 selections.
Four of the eleven are already starters. I’m just gonna say it, Safety Jaquan Brisker is gonna be an absolute star, a perennial Pro Bowl performer. Cornerback Kyler Gordon has similar potential to be a great player in this League. Braxton Jones, the 5th Rd pick from Southern Utah, looks like he may be the Bears Left Tackle for years to come. He will certainly be given every opportunity to be. And Trenton Gill seems to have all the tools to be a really good punter for this Bears team.
Getting four starters out of your draft class is a good thing by itself, especially considering that the Bears didn’t have a 1st Rd pick. But this class is even deeper than that. Defensive End Dominique Robinson, the 5th Rd pick and former college Wide Receiver played excellent in his NFL debut, recording 1.5 sacks. If he continues to produce anywhere near that, he’ll be the steal of the draft. Velus Jones Jr, the speedy Wide Receiver/Kick Returner the Bears took in the 3rd Rd is yet to make his debut, as he is dealing with a hamstring issue. But expectations are for him to be a dynamic contributor on offense and in the return game. Versatile Running Back Trestan Ebner has shown the vast skill set that made the Bears thrilled to select him in the 6th Rd out of Baylor.
All of these players may not reach their full potential, but the early returns look very good. If they collectively continue on this trajectory, the Chicago Bears 2022 Draft class could be one of the very best in the history of this storied franchise.
Take ‘em how they come.
The Bears won ugly on Sunday. And that’s ok! They were unable to muster any productivity offensively in the first half. But they kept fighting. The Defense kept them in the game. And in the second half, the Offense made just enough plays to pull out a hard fought victory against a good opponent.
Bears fans had better get used to these types of games. This is a young roster, with many key players in the early stages of their development. There will be growing pains. There will be inconsistency. But we now know that there will also be perseverance, and grit. They will give it all they have for four quarters. Whatever this team may lack in talent, they will compensate for it with great discipline and effort. The Bears may not have enough top end talent to dominate good teams in the National Football League, but they have enough heart and pride to compete with any of them. The Bears won’t blow many teams out, but they won’t get blown out either. So many of their games will come down to the final minutes, and they just may have to win ugly. Often.
The Offense must stretch the opposing Defense horizontally
The Chicago Bears offense did two really good things yesterday. The players kept battling, and Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy stuck with the run game. The players didn’t go into the tank after their immense struggles in the first half. And Getsy continued to stick with the run. He didn’t allow the lack of production in the run game to force him to abandon it.
What the Bears didn’t do enough of, in my opinion, was force the 49ers to cover the entire width of the field. Many of their runs were between the Tackles. The Bears should utilize their speed more, with jet sweeps and screen passes to the outside. They did some of this, but they need to do it more.
They could’ve forced the 49ers defenders to move their eyes and feet more, creating opportunities for misdirection plays. Velus Jones Jr. figures to factor heavy into such packages when he’s healthy enough to play. But, even without Velus, the Bears have the athletes to stress the defense horizontally. Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, and Trestan Ebner are all capable of creating positive and potentially explosive plays on such designs.
I also think they should utilize Justin Fields more in that aspect. Call more read options, and even speed options. Get on the edge and allow him to use his legs, or at least the threat of his legs to create big plays. I know you have to be concerned with his health, but he is a weapon with the ball in his hands. One of the best weapons this offense currently has. Use it.
Getsy called a good game, especially in the conditions that they were playing in. Perhaps the rainy conditions were a reason that we didn’t see more of the things I’m calling for. Getsy may have deemed it too risky for such ball exchanges. That’s certainly understandable. Hopefully going forward we will see the Bears forcing defenses to cover the full width of the field.
Jaquan Brisker and Eddie Jackson could be primed for a special season. Their complimentary styles of play allows each of the Bears’ starting Safeties to play where they are most comfortable. Brisker can play his physical brand of football near the line of scrimmage, and Jackson can be the natural ball hawk on the backend that he likes to be. Both players came away with crucial turnovers in Sundays’ win. Brisker recovered a fumble in the Bears RedZone on the 49ers first offensive drive, after CornerBack Jaylon Johnson punched the ball out of Deebo Samuels hands. And Jackson had a huge interception in the 4th Qtr, setting the Bears up for their final score to put the game out of reach.
After recording 9 tackles Sunday, Roquan Smith is on pace for 153 tackles this season. After he and the Bears failed to agree on a contract extension, Smith said that he was betting on himself. Right now that looks like a pretty safe bet.
Anybody see Cole Kmet Sunday? Me neither. The talented Tight End needs to be a major part of the Bears offense this season. I’ll be monitoring weekly to see if he actually is.
Cairo Santos is better than. Right?? Yea, he is. Missing two extra point attempts was just an aboration. I hope!