It wasn’t a pretty sight at SoFi Stadium on Sunday night if you were a fan of the Chicago Bears. Playing the Los Angeles Rams in prime time for the fourth straight year, the Bears were embarrassed in front of a national audience, losing 34-14 to start 0-1 on the season. The offense was lacking in explosive plays and the defense couldn’t stop any of them on the other side.
Starting quarterback Andy Dalton was efficient for the most part but failed to deliver any explosive plays whatsoever in the passing attack. The run game kept the chains moving as David Montgomery eclipsed 100 yards rushing, but the many yards yielded few points. An offense that scores just 14 points isn’t going to lead to many wins.
Defensively, it was as bad of a performance as I had seen in seven years. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford diced up the secondary, having two passes of 50 or more yards go for touchdowns. The tackling was atrocious and aside from one sack, there was absolutely nothing to celebrate from this unit.
Week 1 in the NFL always provides the biggest overreactions, so while I’m going to try to avoid major hot takes, this performance overall doesn’t inspire much confidence for the rest of the season. Here are my takeaways from Sunday’s loss to the Rams.
The secondary is worse than we feared
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Ever since training camp and the preseason, I’ve been more than a little concerned about the cornerback situation. Outside of Jaylon Johnson, the Bears really didn’t have anyone who you could trust to make a play when the team needed it the most. With players like Kindle Vildor and Marqui Christian starting, we knew it would be a challenge. But not like this. The cornerbacks and safeties were abused from the jump on Sunday, surrendering an average of 16.1 yards per reception from the Rams receivers. All but one player averaged more than 10 yards per catch, and according to Lester Wiltfong Jr. of Windy City Gridiron, the defense only had one pass breakup the entire evening. https://twitter.com/wiltfongjr/status/1437282997481398274 Whether it was a busted coverage by Christian, a missed tackle from Eddie Jackson, or Tashaun Gipson letting a man run right by him, there were issues across the board. Can it be something that’s fixed? Defensive coordinator Sean Desai will need to look himself in the mirror and adjust his schemes, while the players need to be held accountable for the utter lack of production. Otherwise we’re going to see a lot of big plays being created from opposing offenses.
Eddie Jackson should be benched
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We all knew Eddie Jackson’s deficiencies as a tackler. Heck, he even admitted he had work to do prior to the season. But we can kind of live with that if he would go back to being the ball-hawking safety that made him an All-Pro just a few seasons ago. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be coming back, which makes me think he needs to see the bench for a game. Jackson not only missed a few bad tackles on Sunday, including one where he just needed to touch the player, but he was beat badly in coverage multiple times. The result was 14 points and an unsurmountable lead for the offense. If Jackson can’t do what he does best, why not sit him and give someone else a shot? Players like DeAndre Houston-Carson and Deon Bush aren’t the best players at the position, but they have shown up with big plays before. Until Jackson can turn a corner, I’d let someone else play. It can’t get worse, right?
Andy Dalton isn’t the problem, but he’s far from the solution
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Everyone and their mother was interested to see how Andy Dalton would perform in his first regular season start as a Bear. Primarily, it was to judge when Justin Fields would take over the starting job, but there was certainly intrigue as to whether or not Dalton would be better than what we saw in the preseason. Turns out he can be a great game manager, but that’s not what the Bears need right now. Dalton was 27 for 38 with 206 yards, no touchdowns and one pick. Those are pedestrian stats. He didn’t push the ball downfield and only attempted one pass more than 15 yards downfield, which ended up being the interception. Dalton played it safe and was able to move the ball with quick, underneath throws to his receivers. It would have been the perfect performance for a team that had a stifling defense they could rely on. But the Bears need more from the quarterback position in their current state. https://twitter.com/Zack_Pearson/status/1437259667361734662 It’s unclear whether Dalton simply didn’t want to take shots down the field, or if Nagy implemented that type of gameplan with the offensive line protection issues (more on that later). Many of the receivers, including Allen Robinson, weren’t traveling far in their routes after all. But right now, the offense needs a quarterback to win them a game, not keep them in it. I’ve long felt Dalton deserved a shot and he’s fine in Nagy’s offense. But the Bears need someone else to elevate it. Meaning…
We need more Justin Fields
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If the Bears defense resembled anything close to 2018, they would be in a great spot with Dalton starting. Someone who can chew up clock and keep the opposing offense off the field. But this isn’t 2018 and the Bears need a player who can deliver the explosiveness we’re wanting to see. The Bears need Justin Fields to start taking more snaps. To be honest, part of me kind of likes the approach the Bears are taking with Fields to get him acclimated to the professional league. But if you’re going to give him playing time, give him opportunities to throw the ball downfield and use his legs more. We don’t need end arounds or shovel passes. Fields has too much talent to waste it on those gadget plays. I know many people are going to want to see Fields start altogether and I get that. He’s the future and we want to see it now. I’m asking Matt Nagy to meet us in the middle and not only give him more snaps, but let him do something with them. Then it might become crystal clear that he needs to take over immediately.
Matt Nagy was aggressive in all the wrong ways
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From the first drive of the game, Nagy actually scripted the plays perfectly. A good dosage of run and pass led the team to the redzone, before Dalton threw the ill-advised interception that led to know points. It was disappointing, but I was pleased with how the Bears moved the ball down the field. But given how the Rams drove up and down the field with ease on the defense, the gameplan should have evolved from there. Instead, Nagy chose with the “dink and dunk” approach, only being aggressive on fourth downs. The Bears went 0-4 on fourth down conversions, three of those times in Ram territory where they could have kicked a field goal to stop the bleeding. You’re always going to get second guessed if you don’t convert on fourth down and maybe Nagy didn’t have the faith in his defense to stop the Rams, but you need to open up your playbook to create more opportunities. Having players like Darnell Mooney and Marquise Goodwin exclusively run curl routes feels like a huge waste. This felt eerily similar to the Bears-Packers game in Week 17 last year. The offense relied on the short passes and runs to move the ball down the field, but it didn’t matter because the defense couldn’t stop the Packer offense. Nagy couldn’t adjust and it led to a bad loss. Just like Sunday night. Nagy continues to struggle with the gameflow as a playcaller, which is exactly why he should never have taken back those duties. Perhaps we’ll see a change at some point yet again with Bill Lazor taking over the role, but it seems the only aggressiveness from Nagy we’re going to see is him trying to convert fourth downs. He could have been trying to mask the offensive line woes, though they did perform better than expected. But if that’s the only aggressive part of your playcalling then we have a huge problem. [listicle id=480548] [listicle id=480540] [listicle id=480479]