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Bears still can't get the fundamentals right in prime-time loss to the Chargers

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
October 30, 2023

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — T.J. Edwards had an opportunity to bring down Austin Ekeler in the back field on a second-and-6 play from the Chicago Bears’ 39-yard line.

The Chargers ran a screen to the left for Ekeler. Edwards identified the screen and went full speed in Ekeler’s direction. The veteran linebacker didn’t have the proper angle and only managed to get his left hand on Ekeler’s shoulder pads.

Instead of a tackle for loss, the veteran running back took the pass 39 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

“I felt like all the stuff that we were kinda seeing all week,” Edwards said. “You know, just really didn’t execute when it came down to some of the screens and things like that. All things that we can fix, so at the end of the day we got to get back to work. There is another team coming team coming next week, and we’ll be ready for it.”

Before the Bears can move on to their Week 9 matchup with the New Orleans Saints, they need to figure out what happened in the blowout, 30-13, loss to the Chargers on Sunday Night Football at SoFi Stadium.

Ekeler finished with 123 total yards (29 rushing and 94 receiving) along with his receiving touchdown. Justin Herbert started the game 15 of 15 and ended his night 31 of 40 for 298 yards and three touchdowns.

One of the main issues that has become a reoccurring one since the beginning of the 2023 season and even dating back to when Matt Eberflus started his tenure as head coach is the lack of execution on the fundamentals.

Against the Chargers, Bears defenders missed tackles throughout the entire game — allowing drives to be extended and points to be scored.

Eberflus said prior to Sunday’s game the tackling had been better for his unit. Clearly it was far from better in the prime-time spotlight, but Eberflus wouldn’t attribute the poor tackling to a lack of effort.

“It always comes down to fundamentals to me,” Eberflus. “It’s fundamentals. It about being in there and having the right mindset and understanding how to attack the football. I got them in the locker room there. They were good in the second half.”

Maybe the reason why Eberflus thought the tackling was better for the final two quarters was because he saw his defense make one more crucial missed tackle right at the end of the first half.

Rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson lined up one-on-one with tight end Donald Parham Jr. to the right side of the field. Parham ran a simple five-yard hitch from Chicago’s 11-yard line. Herbert delivered the pass and Stevenson attempted to secure the tackle but couldn’t. The 6-foot-8, 237-pound tight end worked up field and reached the end zone to make it a 24-7 game.

“Nothing really, just a missed tackle,” Stevenson said. “Got to go out there and work on tackling this week and get better.”

Of course, it wasn’t just the defense that came out flat, so did the offense. The Bears only managed to score 13 points and finished with just 73 yards on the ground. It was a complete 180 from what happened in the Week 7 matchup with the Raiders a week ago.

Against the Raiders at Soldier Field, the Bears ran for 173 total yards in the 30-13 victory. The Bears ran for 100 more yards against the Raiders than in the road loss to the Chargers.

Cole Kmet mentioned in the locker room after the game that he thought the team could’ve done better with their overall physicality in the run game, but he couldn’t pinpoint why that physicality that was there a week ago against the Raiders didn’t show up against the Chargers.

“I don’t know. Just didn’t come with us from Chicago,” Kmet said. “Which is too bad because I think that’s our identity and that’s what we need to play into. That’s something that we need to carry with us all the time. So, I just didn’t feel like I did last week with the Raiders, and I know that was a really good performance. But that edge we usually got in the run game, I just didn’t feel like it was there this week.”

It’s astonishing the Bears could play without that edge in the run game for a prime-time road game that featured plenty of Bears fans in attendance. Although, the Bears did come out flat in their home opener against the Packers in Week 1 and had a disappointing performance in the loss to the Vikings after such a convincing victory over the Commanders a week prior.

The Bears are going into Week 9 of the 2023 NFL season, and the team is still trying to figure out how to play with proper fundamentals and how to play with physicality on a consistent basis.

It’s fitting the team is 2-6 and sitting at the bottom of the NFC North.

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