New year, new Chicago Bears? Not exactly after their Week 17 game against the Detroit Lions. The Bears lost their ninth game in a row when they fell 41-10 against the Lions, allowing Detroit to keep their playoff hopes alive. For Chicago, it was arguably their worst game of the season as they sleepwalk to the final week of the season.
After a historic first quarter from Justin Fields and his running ability that netted 10 points, the Bears went scoreless for the next 45 minutes while the Lions punched them in the mouth on their way to scoring 40+ points. The loss tops last week’s game against the Bills as the most lopsided defeat for the Bears this season.
It was a forgettable game that left a bad taste in the mouth’s of Bears fans everywhere on the start of the new year. Here are our takeaways from the loss.
The Bears finally broke down
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All season long, head coach Matt Eberflus had his team ready to go and players competed until the very end. But in Week 17, we finally saw the team as a whole lay down and lay an egg. The Bears looked lifeless for much of the afternoon on both sides of the ball. Detroit dialed up the pressure early when the Bears had the ball and once they adjusted to Fields’ running ability, there was no answer. Everyone looked lackadaisical on too many plays.
Defensively, it was much of the same. Defenders were taken out of plays way too easily and missed tackles in the run game, allowing for big gains all day long from the Lions. Nobody looked like they wanted to be at Ford Field on Sunday and that comes down to coaching. Eberflus didn’t have the team prepared and it was evident this game meant nothing for the Bears, even though it should have. To play spoiler for a division rival still is significant and while fans may not want the Bears to win another game, the players and coaches still should. This should be unacceptable by Eberflus’ standards. Everyone deserves a loaf, including him.
Justin Fields should have been pulled from the game
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Much of the discourse surrounding this game was the handling of Fields when things began to go sideways. After a historic first quarter where Fields rushed for more than 100 yards, the offense turtled and things broke down at almost every level. Protection issues became more problematic, receivers were rarely getting open, and play calls became a bit more suspect. Fields himself struggled as well, losing a fumble and throwing an interception on consecutive drives.
The game was quickly lost and given the lack of cohesion, a decision should have been made to pull Fields so he could live to see another game. He was getting rocked in the pocket, needed a massage gun on his leg, and underwent an evaluation for a concussion at one point. None of those actually knocked him out of the game, but perhaps the coaches should have held him out after halftime as a precuation.
Getting reps is valuable, especially for a young quarterback. There are lessons Fields can take away on most plays, even when they blow up. But there wasn’t much to learn late in that game. Protect your investment, evaluate the 30+ plays from the first half, and try again next week against the Vikings.
Braxton Jones and Riley Reiff were liabilities at tackle
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This game was supposed to be an opportunity for the Bears offense to get right, particularly on the line. The Lions’ pass rush is nothing to write home about and with receiver such as Chase Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown coming back from injury, all while playing in a controlled environment, the prevailing thought was the Bears could reignite their struggling pass offense. They couldn’t. A big part of the reason why, however, was the play of the two tackles.
Braxton Jones and Riley Reiff were both abysmal, allowing multiple sacks to Fields and getting bullied off the line on almost every play. Jones was pushed into Fields for one sack, while Reiff was on the ground more than he was engaged with a defender. The cherry on top was both players were called for holding on the same play and it still resulted in a sack. Can’t do much worse than that.
Reiff is just a journeyman at this point, but Jones is someone the Bears still believe in. He needs to work on his craft this offseason if he’s going to hold onto the starting left tackle job. This isn’t the way he wants to end a season and hopefully he can rebound in the finale next week.
Chase Claypool had a right to be upset
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One of the big moments of the game that garnered most of the attention was Chase Claypool blowing off steam on the sidelines after another anemic offensive drive. According to The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain, Claypool was seen getting animated after a series, yelling at wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert and throwing his helmet before Fields came over to console him.
It’s never great seeing a receiver act out on the sidelines, but Claypool has a point. He was invisible on Sunday and was targeted just once, which came on the final drive of the game at the two-minute warning. Up to that point, Claypool was just a decoy on the field, even when he got open a few times but wasn’t seen. With little wide receiver help, one would think Claypool would be more involved early and often. That wasn’t the case though.
Claypool shouldn’t have made a scene, but his frustration is justified. After two months of being a Bear, his involvement in the offense has seemingly shrunk, though that’s also due to the fact he missed the last two games with a knee injury. Perhaps the outburst means he gets more targets in the finale. At the very least, it would salvage the trade a bit before going into the offseason.
The Bears defense was unprepared for the Lions offense
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We already established the Bears packed this game in early across the board, but this defense looked to be all out of sorts trying to cover the Lions skill players. It’s as if they took the gameplan from their game against the New York Giants three months ago and reused everything, only this time facing an offense with more than one playmaker.
The Bears defense is battered and bruised, missing plenty of key starters. But for the last few weeks, they’ve played opposing offenses tough for at least the first 30 minutes of the game before things went haywire. On Sunday, they were down from the start and never recovered. They allowed over 500 yards to the Lions offense, surrendered early first-down conversions, and fell for every misdirect the Lions used, especially in the run game. Everyone looked out of sorts while the Lions were methodical with their playcalling and execution.
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams was doing a much better job these last few games, but he deserves to be held accountable for this game just as much as the players. The defense was unprepared for some of the looks the Lions showed and failed to do the simple things well. It’s very uncharacteristic of what this team has looked like under Eberflus.