© 2023 BSN LIVE, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Adam Hoge’s Bears Things Newsletter is an exclusive perk for CHGO Members. Thanks for being part of the family!
LAKE FOREST — Damn it feels good to have real football to break down. And guess what? A lot of it is good football.
Let’s dive into this week’s Bears Things:
The Lead: A win for H.I.T.S.
I have some bad news for you. The Bears are going to lose some games this year. They still lack talent and depth in some key areas of the roster.
But what you saw in Sunday’s 19-10 upset win over the 49ers confirmed what I suspected: The Bears have more young talent than most realize and they will play harder and more physical than most of their opponents.
Just think, in Week 1 last year, they couldn’t even hustle enough to touch a wide receiver on the ground before he got up and ran for a touchdown.
It was interesting to hear Bears head coach Matt Eberflus break down his “loafs” grading process on Monday.
“If you were in 55 plays and you had 20 loafs, that’s not a good outing. There’s a couple guys that had that,” Eberflus said. “We gotta do a better job with that.”
Defensive captain Roquan Smith acknowledged that the grading system is challenging.
“Yeah, loafs is crazy,” Smith said. “Definitely tough grades on the loaf, but hey, it’s ball. It’s how they view it, how they see things. You just have to respect it and just bust your tail and try to prevent those.”
Eberflus was quick to point out that they reward players too, referencing the “90 percent club.”
“If you’re in 10 plays and you only loaf one time, you’re in the 90 percent club. That’s a hard club to be in too, for the whole season,” Eberflus said. “We’ll give that award out at the very end if you’re in that club. That means you played hard the entire season. That’s always hard to get into.”
It appears accountability is back at Halas Hall — a development that matters a lot.
A few nuggets from rewatching both the TV copy of the game and the coaches’ film:
- One thing we already knew about Justin Fields: He does a great job of staying composed. One thing I’m learning about Justin Fields: He’s better when he’s playing with swagger. I thought a huge play in the game was the 12-yard scramble he had coming out of the two-minute warning in the second quarter. At that point, very little had gone right for the offense, but Fields managed to use his feet to make a play. As he got up from the ground, he looked at the ball for a moment and froze to briefly celebrate the play. It was barely noticeable in the moment, but I think it gave Fields a shot of confidence going into halftime and he played much better the rest of the way.
- Teven Jenkins plays with a nastiness that the Bears really need up front. I loved this rep below. He takes care of his initial responsibility, then turns to pop Nick Bosa to the ground, acknowledges what he just did, and then immediately starts moving downfield to finish the play. Jenkins’ finish has really stood out since his move to right guard.
- Khalil Herbert scored the go-ahead touchdown on a nice cutback run with 7:24 left in the game. Guess who made the tackle on the ensuing kickoff? Khalil Herbert. I guarantee you the entire coaching staff loved seeing that.
- The Bears are clearly practicing the art of the “free play” when the defense jumps offsides. You may have noticed center Sam Mustipher quick-snap the ball when the defense jumped. Unfortunately, Fields wasn’t quite ready for the snap, preventing a shot downfield. Remember, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy came from Green Bay where Aaron Rodgers has the free play mastered. I have a feeling we’ll see one from Fields soon. Maybe even against the Packers?
- I’m used to writing down No. 96 in green ink a lot when I rewatch the games, but this time it was Armon Watts, not Akiem Hicks. Watts kept getting pressure on the interior despite only playing 31 percent of the defensive snaps. Considering he just joined the team two weeks ago, I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees the field more. He was a projected starter for the Vikings before they cut him loose and this defense fits him perfectly.
Week 1 Grades/Tiers
I’m not going to list every single player on the roster here every week, but hopefully this gives you a good idea of how key players played:
Blue Chip Tier: Four players graded out in the top tier, including two rookies. Dominique Robinson, Roquan Smith and Khalil Herbert were tied at the top, with Jaquan Brisker right behind them.
Long Term Starter Tier: Teven Jenkins, Jaylon Johnson, Eddie Jackson, Trent Gill, Armon Watts, Matthew Adams and Equanimeous St. Brown.
Bottom Tier: Angelo Blackson, Cairo Santos.
Next up: Green Bay Packers
While there have been a lot of similarities between Matt Eberflus and Lovie Smith so far, one difference is that Eberflus isn’t (publicly) putting any extra emphasis on beating the Packers. Smith made it a priority right away and didn’t shy away from it. Eberflus is instead giving this message:
“We’re going to focus on us. This is going to be about our football team, about how we operate, how we play and what we do. And we’re going to take that approach every week.”
Fair enough. But it goes without saying that if the Bears are going to “take the North and never give it back,” as GM Ryan Poles declared in January, then they will have to stop the current six-game losing streak to the Packers. I probably don’t need to remind you that the Bears are just 5-24 against Green Bay since Aaron Rodgers took over as the starting quarterback in 2008.
But here’s some good news, perhaps: The last nine Bears head coaches went 1-1 against the Packers in their first year playing them. And four of them, including Smith, were able to win in Green Bay.
The Packers were thoroughly beaten by the Vikings in Minneapolis Sunday. They should have one of the better defenses in the league, but currently rank No. 31 in defensive DVOA after getting torched by Justin Jefferson (nine catches, 184 yards and two touchdowns). The Bears don’t have Justin Jefferson, but they do have Darnell Mooney, who they need to unlock after he had just one catch against the 49ers. The matchup between Getsy and his former team will be very interesting to watch throughout the game.
It’s still early in the week, but keep an eye on the status of the Packers’ offensive line. Tackles David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins were both out last week (Bakhtiari might never be the same) and guard Jon Runyan suffered a concussion against the Vikings. Rodgers was under heavy pressure and honestly didn’t look 100 percent in the second half.
Make sure you are locked into CHGO all week as we get you ready for a big game against the Packers. And on Sunday night, we’ll have you covered with our pregame show and our postgame show as soon as the game is over.
Get Chicago's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!
Become a smarter Chicago sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from CHGO’s writers and podcasters!
Just drop your email below!