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5 Takeaways: In another disappointing loss, Bears’ struggles start with Matt Eberflus

9 months agoChris Emma

The Bears suffered a setback in every facet of their game in a 30-13 loss to the Chargers on Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.  

A disappointing performance in primetime marked the Bears’ 20th loss through 25 games led by head coach Matt Eberflus, and Chicago has not won consecutive games since late in the 2021 season.  

Here are the five takeaways from this latest Bears loss. 

1. Blame it on the head coach

After connecting on that 41-yard completion for the first play of the game, the Bears’ third play on their offensive script was curious. Bagent handed off on a jet sweep to reserve wide receiver Trent Taylor, who was devoured for a loss by Khalil Mack. 

The basic premise of this play call entails backup tackle Larry Borom holding a block on Mack long enough for Taylor to slip by, at which point there might be a path to the second level. It’s a play that never should’ve been called, and certainly not on the opening drive.  

The Bears continue to struggle in large part because of poor preparation from head coach Matt Eberflus and his coaching staff.  

Eberflus’ H.I.T.S. Principle — Hustle. Intensity. Takeaways. Smart, situational football — was completely lacking once again. There were missed tackles and there was poor effort throughout this game. The Bears lost in the turnover margin and committed seven penalties.  

The Bears lack an identity on offense under the watch of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. Their defense was absolutely gashed by Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler and the Chargers. This team still doesn’t have a notable strength. 

Eberflus was tabbed by the Bears as their head coach for the belief that he could create a winning culture and develop a young roster. His entire tenure has been marked by losing. Eleven of the 20 losses under the watch of Eberflus have been by at least two scores.  

Eberflus fell to 5-20 during parts of two seasons leading the Bears. He had a pass through the 2022 season as general manager Ryan Poles set course in a rebuilding plan. But this time around, the Bears were expected to show improvement.  

Not only are the Bears failing to reveal progress and promise with Eberflus as head coach, they are mostly not even competitive in these games. There are only a few players who appear to be cornerstone pieces for the future. Eberflus has not lived up to his billing of a leader for roster development.  

Nine games remain in this regular season and Eberflus will continue to face great pressure to produce results with his job on the line. New president and CEO Kevin Warren wasn’t the one who hired Eberflus. He will be watching closely to see how the Bears finish this season. 

In this loss to the Chargers, the Bears seemed completely unprepared. It showed from start to finish. 

2. Ready for Fields’ return

Now at 2-6 on the season, the Bears are searching for meaning in this increasingly lost campaign. Tyson Bagent is a tremendous story, one that has been a pleasure to share, but this season for Chicago is all about Justin Fields and whether he can become a franchise quarterback.  

After missing the last two games with a dislocated right thumb, Fields could return to practice next week and perhaps will be cleared to play for next Sunday’s game against the Saints. There is no quarterback controversy for this team, nor should there have ever been. No matter how well or poorly Bagent could’ve played, the Bears couldn’t simply cast aside Fields midway through this pivotal third season. 

Fields should and almost certainly will be back into his starting role once his right thumb has healed. The Bears have seen progress with that recovery and were hopeful all along that this wouldn’t be a lengthy absence.  

Bagent finished his second NFL start on Sunday night 25-of-37 for 232 yards and 2 interceptions, adding a rushing touchdown late in the game. There were plenty of positive moments in this outing, including a 41-yard strike to Darnell Mooney on the first play from scrimmage. Bagent showcased poise and command once again, but there were some costly miscues as well.  

Early in the second quarter, Bagent locked in on first progression DJ Moore, threw off his back foot and was intercepted by Ja’Sir Taylor. It marked the first of two picks thrown by Bagent, who finished with a 62 rating. 

Credit to the 23-year-old Bagent, who has stepped in admirably as an NFL starter. His journey to the Bears as a Division-II standout from Shepherd University is one that should be celebrated. Bagent has what it takes to be a quarterback in this league for a number of years. But this season in Chicago is still about Fields. 

