The Bears hit rock bottom — knock on wood — in Sunday’s 31-3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a game in which rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw two picks and finished with a 38.3 passer rating, the offense picked up just eight first downs, and the defense allowed the Eagles to produce 420 yards of offense.
I don’t think anybody felt the Bears were going to invade Philadelphia and take down arguably the NFL’s best team. Some expected the Bears to keep the game competitive into the second half. All expected the Bears to put up a bigger fight.
None of those three things happened.
As head coach John Fox, the subject of much ire throughout Bears Nation, put it in his postgame analysis: “The game was not competitive from early on.”
Frankly, that’s a big problem.
Look, we understand that if the NFL was a skyscraper, the Eagles are a penthouse suite while the Bears are hovering somewhere around the lobby floor. And it’s inarguable that despite their 2016 record, the Bears spent last season slowly riding up the elevator.
On Sunday, the Eagles snapped the cables and that elevator — which had been descending since the bye week — plummeted in an instant.
I expected this kind of result from the offense … to a certain degree. Sunday’s faceplant was much of the same story summed up in a different chapter.
Trubisky is going through growing pains, struggling to maintain good mechanics, feeling a constant barrage of pressure from the defense, and trying to make something out of the nothingburger he was dealt in the receiving corps.
Dontrelle Inman really was his only serviceable weapon, catching four passes for 64 yards, as Trubisky spread the ball around to nine different players, accumulating just 147 yards on 17 of 33 pass attempts.
The run game was abhorrently worse. Running back Jordan Howard, fourth in the league in rushing, was stifled all day (7 rushing attempts, 6 yards) because the Eagles stacked the box and dared Trubisky to beat them with his arm.
I sure would like to say that the play calling of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was uninspiring — and to some degree, it was — but how can I lay this blame all at his feet? He’s playing Blackjack without any face cards.
While the level of offensive ineptitude was mostly expected, it’s the defense that far underachieved.
Yes, the Eagles have one of the top offenses in the NFL to date. Quarterback Carson Wentz has really grown into his role and has emerged as one of the top young quarterbacks in the game. He currently leads the league in touchdown passes and has an impressive 28-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
But even so, the Bears held him to just 227 passing yards. It was Wentz’ three touchdown passes which showed a deficiency in coverage. As has been the case all season, Wentz went to his safety valve — tight end Zach Ertz — to the tune of 10 receptions for 103 yards, which marked the first time all season the Eagles have had a 100-yard receiver. One would like to think that had inside linebacker Danny Trevathan been healthy and on the field, he could have patrolled that area a little better, but it’s hard to make a case that Ertz still wouldn’t have played a huge role.
The run defense was the single biggest disappointment of the afternoon. The normally stout Bears allowed 176 yards on the ground, 97 of which came from LeGarrette Blount. Three other players — including Wentz — rushed a combined 14 times for 82 yards, an average of 5.85 yards per carry.
Again, let’s at least lay some facts on the table so as not to lose our heads over this. The Bears not only were without Trevathan — a major piece to the run defense puzzle — but were missing athletic playmaker Leonard Floyd. Floyd’s presence alone improves the outlook for the rest of his defensive teammates based on the extra attention he commands.
But as I previously noted, the addition of those two players might have narrowed the gap to a slight degree but it would not have dramatically changed the outlook.
This game was decided early and it offered a clear example of what kind of rebuild the Bears still have in front of them.
The Eagles have at the command of their offense two former backup quarterbacks in head coach Doug Pederson — who backed up Brett Favre in his playing days — and offensive coordinator Frank Reich — who backed up Jim Kelly and also orchestrated “The Comeback,” leading the Bills to an NFL-record, 32-point comeback victory in a 1993 playoff game.
The point? It’s no surprise that the Eagles have one of the best offenses in the NFL. They’re surrounded by intelligent offensive-minded coaches — and have quality players on that side of the ball, obviously. Their defense is strong, too, and it’s led by former Lions head coach, the squirrely little runt, Jim Schwartz.
This is the model that I believe the Bears need to follow moving forward. While I don’t share the anger — “and da fire and da passion” — of Bears fans holding up Firefox logos to convey their desire for Ryan Pace to fire John Fox, I do think that it’s best — for the organization and the development of Trubisky — to bring on a young, offensive-minded innovator to lead the team in 2018 and beyond.
In a perfect world, Vic Fangio stays on as defensive coordinator and leads that side of the ball much like Schwartz is doing in Philly, but I know that might be a bit of a stretch. Fangio will be considered for head coaching gigs and who’s to say he’d want to stay on and work under yet another new boss? Or that the new boss wouldn’t want to bring in his own defensive guy?
If I had a short list of candidates for the Bears’ head coaching gig next year, Reich would be atop that list. The work he has done with Wentz seems encouraging for the development of Trubisky.
Now, it’s just a matter of taking a wait-and-see approach to what Pace does moving forward.