5 Takeaways: Bears regressing in season billed to bring progress
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Down the hall from the celebration inside the victorious home locker room at Arrowhead Stadium, there was near silence and no solutions. The Bears suffered an abysmal 41-10 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, finding how far they are from the NFL’s reigning champions.
Here are the five takeaways from Kansas City.
1. A concerning regression
The red and yellow seats inside Arrowhead Stadium were mostly unoccupied as Blaine Gabbert took a knee in victory formation, the final play of the Bears’ 13th straight loss. Fans began heading for the exits by the third quarter after MVP Patrick Mahomes was pulled from a 41-0 blowout game.
The Bears were believed to be better this season, even despite a 3-14 record in 2022. Year 2 of Ryan Poles’ plan was expected to produce progress. It seems this team is regressing considerably. Matt Eberflus is 3-17 in leading this team.
Eberflus is still preaching patience to a fan base with very little left.
“This is a new football team,” Eberflus said. “We’ve got 30-something new guys who are coming together, that are playing the game together for the first time for these three games. So, there’s a process to that. It’s certainly not where we want it to be. But to get there, we’re going to have to have focus. We’re going to have to have fight. We’re going to have to be resilient. We’re going to have to block out outside noise. We’re going to have to do all those things and then keep a positive, optimistic attitude about this as we’re working.
“It will crack. It will crack.”
A turnaround felt far in the distance on Sunday. Mahomes was 24-of-33 for 272 yards and 3 touchdowns, leading the Chiefs to 453 total yards against a beleaguered Bears defense. A unit that added key players like Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, DeMarcus Walker and Tyrique Stevenson has allowed 38, 27 and 41 points over three games.
The Bears went into the locker room for halftime trailing 34-0 and realizing all hope was lost – with 30 minutes of football still to play.
“I can’t think of a game I’ve had in a long time that looked like that,” tight end Cole Kmet said.
Justin Fields, now in his third year as the Bears’ starting quarterback, has stopped progressing entirely towards becoming a franchise quarterback. This make-or-break season for Fields has been a disaster thus far.
Fields finished this loss 11-of-22 for 99 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. His lone scoring throw came with 4:20 remaining on a 9-yard strike to top target DJ Moore, with the Chiefs largely playing their reserves at this point of the game.
The 24-year-old Fields faced the potential to prove himself with the Bears and secure a lucrative long-term contract extension. Barring a significant individual turnaround from Fields, the Bears will be looking for their next quarterback this offseason.
This poor performance from Fields came after he called upon his coaching staff with hopes to play more free, comments that seemed critical towards play-caller Luke Getsy.
“I can’t be more clear than this,” Poles said Thursday morning. “No one in our entire building, none of our coaches, see Justin as a finger-pointer at all. That kid is always taking ownership of anything that has happened on the field. He takes it head on. He works. He grinds. He puts his head down. He works with his teammates. He works with his coaches to find solutions.
“You got a young quarterback trying to figure it out. You have a guy who hasn’t had the cleanest start to his career, who last year with the roster had to put the team on his back, do some unbelievable things athletically. Now, he gets talent around him and has to figure out and balance when to do those cool things athletically, when to lean on others, and that is sometimes a gray place to live in. That takes time. That takes time on task for him to take that next step, and everyone is on board helping him get into that place for him to be successful.”
When Eberflus was hired by the Bears in January of 2022, he was tasked with the goals of developing a roster and creating a culture. He was asked by Poles to be the catalyst for organizational growth during a rebuilding process.
Three games into this second season, the Bears are reeling and hoping for a breakthrough. For his part, Eberflus seems to be suggesting that winning is still a while away.
“I’m not making excuses, because we should be farther ahead,” Eberflus said. “But we are playing together for the first time, practicing together for the first time. We’re going to see it come together.”
2. Offense lacking an identity
Darnell Mooney made a candid comment last week as he assessed the Bears’ sputtering offense.
“We’re still trying to figure out what we have, what we’re good at,” Mooney said.
“We’re still trying to figure out what works for us. It’s not too soon, not too late to figure those things out.”
The Bears are no closer to finding that form offensively, still lacking an identity and missing the production.
In the first game since Fields publicly requested for his coaches to cater the offense to his skill set, the Bears put forth another disappointing afternoon while failing to showcase anything different from the playbook.
Fields continues to struggle processing his progressions in the pocket. The Chiefs limited him as a rusher, with just 11 carries for 47 yards. Fields was sacked 3 times in the game.
Moore, the Bears’ new top target, had just 3 receptions for 41 yards – and zero catches in the first half. Chase Claypool had a catch on the first play from scrimmage and then none after that. Mooney was held without a reception.
After leading the NFL in rushing last season with 3,014 yards, the Bears haven’t been able to lean on the ground attack. They certainly haven’t been able to throw the football consistently.
The Bears are lacking an identity and also struggling with the scheme they have in place.
“I think both,” Fields said. “It’s just tough for us because on the offensive side of the ball we’ve had a lot of injuries up front, so we’ve got guys rotating and stuff like that. I think the guys that have come in, they’ve stepped up and done a good job. (We’re) just trying to get that full identity and then once we do, we’ll be rolling. We’ll be good.”
3. Uncoordinated defense
Alan Williams cited health and family reasons when he abruptly resigned as the Bears’ defensive coordinator last Wednesday. It has become clear that there is more to the story.
On Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Williams’ resignation came after “inappropriate activity” and that the Bears’ human resources department was part of the process that led to his departure.
The Bears have not offered public support to Williams since his resignation. From the organization’s 12-word statement to each individual coach and player, there have not been well wishes shared.
For Eberflus, Williams was a top lieutenant whom he worked with for six years. Now, he’s left to serve as defensive coordinator and head coach, all while the Bears continue to struggle.
Eberflus indicated the Bears could explore an outside hire to fill the void for their coaching staff. His mentor Rod Marinelli, who retired after the 2021 season, would be an ideal fit given his familiarity with this scheme and members of the coaching staff.
“That’s certainly something we could do,” Eberflus said on hiring to his staff. “That’s something we’re always looking at. We’ll always look to evaluate that. Again, this is a new process for us that we’re going through right now. But if we feel like it could help the squad, help that side of the ball, we’ll definitely do that.
“We’ll look at all options as we go. It has to be the right fit.”
4. Injuries adding up in the secondary
Late in Sunday’s game, the Bears’ secondary was seemingly unrecognizable.
Jaquan Brisker was the lone starter to finish the game in the defensive backfield. Kyler Gordon (hand) is on injured reserve, Eddie Jackson (left foot) did not travel with the team to Kansas City, Jaylon Johnson (hamstring), Tyrique Stevenson (illness) and Josh Blackwell (hamstring) were each lost during the game.
The Bears were so limited in the secondary that Eberflus was forced to call plays with three linebackers. He didn’t have enough defensive backs to take the field.
It doesn’t seem as if the Bears have any long-term injuries to manage in the secondary. The team will issue its next injury report on Wednesday.
5. Just for kicks?
Trailing 41-0 in the fourth quarter, Eberflus sent out Cairo Santos and the field goal unit. The Bears got on the scoreboard with three points.
The Bears planned to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Chiefs’ 3-yard line, Eberflus said. But Fields was taken off the field for a medical evaluation after taking a hard hit the previous play.
Arrowhead Stadium offered loud boos for Eberflus and the Bears as the field goal went through the uprights. Fields was medically cleared shortly after and finished the game.