If I had told you that the Bears had more first downs, ran more plays, recorded more yards — including yards per play — and were as efficient as the Saints were on third downs on Sunday, you’d probably think the Bears had a good shot at the victory, right?
But then when I add that the Bears had more penalties by a margin of 8-1 and were a minus-5 in the turnover battle, the writing is on the wall.
Despite their best efforts and a very impressive first half of the game by Tyson Bagent, the Bears fell to the Saints on Sunday, 24-17.
To be on the wrong side of such a lopsided penalty and turnover battle and still only lose by a touchdown says something about the way the rest of the game was played.
The majority of fans and pundits had this game projected as a blowout victory for the Saints. For Bagent, the undrafted rookie quarterback, to head to a hostile environment and lead the Bears to two touchdowns on his first three drives — and a would-be field goal drive at the end of the half had the normally reliable Cairo Santos not doinked his 40-yard attempt off the right upright — that’s saying a lot.
I still really enjoy Bagent’s command of the offense, even though he’s getting a professional education about timing and throwing windows. I would much rather him throw to the right receiver and have it picked off because the window closed quickly than see him throw to the wrong receiver, someone who is double covered or is the wrong read on a given play. Thus far, more of his mistakes are the former than the latter, and that can be corrected. It’s easier to drill into him to get the ball out quicker than it is to read the defense and see the field better. Bagent has shown a knack for being able to process the game fairly well.
Cole Kmet continues to be Bagent’s go-to guy. The tight end caught 6 balls for 55 yards and two touchdowns. He had a terrific catch in tight coverage on a well-placed ball by Bagent for the first score of the game.
Darnell Mooney also showed up in a big way on Sunday. Mooney has had a rough go of it this season but led the Bears with 82 receiving yards on 5 catches. He demonstrated that quick burst, catching the ball and turning up field quickly, even leaving three defenders in his wake on a 38-yard catch and run.
Running back D’Onta Foreman had another strong outing, rushing 20 times for 83 yards. He continues to exhibit that downhill running style with a combination of power and burst. He had another run where, if not for a shoestring tackle, he could have taken it to the house. His performance lately will make it awfully difficult for Matt Eberflus to decide the running back playing time distribution when Khalil Herbert returns to action.
Defensively, the Bears had a mixed results day. On the one hand, they had zero sacks and takeaways. That’s not emblematic of a great defense. But on the other hand, they limited Saints running back Alvin Kamara to just 26 yards on 9 carries, and still kept the game close and gave the offense a chance to win it despite the large turnover discrepancy.
In his first action with the team, defensive end Montez Sweat may not have registered a notable stat line — just two tackles and a pass defense — but he opened up opportunities for other players and displayed his non-stop motor, chasing and catching Taysom Hill down the field and on the opposite side of where he lined up. He’s only going to get better as he settles into his new home.
We must give an awful lot of credit to both T.J. Edwards and Jack Sanborn in this one. Edwards has been playing well all season long and really looks like one of Ryan Poles’ best acquisitions with the Bears. Edwards led the team with 15 tackles, one for a loss, a pass defense and a quarterback hit. Sanborn, meanwhile, continued to show his relentless motor and nose for the football while recording 10 tackles and one for a loss while starting for the injured Tremaine Edmunds.
The loss marks another frustrating defeat in a back-to-back season rebuild for the Bears. That is, unless you’re still part of the “lose out” crowd because you want the Bears to draft a quarterback or the great Marvin Harrison Jr. And if that is your goal, I have no qualms about that.
But if you’re like me and you’re tired of seeing the Bears lose week in and week out, this one stung a bit.
Now, the Bears have a short week of preparation before they face the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football. This is a must-win for the Bears because they own the Panthers’ first pick of the draft and they need it to be in the Top 2. Whether you want the Bears to draft a quarterback or not, having one of those top two picks will at least increase the trade value of it. But if the Bears lose to the Panthers, that hurts that draft pick’s value and the worst thing that could happen — from a draft stock perspective — is that both the Bears’ pick and the Panthers’ pick fall out of the Top 3.
There are a lot of question marks about whether Justin Fields makes his triumphant return to the field this week. Personally, I feel it behooves both Fields and the Bears to wait one more week and give Fields the mini-bye to have extra preparation for the Detroit Lions on Nov. 19.
Then again, if you don’t really want them to win, and don’t feel that Fields is the guy, you might just be fine with him stepping in on a short week of preparation, performance be damned.