The No. 11 overall pick to the Bears in the 2021 NFL Draft, Fields playing through a season in which he must prove whether he deserves the investment of a budding franchise quarterback. Chicago is hoping to see his development and progression lead to signs of clear growth.  

This offseason, the Bears brought in Moore as a top target for Fields, drafted right tackle Darnell Wright to anchor this offensive line, and improved the supporting cast around him. Fields struggled early this season and then produced a two-game stretch early this month in which he played like an MVP. Then came the dislocated right thumb during the Oct. 15 game against the Vikings at Soldier Field. 

While Bagent doesn’t deserve to be pushed out of the starting role, neither does Fields. Nothing about the Bears’ quarterback future is set, and no decisions can be made until it’s clear whether Fields is the guy or not. 

Once Fields is cleared to return – and that could come this week – the Bears must move back to him as their starter and see through his potential. 

3. Disappointing defense

Veteran linebacker T.J. Edwards had Chargers star Ekeler in his grasp. It seemed like a sure tackle for loss was in the making. 

Edwards simply whiffed on the tackle and Ekeler broke free for a 39-yard catch-and-run touchdown. It was one of far too many missed tackles by the Bears, who took a considerable step back defensively.  

A similar breakdown occurred late in the second quarter as the Chargers ran a play with 11 seconds remaining from the Bears’ 11-yard line. The goal was simply to keep Los Angeles out of the end zone and force a field goal attempt. Instead, tight end Donald Parham Jr. twisted free of rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and got in for a touchdown.  

Had Stevenson just stood up Parham long enough for help to arrive and take him down, the Bears would’ve gone into the locker room for halftime trailing by 13 instead of 17.  

The Bears have such little margin for error as it is, and missed tackles only compound the issues for this team. 

Chargers star quarterback Herbert lit up the Bears, going 31-of-40 for 298 yards and 3 touchdowns. He hit on his first 15 passes and set the tone in this game.  

The Bears entered Sunday night with three consecutive games in which they had allowed 20 points or fewer, this following a stretch of allowing 25 or more points in 14 consecutive games. The Bears had surrendered just 235 yards to the Raiders last Sunday and 220 yards to the Vikings two weeks ago. The Chargers had 241 total yards by halftime.  

Sunday night marked a major regression from this Bears defense. 

4. In no hurry

The powder blue jersey of Herbert came out of Sunday night’s game clean. The Bears didn’t register a sack during this loss, and hardly even produced any pressure. 

Edwards registered the Bears’ lone hurries with two on Herbert. He is still tied for the team lead in sacks with 2, along with veteran pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue. Last year, Chicago was led in sacks by safety Jaquan Brisker. 

Now into Poles’ second season as general manager, the Bears have failed to solidify a pass rush. Ever since trading Mack to the Chargers in March of 2022, Chicago has not been able to generate pressure. 

The Bears might be active in the trade market for Commanders pass rusher Chase Young, who could be dealt prior to Tuesday’s 3 p.m. CT deadline. The 24-year-old Young, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 202 NFL Draft, has 14 sacks in 34 career games. 

Young would immediately bolster the Bears’ pass rush and should be coveted by Poles prior to the trade deadline. 

5. Decision time on Jaylon?

Late last October, the Bears were 3-4 and faced a key point in their first season of Poles’ plan. He wanted to see whether this team could go out and compete against the Cowboys. 

The Bears got embarrassed by the Cowboys in a 49-29 loss at AT&T Stadium, at which point it became clear to Poles that he should deal star linebacker Roquan Smith. Will Sunday night’s loss to the Chargers create the same fate for top cornerback Jaylon Johnson? 

The Bears and representatives for Johnson continued their dialogue this weekend with hopes of reaching a contract extension, sources said. There had been progress in these negotiations, though nothing yet to make a deal imminent. Johnson is playing out the final season of his four-year rookie contract and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.  

Poles could elect to deal Johnson for draft capital prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline, though it wouldn’t be wise to move a player who has performed as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL this season.  

The Bears need to get a deal done with Johnson and lock in a cornerstone player for their defense. It’s a move that would be significant for this team’s future. 

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