What the hell happened on last play before halftime? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Bears’ 41-10 loss to the Lions on New Year’s Day was every bit as ugly as the scoreboard indicated. The run defense was non-existent. The offensive line struggled to protect Justin Fields, who was sacked seven times. Fields didn’t help things by holding onto the ball too long, which led to unnecessary hits. There was poor play at pretty much every single position group. But one play in particular stood out as particularly ineffective over the course of the bad, bad day.
With seven seconds left in the first half and the ball on the Lions 45-yard line, the Bears had a chance to run a quick play to get into field goal range. If they succeeded, they would’ve cut the lead to 24-13 heading into the break. Instead they went into the locker room with everyone who was watching the game asking, “What the hell just happened?”
The Bears lined up with an empty backfield and five skill players set to run routes. On the right side, Dante Pettis stood behind Equanimeous St. Brown. To the left, Byron Pringle stood behind Cole Kmet in a similar formation. On the far left side, David Montgomery lined up all alone. The Lions knew what the Bears needed, took the field with three down linemen and eight men in coverage with a focus on defending the sideline. One of those guys in coverage near the sideline was defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson.
At the snap, the Bears started running their routes, but everything seemed to be in slow motion. The play looked more like a walkthrough rep in June than a desperation attempt to get in field goal range. Fields tried to squeeze a ball into Pringle as he streaked, or rather sauntered, from the middle of the field towards the right sideline, but Hutchinson easily stepped in front of the ball for an interception.
After the game, Matt Eberflus had a simple diagnosis for where things went wrong.
“We had a problem lining up and it wasn’t executed right,” Eberflus said.
Except for that last play, Eberflus was happy with how the Bears put themselves in position to score some points before half. It started with the defense’s stop to force a Lions field goal, and was followed by Velus Jones Jr.’s ensuing 63-yard kick return to set up the offense.
“We told Velus, hey, take it out no matter what, so we want to get a return,” Eberflus said. “If we get the return then we’re going to do whatever we need to do at that point based on the time. So all those things happened sequentially. That was great.”
Of course the following play was not great, and the Bears missed out on a chance for points. Ultimately, the play didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the game. The Bears ended up losing by 31 points, so all the miscue really cost the team was some extra embarrassment. The play was a microcosm of the Bears season, though. Time and time again we’ve seen the offense squander opportunities to score due to poor execution. Playing well in those critical moments is a pillar of Eberflus’ H.I.T.S. principle: playing Smart, Situational football. It’s the one area they’ve Struggled at the most, too. The Bears are still building their foundation as they install Eberflus’ program and teach the plays to win their way. We’ll know they’re making progress when they start to succeed in those moments.
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