The 2023 season started with a thud for the Chicago Bears after an offseason filled with activity and hope. The Bears welcomed the Green Bay Packers into Soldier Field to begin Week 1 and were run out of the building when it was all said and done, losing 38-20.
It was one of the more anticipated opening weeks in recent memory given how the Bears brought in impact players to build around quarterback Justin Fields, while the Packers were turning the page to a new era with Jordan Love taking over as their signal caller. Many believed this would finally be the turning point in the Bears-Packers rivalry. Instead, it was much of the same that left fans feeling a different type of hopelessness.
The Bears were aggressive early but failed to convert a fourth down, resulting in a Packers touchdown to begin the game. Things were tight for much of the first half, but adjustments coming out of halftime made the difference. Green Bay changed up their plays to attack on offense while dialing up the pressure on Fields on defense. The Bears had no response, and the game was blown open.
It was a failure on almost every front, and while the coaching staff may want to bury the tape, the team needs to learn from this experience for the rest of the year. Here are our takeaways from the unacceptable loss to the Packers:
1. This was the worst Week 1 loss in 20 years
Week 1 losses aren’t new for the Bears, even against the Packers. Chicago is 0-4 in the last 10 years when opening the season against Green Bay, and there have been some doozies. But this one stands above (or below) them all and was the worst opening-week loss against any opponent in the last 20 years. Only the 49-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in 2003 eclipses this one as the worse Week 1 defeat.
There’s a reason this one hurts Bears fans more than other Week 1 games. It was that bad despite having months to prepare for the opponent. Long breaks have gone the Bears way under second-year head coach Matt Eberflus, but not this time. An unproven quarterback tossed three touchdowns against a revamped defense and put up 31 offensive points. That shouldn’t happen.
You can look back to the 2019 opener, where the Bears scored just three points; the 2018 opener, where Aaron Rodgers stormed back late in the game; or 2015, when the John Fox era opened up with a dud. Those pale in comparison to this one.
2. Matt Eberflus and his staff are now on the hot seat
Ignite the burners, start the fire, or turn on the space heater. Whatever you need to warm your chair up, make sure you do it because, for the first time as Bears head coach, Matt Eberflus is on the hot seat after that performance.
Before we get out over our skis, it’s important to note that the hot seat has various temperature degrees. The Bears head coach isn’t getting fired tomorrow or even in the next few weeks. But a performance like we saw on Sunday, with ample time to prepare and falling flat, is cause for concern. Eberflus’ team was outcoached, outsmarted, and outplayed in this game at every level. When the Bears went into halftime after playing a competitive two quarters, the Packers made the necessary adjustments to put the game away. Chicago stood pat and watched the Packers excel.
Theoretically, Eberflus finally has his guys to carry out his system. The front office brought in talent this offseason, and the coaching staff needs to get the most out of it. Instead, we saw dejected players on the sidelines for much of the second half. That’s not the inspiring sight fans want to see. Eberflus needs to get his guys more prepared going into Week 2. Otherwise, the temperature in that seat will grow a little bit hotter with each and every game.
3. Luke Getsy and Justin Fields aren't meshing together
When looking at the offensive struggles for the Bears, it’s difficult to determine the overarching issue. Some will look to offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s poor game plan as the catalyst for the poor performance. Others may see Fields as having an issue with how he operates the offense. It is also due to the poor pass protection (more on that later). The truth often lies in the middle, and for that reason, we can say that Getsy and Fields aren’t working well together.
Last year, Fields and Getsy were paired together for the first time, and it was a learning curve early on in the season. The Bears offense struggled mightily, and neither man was succeeding at his job. Eventually, they found a solution, but they still had problems that persisted all the way through the year. Now in Year 2, those problems still persist, and one has to wonder if these two can be successful together.
This week, Getsy’s game plan was to utilize the short passing game to try and move the ball downfield while sticking with the run. That worked to an extent early on, but Green Bay caught on soon enough to blow up any screens or dump-offs. Fields, meanwhile, took many of those short passes and only pushed the ball downfield a few times. Interestingly enough, he was successful when that happened, going 2-2 with a touchdown. The question, though, is: how many were the first reads, and how many were Fields not wanting to make a mistake?
Fields stuffed the stat sheet, going 24-of-37 for 216 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. His 37 attempts were the second-most in his career, but he finished the game with 3.1 yards of average depth of target, via BetQL’s Joe Ostrowski. Getsy doesn’t trust his quarterback to rip it, and Fields kept checking down to a fault, even on long downs. After a decent first half in which he made big throws both inside and outside of the pocket, that went away in the second sans the screen plays.
Is Fields the problem in the passing game, or is it Getsy and his conservative nature? Both are to blame, and both need to figure out a solution to fix it. The problem is that they may continue to not mesh well together.
