Well, at least Justin Fields played encouragingly.
The Bears’ rookie quarterback showed marked improvement in the team’s 33-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get much help from the defense.
After a decent showing in the first half, the Bears’ defense caved and the Niners’ offense clicked as they scored 24 second-half points. The Bears’ offense, as we know, is one of the lowest-scoring in the league and could not keep up.
Fields’ line didn’t exactly tell the tale of his performance: 19 of 27 for 175 yards and a touchdown with a 84.7 passer rating. Those are rather pedestrian numbers until you include his 103 rushing yards and a score on 10 attempts. Add to that the fact that his one interception, which brought down his rating, was a desperation heave late in the game that went off Darnell Mooney’s fingertips and fortuitously bounced into the hands of the 49ers’ defense.
The Bears’ run game, which has been so strong in David Montgomery’s absence, was a tale of two halves. Khalil Herbert was running the ball fairly effectively in the first half before the Niners stepped it up defensively and stifled him in the second. Herbert’s final line was 23 carries for 72 yards, a paltry 3.1 yards per attempt.
When the run game is effective and the team is picking up big chunks per carry, it opens things up for Fields. But if it’s getting stifled, then the Bears have to ask a lot of their offensive line and lackluster receiving corps.
Mooney continued to lead the charge with 6 catches for 64 yards while Allen Robinson remained an afterthought, totaling just 3 receptions for 21 yards. The Bears did say they wanted to make a better effort to get the tight ends involved, which they did to the tune of 6 total catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Fields targeted the group 9 times.
No matter how much better Fields performed, one thing that both he and the offense need to get better at is finishing drives with points — and preferably 7 of them rather than 3. Through 8 games, the Bears are at an anemic 15.4 points per game — second lowest in the NFL.
News flash (which is actually not news at all): you need to score points to win games. And lots of them. The days of “defense wins championships” are long, long gone. Yes, a good defense will still win you a title. See: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, circa January 2021, stomping the majestic Chiefs offense and holding them to just 9 points. But you know what else the Buccaneers had? A good offense that scored 31 points.
I know that the Bears have played some tough teams this year. Between the Rams, Browns, Packers, and Buccaneers — not to mention a decent Bengals team — the Bears have had a rough slog. But they’re nowhere near adequate on offense and it isn’t going to get fixed this year.
My assumption when all is said and done is that we will see a new regime in Chicago in 2022. I find it hard to believe the Bears, while not mathematically out of playoff contention, will recover in time to make a playoff push. And even if they do, it’ll be an ugly one. I just can’t see the Ryan Pace-Matt Nagy union lasting beyond this year. And I know that that will make a lot of Bears fans elated.
But until that happens, all we can do is keep looking at the youngsters on this roster and seeing if they might have a future to be excited about.