Cue my favorite Krusty the Clown sound bite: What the hell was that!?
In what was supposed to be a renewed rivalry on a level playing field after the departure of the arrogant and unbearable Aaron Rodgers this offseason, the Packers spanked the Bears, 38-20, in Chicago’s season opener. The Packers proved they’re still very much in control of this rivalry and the Bears proved they still have at least another year of this mega-tear down and rebuild.
I admit, I was fooled by the good vibes of this offseason. I bought in, hook, line and sinker, thinking that maybe — just maybe — the rebuild was ahead of schedule. I bought into the notion that the NFC North was wide open and the Bears could possibly compete for the division crown. I also bought into the idea that in a weakened NFC, the Bears could at least compete for that No. 7 playoff seed.
And then Sunday happened and I was met with a rude, harsh reality. This Bears team is still very mediocre at best, and bad at worst.
Now, I do like the changes that they’ve made in this rebuild — so far. It’s just incomplete. It’s painfully obvious that both the offensive line and the defensive line are not fixed yet. But you can’t fix everything in just one offseason, so if the Bears are going to compete this year, it’s going to have to come from improvement from within and a scheme that hides the deficiencies.
Here’s the problem: maybe that’s what Luke Getsy, with Matt Eberflus’ blessing, was trying to do when he had Justin Fields throwing far more horizontal routes than vertical. Fields had three attempts beyond 10 yards for a touchdown, an interception, and an incompletion.
Was that all scheme related, or was that Fields electing to take the underneath routes because he was running for his life behind a crumbling offensive line?
I’m not ready to throw the coaching staff under the bus on this one. There’s enough blame to go around for this horrendous season-opener. You can say that Ryan Poles did not adequately supply enough talent across both the offensive line and the defensive line. You can claim that Eberflus and his staff did not properly prepare the team during training camp and the preseason for a divisional opponent in Week 1. But you can also say with utter certainty that the Bears were outmatched and outplayed, and that started up front.
Aside from Fields being under constant duress on offense, the run defense was bullied all game — or for most of it — by the Packers. For some reason, after a successful opening drive, the Packers elected to stray from their run game, which kept the Bears close for a little while. Eventually, though, they went back to it and scored three touchdowns in their first four possessions of the second half.
The defensive line got bullied at the point of attack and the back seven couldn’t fill their lanes and make open field tackles — with the exception of maybe Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, for the most part, who have already proven their worth by flashing some of their playmaking ability.
I also liked the playmaking chops of rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, and it was good to see highly-paid Yannick Ngakoue pick up the team’s only sack of the game. Across the board, it was a fine first-half performance before crumbling at the foundation. I thought Eddie Jackson had some costly plays, including on a Romeo Doubs touchdown early in the game.
There was a broken coverage by the secondary on a deep bomb from Jordan Love to rookie tight end Luke Musgrave. This occurred on the ensuing drive after the Bears teased us with a Darnell Mooney touchdown grab that brought the game to within 10 points late in the third quarter.
There was nothing to write home about in the fourth quarter as the Packers were basically coasting by that point as the Bears scrounged up some garbage time statistics. The Packers were up 24 early in the fourth quarter and I could faintly hear the arrogant, puffy-chested Cheeseheads from up north singing that ridiculous “Bears still suck” ditty. There’s only one thing worse than a Bears loss on any given Sunday, and that’s when it’s the Packers doing the beating and their arrogant fans rubbing our noses in it.
How much worse is it that Love outplayed Fields, and that it seems every bit likely that Love will be a player in this league just like his two predecessors? Now, is he going to be the third-straight Hall of Fame quarterback to suit up for the green and gold? Not likely, and it’s far too early to start throwing around that hogwash. But being a great quarterback is still in the realm of possibility, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow as we continue to question whether the Bears have gotten it right with Fields.
As a diehard, I’m not going to abandon the Bears. I’ll be there every Sunday rooting them on and hoping they win. I’m certainly not going to wish for another tank season so that they can have two early first-round picks next April.
But as an analyst, I can honestly say it was deflating to see them trip over themselves on national television, against their heated rival, sans Rodgers, after making so many upgrades this offseason. And based on their performance on Sunday, with no immediate help in sight, this could be another long season of rebuilding and painful growing experiences.
Is it possible that Sunday will be the team’s worst performance of the season when the eulogy on the campaign has been written? Sure. But I think it’s far more likely that losses like this will happen than it is that the team makes significant gains that put them in playoff contention.