Words by Herb Howard
Aaron Rogers is gone.
The Bears have a true number one Wide Receiver.
It’s Justin Fields’ second year in Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy’s system.
The Bears bolstered their Defensive Line in Free Agency and the draft.
None of it mattered. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers showed up to Soldier Field expecting to do what they always do: beat the Chicago Bears. And beat them they did. The house that Rogers owned is yet to be repossessed, as Green Bay heads back North after pummeling the Bears 38-20.
Things started badly for the Bears and got worse. On the opening drive of the game, the Bears moved the ball to their own 40yd line, before turning the ball over on downs after being stuffed on consecutive plays with one yard to go for a first down. On 3rd down, the Bears ran a tight end sneak to Cole Kmet, a bit of a trick play that they had some success with last year. Kmet was stopped for no gain. On 4th down, Getsy elected to go with the more-traditional quarterback sneak. Fields didn’t fare any better than Kmet, and the Packers took over at the Bears’ 40-yard line.
I understand why the Bears went for it on 4th Down that early in the game, on their own side of the field. They wanted to set the tone for the game, show confidence in their Offense, and ultimately score on their opening drive of the season. But I don't understand the play calls that they chose.
The Bears coaching staff is always patting themselves on the back about how good their in-game communication, and how Head Coach Matt Eberflus is always a step ahead in letting the coordinators know what situational decisions he’s going to make. If that’s the case, then Coach Getsy should have known before his 3rd down playcall that they were in 4-down territory. If you have two plays to gain one yard, why not call a conventional run play on 3rd down? If you don’t pick up the first, you can still run the QB sneak on 4th down.
In his postgame press conference, Coach Eberflus said that he decided, before third down, that they would go for it on fourth down, if it was an inches-to-go situation. As for why they choose to run to sneak plays, he said “The percentages are good for converting with sneaks in inches-to-go situations.”
To me, it felt like Getsy was afraid of the possibility of losing yards on 3rd down, if they went with a handoff. That is the exact opposite of showing confidence in your offensive line.
Green Bay took the ball and drove straight down the field for the game’s first touchdown. In what was a sign of things to come, the Packers converted on three 3rd downs during that drive, including a 3rd & 13 and a 3rd & goal from the 8yd line. The Bears allowed Green Bay to convert on 9 of 16 3rd Down attempts. Chicago’s Defense simply could not get off the field when they needed to.
When I asked safety Eddie Jackson about their failures on 3rd Down, he said “We have to play better together, the front end and the back end. I got beat for the touchdown on 3rd & Goal. That sh*t won’t happen again.”
A big reason for the Packers success on 3rd down was the lack of pass rush from the Bears’ defensive line. Jordan Love had plenty of time in the pocket all afternoon. Calmly surveying the field, he routinely found open receivers to extend drives. Yannick Ngakoue did have one sack, but the Bears struggled to put consistent pressure on Love. The Bears did well against the run, limiting the Packers to 2.9 yards per carry on 32 rushes. They earned the right to rush the passer, but they were not effective.
Offensively, the Bears struggled to get into a rhythm, largely because they only converted 3 of 13 third down attempts.
Justin Fields played “Ok”. He was 24/37 for 216 yards with one touchdown. He also ran for 59 yards on 9 carries. But he had two costly turnovers. An interception that was returned for a touchdown, and a fumble while being tackled from behind on one of those 9 rushes.
As expected, it was a very somber postgame locker room, with plenty of blame to go around. But the Bears remain optimistic, many of them saying that this was only one game and that they have 16 more games to play better. Justin Jones even went as far as to say, “We still have to play (Green Bay) at their place, and it will be a different story.”
The game at Lambeau Field is 17 weeks away. And maybe the Bears will have solved their litany of issues by then. But, for now, it's the same old story: Packers over the Bears.