The Bears entered Week 7 with an opportunity to prove they were the big dogs in the NFC yard. Instead, they left with their tails between their legs.
The Rams humbled the Bears with a thorough, 24-10 beating on Monday Night Football. The loss knocked the Bears off of their temporary perch atop the NFC, dropping their record to 5-2.
If the Bears viewed this opportunity as a statement game, there’s only one proclamation I walked away with after the loss. The Bears might be headed for the playoffs this season, but they’re a long way from being contenders.
The Rams were entirely in another class
Don’t let the two-score game fool you. The Rams were completely in control throughout the game. They seemingly had an answer for everything the Bears tried to do on both sides of the ball.
The Rams held the edge in total yards, rushing yards, first downs, time of possession and turnover advantage. And the only reason the Bears had 20 more passing yards than the Rams did was because the Bears were playing catchup and the Rams were getting pretty much whatever they wanted on the ground.
By the second half, you could tell the Bears were defeated. They were outmuscled, pushed around, and were absorbing hits rather than delivering them. There were too many arm tackles and too many instances of Bears defenders “catching” the Rams ball carriers rather than sticking, wrapping up, and driving them to the ground.
Body language is a dead giveaway. And even with the game never mathematically out of reach until late in the fourth quarter, the Rams were playing with much more energy and emotion than the Bears were.
The sad reality of an overwhelmed Bears offense
Matt Nagy is taking a beating this Tuesday morning as Bears fans continue to tire of his offense’s ineptitude. But while I agree he has made his fair share of confounding play calls, I’m not ready to pin this all on him. He’s not even the primary concern for me.
The Bears have serious deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball (what else is new?) and I don’t think it’s anything that can be improved by scheme alone.
Give kudos to the Rams defense — they’re a good unit. But what we witnessed on Monday night wasn’t out of the ordinary for this Bears offense. It’s just more of the same. And to me, that failure all starts up front.
Nagy could probably do a better job of playing to his team’s strengths and avoiding its weaknesses. But what exactly are those strengths? What can this team do well? Aside from force-feeding Allen Robinson, do the Bears have any go-to plays?
The fact is the Bears offense can’t do anything well because they can’t block effectively. Not even the best play callers in the league can succeed without competent offensive line play. The truth is that a good offensive line will make a play caller look smart. A bad offensive line will make him look dumb.
The Bears lost guard James Daniels to a torn pec a few weeks ago. They were an average offensive line with him, but are much worse without him. And unfortunately, the savior to their problems won’t be walking through the door this season.
Quarterback play is still ineffective
I think most Bears fans understood what the team had in Nick Foles. He wasn’t going to wow anybody with his athleticism. His strength was his mind, the ability to diagnose a defense and be smart with the football. Unfortunately, that latter part was a problem on Monday.
Foles generally does a good job of taking care of the football, but he tried to force a pass into tight coverage to Darnell Mooney in the back of the end zone that was intercepted. The turnover killed what was an otherwise impressive offensive drive in the third quarter.
What was so significant about that interception was that it was smack dab in the middle of two Rams touchdown drives. The Rams scored once. The Bears tried to answer but gave it away. Then the Rams scored again.
Although it didn’t mathematically seal the deal for the Rams, all the momentum was with them after those three series.
Foles later threw a second interception, which I attribute to him forcing a throw in desperation mode. But it wasn’t the two picks that bothered me as much as it was his inability to connect with his receivers on big plays when they were needed the most.
Make no mistake: if the Bears can’t score more points, they’ll be one-and-done in the postseason — if they even get there.
Bears defense was “okay” but overmatched
I’m not going to rail on the defense for allowing 24 points and 371 yards. Those are both about average numbers when compared to other defensive averages this year. And the Bears played average against the Rams.
What bothers me, though, were stupid penalties and low energy and physicality.
Akiem Hicks had a particularly bad day when it came to penalties. He was flagged for illegal use of hands, roughing the passer (which was declined in favor of a pass interference penalty), a neutral zone infraction, and unsportsmanlike conduct for jumping on the pile at the end of a run.
It’s hard to get mad at one of the Bears’ best defenders, but they were costly mental mistakes.
We also knew heading into this game that the weakness of the defense was defending the run. The Rams exploited that all game. Darrell Henderson averaged 4.3 yards per carry and Malcolm Brown notched 5.7. Wide receiver Robert Woods even garnered four rushing attempts for 23 yards, a 5.8 average.
Unless the Bears shore up their run defense — which often has more to do with willpower than scheme — I don’t see any way that they help their own offense improve. As long as opponents keep moving the chains and winding the clock by successfully running the ball, it limits the opportunities for the Bears offense to get on the field and bumble their way toward points.
Things don’t get any easier moving forward
I talked last week about the Bears entering the “Murderers’ Row” of their schedule. The Bears failed the first test of that difficult stretch with an embarrassing performance against the Rams.
They will get no immediate relief moving forward.
The Bears will return home next week to take on the Saints before traveling to Tennessee to battle the Titans. In Week 10, the Bears host the beatable Vikings before getting their bye in Week 11.
When they return from the bye, they have to travel to Lambeau Field to take on the red hot Packers for Sunday Night Football.
If you think the loss to the Rams was an embarrassment, just wait until you see what the Packers will have waiting for the Bears in prime time on national television.
I don’t think there is a magic formula to fix this Bears offense. But they’d better find a way to be at least competent by then.