8 Takeaways from the Bears’ close loss to the Lions

The Chicago Bears dropped another close game for the second week in a row, this time to their division rivals to the northeast in the Detroit Lions. The Bears lost 31-30 despite another impressive performance by the offense and quarterback Justin Fields. The second-year signal caller continued to dazzle, totaling four touchdowns on the day, two through the air and two on the ground.

Defensively, the Bears struggled to stop quarterback Jared Goff as the Lions scored 24 points and moved the ball with ease. The difference, however, was a pick six thrown by Fields and a missed extra point by Cairo Santos that gave the Lions a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter. Fields and the offense were unable to mount one final scoring drive and the lions sealed the victory.

It was a frustrating loss to a divisional opponent that shows the Bears still have plenty of flaws that need to be addressed. Thankfully for the first time in years, quarterback is not one of them. Here are our takeaways from Sunday’s defeat.

Justin Fields sustaining his strong play is significant

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Do you know what’s more difficult than playing quarterback at a high level? Playing quarterback at a high level consistently. But that’s what Fields has been doing over the last four weeks now. Since their last win against the New England Patriots, Justin Fields is 59-of-92 with a 64.1 completion percentage. He has 620 passing yards with eight touchdowns to just two interceptions. Fields also has 467 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He’s making spectacular plays on the regular for four weeks in a row and you can argue it should have been five weeks with the drops that occurred during the Commanders game.

The Bears haven’t seen great quarterback play happen consistently in years. Sure, there would be blips on the radar for a game or two. We saw that from Jay Cutler at the end of 2009, Josh McCown in 2013, and even Mitchell Trubisky in 2018. This is different though. Fields is taking games over both with his arm and legs. Teams know how to stop him but they can’t actually execute it. The Lions showed that by beating Fields up a bit with more physicality on defense than he’s been used to seeing. That’s what’s most impressive about Fields’ play as of late. The tape is out there and yet he’s continuing to perform at a high level.

Fields and the offense still need to complete a fourth quarter comeback

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The only thing missing from Fields’ resume at this point is a signature victory in the fourth quarter. It’s not the end all, be all with his development, but for two weeks in a row now, Fields and the offense have failed to put points on the board in their final drive of the game when trailing. Last week, a missed pass interference call and a drop by Equanimeous St. Brown ended the drive. This week, it was the increased pressure by the Lions defense and failure to push the ball down the field.

It’s not all Fields’ fault obviously. His receivers need to do a better job of getting open and the protection broke down at the end. But he does take some responsibility when the game is on his shoulders. There’s something to be said for making the biggest plays when your back is up against the wall after balling out all game long. This isn’t to say Fields can’t perform during crunch time. He’s consistently making something out of nothing all game long with limited weapons and bailing out a defense that can’t stop a nose bleed. But seeing him take that to another level by bringing the Bears back one more time would check another box in his development.

That’s what everyone wants to see, right? This is part of his development as he grows. Fields is too good to not find a way to win when the game is on his shoulders and that part of his game is coming soon. It just hasn’t been checked off yet.

David Montgomery offers little outside of pass blocking at this point

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One of the more surprising revelations of the 2022 season has been the unspectacular play of David Montgomery. Outside of one game this season when he ran for 122 yards against the Green Bay Packers, Montgomery has struggled running the ball. He’s averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and doesn’t look like the player we saw in 2020 or even early 2021. In fact, Montgomery hasn’t looked the same since his knee injury he suffered against these very same Lions in early 2021.

In the 19 games since that injury, Montgomery has 271 carries for 974 rushing yards, averaging under 3.5 yards per carry. That’s a large sample size and he’s justifiably losing touches to Khalil Herbert. It was more of the same for Montgomery on Sunday as he carried the ball nine times for 37 yards. His best value at this point has been pass protection, which he excels at compared to Herbert. But outside of that, there hasn’t been much use for Montgomery. If the Bears need a hard couple of yards and they don’t want to risk Fields running in a situation like that, Montgomery can help. But that’s about as useful as he can be in that department. It’s been a rough season for No. 32.

The Bears are getting the most out of Cole Kmet in the passing game

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Cole Kmet isn’t going to burn defenders and he’s not the transcendent tight end like Travis Kelce, but the Bears are getting the most out of him this year and that’s more than good enough. Kmet had another stellar day at the office, catching four passes for 74 yards. Two of those catches went for touchdowns, including a long 50-yard grab where he broke free of defenders and cruised into the end zone.