4. The offensive line was hurt by the lack of preseason reps
There’s little to take away from the preseason that carries over to the regular season, but offensive line continuity is one of them. The Bears only had their starting five offensive linemen play a total of seven snaps this preseason, and it showed on Sunday. Guard Nate Davis was beaten the majority of his snaps, center Lucas Patrick had an uninspiring performance, guard Cody Whitehair was ineffective, left tackle Braxton Jones had too many penalties and was constantly pushed into the quarterback, and Darnell Wright made rookie mistakes. They weren’t prepared to handle what Green Bay was throwing at them, and that can be attributed to a lack of cohesion during practice and the preseason.
Granted, injuries happen, and the Bears needed to shuffle players around to account for the loss of Teven Jenkins. But in the case of Patrick and Davis, they weren’t prepared despite being vested veterans. I assumed Davis in particular would be ready to go despite his lack of practice reps, and I was wrong.
Had Fields not been the magician we’ve come to know, the offensive line would have allowed more than four sacks. But make no mistake, he was pressured too often to get comfortable, and I’m beginning to think his internal clock will be forever sped up because of it.
5. DJ Moore was grossly underutilized in this game
Since the arrival of D.J. Moore, there have been comparisons made between the Bears and teams like the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles due to the arrival of an elite receiver for a young quarterback. Moore was set to take Fields to the next level, like Stefon Diggs did for Josh Allen and A.J. Brown for Jalen Hurts. But let’s look at their first games with their new teams, shall we? Diggs had eight catches on nine targets for 86 yards in 2020, while Brown totaled 10 catches on 13 targets for 155 yards.
Moore had two catches on two targets for 25 yards and one target on a two-point conversion. That’s unacceptable.
We’ve seen the connection between Fields and Moore blossom this offseason. They were borderline unstoppable in practices, and it was clear to many that Moore was the best player on the field more often than not. Whether it was due to the emphasis on screen passes, coverage on Moore, or a combination of the two, keeping your WR1 out of the game plan is a colossal mistake. It cannot happen again going forward.
6. There are no more excuses for Chase Claypool
Speaking of wide receivers, let’s talk about Chase Claypool. He was everyone’s favorite punching bag last year after he failed to make an impact after he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was to be expected, though. Claypool was learning a new offense on the fly, and it’s difficult to adjust midway through the year. But that was last year. He’s had all offseason to get acquainted with the team and should be able to make an impact. That didn’t happen in the slightest in Week 1, and there are no more excuses for him.
Claypool was a nonfactor in both the passing and running games. He failed to bring in either of his two targets and looked disinterested at times when blocking screen passes. At times, it also looked like he gave up on routes. To use Eberflus’ term, it looked like he was loafing out there. The player who dominated the early part of training camp was nowhere to be seen.
There is no excuse for his overall performance. Bad reps happen, but to be a nonfactor for the entire game is a problem. Claypool says this is the biggest year of his life, as he’s set to enter free agency next offseason. You wouldn’t believe it based on what we saw on Sunday. If this is what his effort will be like going forward, make Equanimeous St. Brown active and put Claypool on the bench. At least St. Brown can hold a block.
7. The defense failed at every level
We’ve discussed the offensive issues ad nauseam, so it’s time to shine a light on the defense. Their performance was a complete failure, given the offense they were facing. There’s no reason Love should have had as much time to throw as he did, completing easy passes down the middle with very little coverage. He wasn’t particularly good; it’s just that the Bears defense made him look better than he was.
That resulted in him going 15-of-27 for 245 yards and three touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 123.2. That’s nearly 20 points higher than Arron Rodgers’ rating from his first game against the Bears. The players couldn’t generate any pass rush, and they received no help from defensive coordinator Alan Williams, who refused to send extra pressure for almost the entire game. It doesn’t help that Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, two prized free agent acquisitions, struggled in pass coverage either.
The run defense wasn’t much better until Aaron Jones left the game due to an injury. They were gashed for chunk yards early on and again in the third quarter. The Packers then used an extension of the run game with screens to move the ball as well. It was always going to be the focus of their offense, and they were still able to execute it at critical times. Even though the Bears held them to 2.9 yards per carry, that wasn’t indicative of what we actually saw.
The Bears defense was never going to ascend to a top unit overnight, but this was supposed to be a vastly improved group. Instead, we saw a unit that failed at every level, with multiple breakdowns. It would be one thing if this was an elite offense they were facing, but it was Jordan Love with a below-average receiving corps.
8. This game won't be indicative of the entire season
The good news (depending on your mood) is that there are still 16 games to go, and this one will not define the Bears season. Many teams have horrific opening games that find ways to turn around, and vice versa. Look at the Bears last year after their Week 1 come-from-behind win over the San Francisco 49ers. Nobody thought that group would wind up as the worst team in the league a few months later. Even good teams like the Cincinnati Bengals have started out slow the last few seasons, and the New York Giants got shutout 40-0 after winning a playoff game last year. This is just the beginning of a long season.
That being said, changes need to happen. Eberflus needs to get his team better prepared; Getsy and Fields must find a way to mesh; and the team should build on the very few positives they saw, like rookie Roschon Johnson’s performance. Good things can still happen, but it requires everyone to buy in. We’ll truly know who this team really is by the end of October.