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5 takeaways: Bears give up the ball too much in loss to Saints

7 months agoChris Emma

Matt Eberflus, the embattled head coach of the Bears, continues to point towards his belief that his team is close to success.  

“We really feel we’re turning the corner there,” Eberflus said this past week, one in which the Bears’ culture and his leadership were called into question. 

During a 24-17 loss to the Saints on Sunday at the Caesars Superdome, the Bears certainly didn’t appear close to a victory – rather, just fortunate to hang around. Chicago committed five turnovers and was minus-5 in the takeaways margin. 

Here are five more takeaways from this game: 

1. Gave it up 

With 2:16 still on the clock inside the Superdome, the Bears faced 73 yards to the end zone for a potential tying (or go-ahead) scoring drive. Rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent had the opportunity to salvage this game and lead a victory. 

Despite the Bears committing four turnovers, they somehow still had a chance for a win. Once again, it was an opportunity lost. Bagent was stripped of the football by linebacker DeMario Davis and the Saints came away with a fifth takeaway. It was a fitting finish to a disappointing day for the Bears, who constantly preach winning the turnover margin. 

Bagent finished his third NFL start 18-of-30 for 220 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He committed four of the Bears’ five turnovers, with DJ Moore’s fumble proving also included in the miscues. 

Bagent is now responsible for six interceptions and seven total turnovers lost in parts of four games. He has stepped in admirably as the Bears’ starting quarterback since the Oct. 15 right thumb injury for Justin Fields.  

But Bagent’s greatest quality to the Bears was his ability to lead a clean operation at quarterback. He has struggled to do that effectively and it proved to be costly on Sunday. 

Mistakes are certainly understandable for any rookie quarterback, but especially so for one in Bagent who has made this great leap from Division-II Shepherd to the NFL. He is a wonderful success story who has been celebrated since stepping in for the Bears. However, the reality is that there’s little margin for error with Bagent. 

Bagent has a great deal of confidence, has put forth immense work to be comfortable in this league and has made plays for the Bears. But he is limited in arm talent, as scouts have noted, and it’s difficult to get away with missed throws. 

On his first interception, Bagent targeted tight end Cole Kmet in the neighborhood of four Saints defenders. He sensed that presence but felt their was an opening to Kmet, who was beaten to the football by cornerback Paulson Adebo.  

Bagent’s second interception came as he tried to force a throw in to Darnell Mooney. Safety Marcus Maye jumped the route and hauled in the pick. He was intercepted again by Adebo on a one-on-one matchup downfield, a poor throw that didn’t stand a chance. 

Bagent may be heading back to his role as the Bears’ backup this week as Fields is readying to return from his injury. He took to the practice field on Friday for the first time since dislocating his right thumb, gripping and throwing the football. These are some of the final steps for Fields to be cleared for a return to action. The Bears have not committed to their starting quarterback for Thursday night’s game against the Panthers at Soldier Field. 

Fields wasn’t formally ruled out for Sunday’s game until 90 minutes before kickoff as part of the Bears’ inactives. That left Bagent to start once again. 

The Bears simply aren’t good enough to overcome their own mistakes. Chicago’s defense didn’t force a single takeaway to counter the Saints. A strong and spirited effort by Eberflus’ team produced the same familiar result. 

The Bears are 2-7 in this increasingly lost season and Eberflus is 5-21 in his tenure as head coach. This was a loss that appears close on the scoreboard but that certainly wasn’t the case for a team that’s still not good enough. 

2. Cole Train 

A day after Ryan Poles signed his most important contract for a player as Bears general manager, let’s revisit the first long-term extension he awarded. That was for Kmet, who signed a four-year, $50-million deal at the start of training camp in late July. 

On Sunday, Kmet hauled in six receptions for 55 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. It marked his fourth career multi-score game and now five scores on the season. 

After Sunday’s game in New Orleans (but prior to the later action), Kmet was second among all NFL tight ends in touchdown receptions. In the first year of this contract extension, Kmet is exceeding his deal. 

“He’s just the consummate professional,” Bears tight ends coach Jim Dray said last month. “Takes his job seriously and executes. So, he’s got tangibles and he’s got talent, skills and execution. It’s kind of the total package.” 

Kmet has proven to be the reliable red zone threat that the Bears hoped they would find when selecting him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Of his 14 career touchdowns, a dozen have come inside the red zone. 

Kmet has now caught touchdown passes from five quarterbacks – Bagent, Fields, Nathan Peterman, Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. 

No matter who the Bears’ quarterback is, Kmet is the go-to target ready to make a play. 

3. Velus’ struggles continue

On his lone target of the day, Velus Jones Jr. dropped a simple screen pass to the left. It initially appeared to be yet another fumble for the struggling Jones but was ruled an incompletion. 

Jones later made an appearance in this game late in the fourth quarter and committed a facemask penalty as a gunner on the Bears’ punt team. 

A third-round pick to the Bears in the 2022 NFL Draft, Jones has just four carries and three receptions this season. He always seems to be at the center of some gaffe, this after three fumbles as a rookie last season. 

Last Sunday night, Jones dropped a sure touchdown pass as he stumbled and fell in the SoFi Stadium end zone. 

“We all are because we put our heart and soul and everything into this game,” special teams coordinator Richard Hightower said when asked of Jones last week. “We’re here countless amounts of hours working and that’s what it takes in order to get a win. 

“If he wasn’t disappointed, that would bother me as a coach.” 

The Bears have continued to stand by the 26-year-old Jones despite his struggles. But it’s worth wondering how patient this team is willing to be as the issues keep mounting. 

4. Where’s Roschon? 

The Bears believed that Roschon Johnson could carry their backfield for years to come. They haven’t shown that faith in him as a rookie. 

Johnson carried just twice for six yards during this loss to the Saints. He had only six carries for 21 yards during the loss to the Chargers last Sunday night at SoFi Stadium. Johnson has just 35 carries for 155 yards during this rookie campaign disrupted due to a concussion, which cost him three games. 

Veteran running back D’Onta Foreman led the way for the Bears in rushing with 20 carries for 83 yards. He is the team’s top rusher thus far this season. Khalil Herbert (high ankle sprain) could be ready to return later this month. 

At some point this season, it’s time to give Johnson the full workload as the Bears’ top running back and get a sense of what he can bring to the backfield.  

5. No reason to Sweat 

The Bears paid a premium last Tuesday to acquire star pass rusher Montez Sweat from the Commanders in exchange for a second-round pick. It was a risky deal given that the 27-year-old Sweat was playing on the final year of his contract. 

Upon arrival at Halas Hall last Wednesday, Sweat expressed his desire to stay patient with his contract future rather than rushing to the negotiating table. The Bears gave him plenty of reason to hurry over, signing him to a lucrative long-term deal. 

Sweat officially signed a four-year, $98-million contract on Saturday and solidified his future with the Bears. It brought an end to panic in Chicago that Poles’ gamble would come up empty. 

Sweat played a minimal role in his Bears debut, recording just two tackles while working in a rotation that primarily featured snaps on passing downs. 

Now that he’s secured with the Bears, Sweat should play a more prominent role as he gets more acclimated with this new team. 

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