LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Despite being outplayed for most of the game Sunday in Tampa Bay, quarterback Justin Fields and the Bears' offense got the ball down three with two minutes left and a chance to win the game.
The following sequence was a window into how deep the Bears' offensive issues run.
On the first play, the Bucs jumped offsides, giving Fields a free play. Fields was hit in the end zone and ultimately threw a pass that was picked off and returned for a touchdown. No harm, no foul, thanks to the penalty.
On the next play, the Bears dialed up a screen pass to Khalil Herbert, but it was called back because wide receiver Chase Claypool committed offensive pass interference because he thought the play was a run, not a screen.
Backed up to their own 6-yard line, the Bears called the exact same play, and the Bucs read it like a book. Edge rusher Shaq Barrett felt screen, dropped back, picked off Fields' pass with one hand, and rumbled into the end zone to put the final nail in the Bears' coffin.
On Monday, the day-after autopsy revealed some good from Fields pre-snap and some poor execution post-snap.
“The pre-snap diagnosis is there, right?" Eberflus said Monday at Halas Hall. "That’s a great look for that particular play. They’re in shell defense, the linebackers are all back. There’s no one really taking the linebacker in that situation, he’s a zone covered guy. The pre-snap in terms of what Justin was doing was A-1. There’s nothing wrong in there.”
Eberflus still didn't seem to have an issue with the play call. He noted there were a number of plays the Bears could have called to take advantage of the look the Bucs were giving them.
“You could run several plays down there," Eberflus said. "That’s one of the plays you could run down there. But you could run several plays there. Against that look and the three-by-one set they were in, it was there.”
Once the ball was snapped, Eberflus said the Bears needed right guard Ja'Tyre Carter to help move Barrett toward Fields, opening things up for the throw to Hebert.
“Yeah. They ran a T game right there," Eberflus said, diagnosing the post-snap issues. "We got to do a good job. I think that JT was there. He could have maybe worked him up field a little bit more, created a little more separation and dumped the ball to the top. That’s where it was.”
After the loss, Fields noted that the play sheet shrinks when you're backup on your own 6-yard line. Essentially, Claypool's mental error that backed them up also handcuffed Getsy.
"In that situation it’s tough," Fields said. "If you call a deeper pass, you don’t want to drop back into the end zone and have a potential to take a safety. I think that’s a tough spot regarding play calls for Luke in that position. He went with his gut and seven ended up making a good play. It is is what it is.”
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David said Tampa knew exactly what the Bears were running, probably because they had just seen the look on the previous play.
Getsy might not have had his full menu available, but running the same play out of the same look on back-to-back snaps is indefensible at the NFL level.
The Bears found success on offense Sunday on two drives, and both were heavy on vertical passes.
That was proof to Darnell Mooney that the Bears need to open things up and trust their playmakers to do what they do down the field.
"But like, you’ve seen the first start of the game, throwing the ball downfield," Mooney said Monday. "Putting the ball in DJ’s hands, allowing him to make a play, and it happened again, just get him the ball, make a play, and then Chase got in the end zone. Just allowing the guys to be accountable on whatever it is down the field. Allow us to be able to make that play, drop that ball, whatever it is. Allow us to be accountable. Just kind of have to continue to think like that and just putting the fault on us guys."
The Bears' search for offensive answers is unlikely to yield any quick fixes. But the private postgame autopsy of the loss in Tampa should point them away from the screen game and back to what Fields does best: throw deep and utilize his elite athleticism.
The screen game can get tossed out.