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is using Kmet like the Green Bay Packers used Robert Tonyan when he was on the staff. Kmet has become an effective red zone weapon and continues to build trust with Fields. He’s making the easy catches and doing well with the challenging ones, like his first touchdown grab where he needed to climb the ladder. Kmet isn’t a game changer or anything of that nature, but he’s finally brought stability to the tight end position in his third year. This staff is getting the most out of him and it’s showing both on the field and in the box score.

Equanimeous St. Brown shouldn't be playing over N'Keal Harry

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The Bears activated wide receiver Byron Pringle from injured reserve this weekend, indicating one of the wide receivers would likely need to take a seat as a healthy scratch in addition to rookie Velus Jones Jr. That player was N’Keal Harry, who was already losing snaps to new acquisition Chase Claypool last week. But the player who should be losing snaps instead is Equanimeous St. Brown.

Yes, St. Brown is an effective blocker and has sprung some big runs. But Harry is solid as well in that department and offers more upside in the passing game. St. Brown wasn’t targeted on Sunday and had two jet sweep rushes that varied in effectiveness. The Bears coaching staff has been high on St. Brown all year and Harry is still getting up to speed after his ankle injury cost him most of the season. But let’s see what more he can do and make him and Claypool the primary outside receivers. We’ve seen enough of St. Brown for a bit.

This defense is not good enough for the Tampa 2 scheme

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Much like the Bears offense has found their groove the last few weeks, their defense has fallen off a cliff in that same period. The defense is allowing opposing offenses to drive up and down the field and isn’t getting the pressure up front to counteract their soft coverages. It’s the classic Tampa 2 prevent defense that Bears fans have been accustomed to seeing, dating back to the Lovie Smith era. The difference between those defenses and this one is there were future Hall of Famers and stars at all levels during the Lovie days. Most notably defensive linemen such as Tommie Harris and Julius Peppers.

The Bears were able to generate pressure on the quarterback to force them into mistakes. Without that consistent pressure, the quarterback can pick apart the secondary and that’s exactly what’s been happening lately. Too often, Goff was able to sit back and dissect the Bears defensive backs to move the chains. This defense just doesn’t generate enough pressure up front to warrant such a conservative approach. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams needs to be more creative with his looks and schemes to throw more at the line of scrimmage. It’s clear the safe approach isn’t getting the job done and the Bears don’t have the horses to keep up with opposing receivers for an extended period of time.

Jack Sanborn looks like a starting linebacker

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It was a rough day for the defense, but undrafted rookie linebacker Jack Sanborn stood out in a big way. The local product led the team in tackles with 12, while also sacking Goff twice and notching two tackles for loss. He also nearly had the play of the day when he went up and snatched a pass out of the air for an interception that would have halted any momentum from the Lions. Unfortunately, a questionable penalty negated the play and the Lions were able to score. The interception won’t show up in the box score, but Sanborn’s instincts and strong play were on full display for much of the day.

Sanborn was thrust into the starting lineup after Roquan Smith was dealt to the Baltimore Ravens two weeks ago. Since then, he’s answered the bell and then some. He was the team’s defensive player of the game and could have a future as a starting linebacker for a fraction of the price Smith would have cost. The feel-good story from the preseason has turned into a legit playmaker in the regular season.

The Lions' flopping aided in their victory

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Last week against the Dolphins, all of the talk surrounded the NFL officials for their inability to make (or not make) the right calls. The league even came out and admitted the referees missed two crucial calls in the fourth quarter, one that went against safety Eddie Jackson for a pass interference call and one pass interference call that wasn’t made against Chase Claypool. Some of that talk will still take place this week as the officials had another rough outing, but it was partially due to the Lions flopping at times.

One on scoring possession in particular, the Lions embellished some of their hits that led to multiple penalties against the Bears. First, Goff went to the sidelines and was slightly pushed as he was entering out of bounds. He crumbled to the ground and a flag was thrown. Later on when Sanborn secured his interception, cornerback Jaylon Johnson hit a receiver in the chest and he fell to the turf quickly. A penalty was called for hands to the face, despite Johnson pushing the receiver in the chest. The Lions sold some of those penalties well and it’s a bit surprising for a team coached by Dan Campbell.

Fans can blame the officiating, but the flopping by the Lions made their job much harder than it should have been. That’s where my frustration lies.

Story originally appeared on Bears Wire