For Detroit Lions fans, Sunday’s 31-26 come-from-behind victory over the Bears seemed like a storybook ending. The final 4 minutes of the game were so exciting that it instantly made up for the 56 minutes of getting their butts whooped by the Bears.
For Bears fans, on the other hand, Sunday’s disheartening loss was just another in a series of dysfunctional moments from an organization that can’t seem to get itself dislodged from the mires of football hell.
I vividly recall watching the blank stares of Lions fans as the FOX cameras panned the audience when the Bears were up by 12 points late in the fourth quarter. I remember thinking: “Good. I hope these fans get a dose of humility and understand that their team is good, but it’s not championship caliber yet.”
And for the record, despite the Bears’ collapse, I still don’t feel the Lions are championship contenders. They’re a very good football team on both sides of the ball that are on a wild ride right now. But they’re not on the same level as, say, the Eagles, Chiefs, 49ers, or maybe even the Ravens.
But enough about them. I have bigger concerns about this Bears team — and the organization in general.
The Bears are still in the midst of a rebuild, I hope fans realize that. Any thoughts of playoff contention this past offseason were ill conceived. And I’ll admit, based on how bad the NFC is, I thought there’d be an outside chance the Bears made a play for the 7th seed.
But this team isn’t there yet. We don’t know if Fields is the answer at quarterback based on his inconsistency. The offensive line is missing a center, and maybe a better left tackle. The receiving corps is missing a stud second wide receiver. I’m fine with the running back room, but an explosive home run threat would go a long way.
On defense, the Bears need a 3-technique to run this scheme. And even if Matt Eberflus is not back next year, they could still use a disruptive force up the middle. They need another pass rusher because Yannick Ngakoue is not likely to return and Montez Sweat needs another force opposite him. Their linebackers are fine and three-quarters of their secondary is strong. They’ll need to replace Eddie Jackson, and if they don’t extend or tag Jaylon Johnson, they’ll need a replacement for him (or at nickel back if Kyler Gordon slides to the outside).
In total, I feel like the Bears need 7 new players out of the 22 offensive and defensive starters to be in contention. Can they fill those holes in one offseason? Not with all “blue” players, but certainly with some level of upgrade. They have two high first-round picks and a lot of cap space. Assuming they draft the right rookies and sign the right veteran free agents, I think they can be division and playoff contenders next year.
The first step, though, is getting the top position on the roster figured out. And Justin Fields looked awfully good in his first game back from his dislocated thumb.
He may have only thrown for 169 yards, but he also rushed for 104, accounting for 273 of the team’s 334 total yards. Aside from the last offensive play of the game, he took care of the ball, he read the defense well, he made plays off script, he moved the chains, and he helped the Bears own the time of possession by a 2-to-1 margin.
In short, Fields was not the problem in the Bears’ loss. He had a successful game.
This one fell on the shoulders of the defense, who allowed 15 points in less than four minutes. It also fell on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who, when the Bears were up by 5 with just under 3 minutes to play, made a series of inexplicable play calls when getting one first down might have iced the game.
Rather than get Fields on the move, where he had been successful all game, he kept Fields in the pocket, Khalil Herbert ran two plays into the middle of the Lions’ stout defensive line for just one yard, and then on 3rd and 9, Fields heaved the ball downfield to fourth-round rookie receiver Tyler Scott.
I don’t care that Fields threw a terrific pass there. I don’t care that if Scott had kept running, he not only might have had a chance to catch it for a big first down, but he might have gone all the way with it.
What I care about is that in that sequence of three plays, the Bears did not get their best pass catchers involved — DJ Moore, Cole Kmet, and Darnell Mooney, in whatever order you please — nor did they get Fields out of the pocket where he had a chance to throw or pick up yards with his legs.
That’s confounding and inexcusable.
I will say that the defense played a terrific game for about 56 minutes. They rattled Lions quarterback Jared Goff, finally capitalized off of opportunities to take away the football, recording four takeaways compared to the Lions’ one, and largely held in check the dynamic running back duo of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs.
Once again, we’ve entered territory where a large contingent of Bears fans are part of the “lose out” crowd. They want the Bears to lose every game the rest of the way to secure a high draft pick.
I’m done with losing, though. The Bears will have at least one high pick with the Panthers’ selection, but I’m not going to root for them to lose so that they have a second pick in the Top 5. If at the end of the season that’s the case, fine. But that’ll be a consolation prize for their failures. For now, in the words of the great Derrick Rose: “I just wanna win.”
The Bears will have an extended week to figure out where they went wrong in those last four minutes against Detroit, as they play on Monday Night Football one week from today against the Minnesota Vikings, where they’ll once again try to pick up their first division victory in the Eberflus era.
And for the love of everything holy, I sure hope they can finally throw us a bone.