The Bears lost a game they expected to lose. Amidst the depths of disappointment, some rays of light still peak from the darkness, the brightest of which is their rookie QB.
So the Chicago Bears lost by several points to the Los Angeles Rams. The Bears defense played worse than expected, and the offense—at times—played better than expected. The Bears gave up big plays, didn’t capitalize on opportunities, and didn’t catch any breaks. And to top it off, Matthew Stafford forgot to throw an interception.
Trying to fall asleep last night, I counted sheep like I often do. Only last night, the sheep had horns and they were abusing my favorite football team. They rammed those sinister spirals into the quads of Jason Peters, the ankle of Larry Borom, and the heart of our Beloved Staley.
Does anyone remember that time when the Bears started with the ball on a season opener, drove to the red zone against the previous number one defense, then put their rookie QB in for one RPO on 2nd & 10 on the 12 yard line, and he made the correct read for a 9 yard pass, leaving the offense at 3rd & 1 on the three in the capable hands of a veteran rifle-armed QB? That must have felt pretty good right?
If you can take yourself back to that moment before the false start and the tipped interception, you have to admit that some things went right on offense last night.
Run blocking and David Montgomery
I’m always skeptical when player’s say their offseason workouts put them in their best shape ever, or they were able to add to their speed with a new training regimen. Last night, David Montgomery proved me wrong, starting with an explosive 41 yard scamper on the first drive, and continuing to average over 4 yards a carry for the rest of the game. The offensive line let a few Rams into the backfield on runs, but Montgomery was able to turn those into short gains more often then not, bouncing off big hits and driving forward with insatiable second effort. The Rams aren’t known for their run defense, but I can’t help leaving with a good feeling about the Bears run game.
Cole Kmet and Marquise Goodwin
The Bears entered the season needing reliable production from someone other than Robinson and Mooney, and last night, Cole Kmet and Marquise Goodwin looked eager to step up to that challenge. Aside from his costly false start, Kmet proved to be one of the most reliable Bears targets, collecting 5 catches for 42 yards on 7 targets. One of the two lost targets was a contested drop on 2nd and 25 in would end up being the failed 4th down conversion to seal the Bears’ loss, but it’s the first game of the season and I’m notching those 5 catches in the win column. Goodwin on the other hand pulled in all 4 of his targets for a team-leading (yikes) 45 receiving yards.
Andy Dalton showed some of what Nagy and Pace see in him with quick decisions and accurate throws. The former Bengal helped mitigate the mismatch between the Bears pass blocking and the Rams pass rush by taking barely two seconds to throw the ball and effectively dink-and-dunking the Bears down the field for some nice drives. His interception was costly, but it came as the result of an impressive leaping tip and was more bad luck than bad decision or bad throw. Overall, he outplayed his box score and deserves the chance to exact revenge on the kitties that abandoned him. And can we talk about those legs? The man took two scrambles for 13 yards, more than doubling Justin Fields yards per carry. Install some designed QB runs and see where this gazelle can truly lead this offense!
Speaking of Justin Fields
Apparently, he was on the field for 5 plays, but one of them must have been forgettable because I only counted four. There were two cutesy Nagy trick plays that didn’t work (Keep trying, Nagy, we love your creativity, Be You!). And there were two beautifully executed plays where Fields got the most of the play call. There was the previously mentioned RPO, and then there was the goal line run, where Fields demonstrated speed, vision, good decision-making, and a little big of wiggle as a runner to score his first NFL touchdown. I’m pleasantly surprised that Fields got this much playing time. Whether or not I agree with it, I’m starting to think that the Bears are actually doing what they think is best for his development.
Considering the Bears only scored 14 points, even I have to admit that the Bears offense left plenty to be desired
3rd and 4th downs
The Bears were 5 of 11 on 3rd down, which puts them in bad-not-awful territory. But 0 of 4 on 4th down is enough to guarantee a loss. Most of these failed attempts seemed to be quick slants that were anticipated and well defended. This seems like a problem of both predictability and execution, two things that have plagued the Bears offense in Nagy’s tenure.
Pass blocking and that 15 yard sack
We knew the offensive line wasn’t going to be a strength going into this game. Losing both Jason Peters and Larry Borom didn’t help. For what it’s worth, I was excited to see Borom get some playing time and thought Borom played in his few snaps before the ankle injury. I just hope he’s able to come back soon because counting on a 40 year old tackle to last more than half of each game is wishful thinking. Overall, the pass blocking was adequate for the quick-throw game plan, but didn’t give me confidence it would hold up for longer-developing plays. This got tested, and resulted in a 15 yard sack, with Aaron Donald embarrassing Cody Whitehair and getting to Andy Dalton before he could finish his drop-back.
Darnell Mooney should be proud of his son
Jalen Ramsey may have had something to prove after getting trolled by fans all offseason with a viral clip of Darnell Mooney’s double move breaking his ankles. He played like a Ram on fire in a swiss-army-knife role that allowed him to amass 9 tackles including two in the backfield.
Bearpile on the 1 yard line!
Let’s start with the highlight. The Bears defensive line rallied for a momentum shifting stop in the 2nd quarter by swarming on Stafford for a 2nd down sack that set up 3rd and 19 on the one yard line. Akiem Hicks and Robert Quinn were credited with the sack, but Roquan and Bilal Nichols were topping the pile and Khalil Mack was standing beside them with a front row seat to the splendor of ursine smoshery that Matthew Stafford had clearly missed from his life. Hicks celebration was equal parts inspiring and menacing and I have no doubt that moment invigorated the offense and contributed to scoring drive that immediately followed.
Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor
Jaylon looked the part as the Bears CB1. He was effective in coverage, aggressive defending the run, and a reliable tackler. Vildor put on a “good enough” performance which is a fine stepping off point for this season.
Tashaun Gipson and Eddie Jackson
I’m starting to worry that Tashaun Gipson may be getting a little too “Sr.” The aging safety filled the safety two role adequately last year, and was one of the better performers in their playoff game. But last night, he was caught on the bottom of the frame chasing after a Ram making a big play a little too often. He maybe be overestimating his catch-up speed at this time in his career. Those of us who’ve been waiting for an Eddie Jackson return to 2018 form are going to have to keep waiting. If Jackson was a difference-maker in last night’s game, it wasn’t in a way that showed up on the broadcast tape.
Speaking of the Bears safety worries, the Rams embarrassed the Bears secondary with two way-too-easy long touchdowns. Whether the the initial reception was on the safeties or another defender is up for debate, but in both cases, the safeties failed to serve as the last line of defense to prevent a touchdown. The Van Jefferson play is the most painful, considering he fell to the ground as he caught the ball and neither safety was able to just touch him before he got up. On the Cooper Kupp touchdown, I do think Marqui Christian was supposed to follow him in coverage, but he got beat and that’s something the Bears should have been prepared for.
The story of Bears special teams was mainly their like of use. Zero field goals and a mere one punts were attempted. That looks bad when you go 0 for 4 on 4th down, but going for it on 4th is what I do when I play Madden so I can’t criticize it as an overall strategy. Khalil Herbert showed some nice potential returning kicks, but otherwise it was a quiet day for the Bears 3rd unit.
The Bears are tied for 1st in the NFC north, and having lost to the best of the 4 teams our division played, I choose to believe that puts them in the lead.