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Last Thursday’s 12-7 loss to the Washington Commanders was just the latest agonizing way the Chicago Bears lost a game over the last 12 seasons.
That’s how we start this week’s Bears Things:
The Lead: Learning how to win
You don’t need me to tell you this, but Bears fans have suffered some incredibly frustrating defeats in recent years. Just since I began podcasting in 2015, it seems like there have been two or three games a season in which I was nearly left speechless because of what I witnessed on the football field.
There was the disaster against the Browns in Justin Fields’ first start last year.
There was that time the Bears gave away a 10-point lead in the final minutes against the Lions in 2020.
There was that time John Fox challenged a spot and ended up giving the Packers the football instead.
And, of course, there was the Double Doink.
The list of mind-boggling losses goes on and on. My time covering the Bears began in 2011, coinciding with when George McCaskey took over as chairman of the board. Since then, he has overseen four different general managers and five different head coaches. Of the GMs and head coaches that have since been fired, each one played a role in some ridiculous defeat that ultimately sealed their fate.
So what does this have to do with 2022? Well, last week’s loss to the Commanders represented a brand of football that wasn’t supposed to exist at Soldier Field this year. No one was expecting the Bears to be good, but Matt Eberflus’ H.I.T.S. philosophy was supposed to breed competency.
In other words, the expectation was this: Even if you lose, look competent in doing so.
The Bears have been plagued by too many mistakes during their three-game losing streak. Coaches can live with effort-based mistakes. They can’t live with the inexcusable mistakes, even if they are being made by rookies. The Bears’ margin for error is too little to be muffing punts, dropping touchdowns and fumbling footballs when you should be running out of bounds.
Last week’s loss to Washington prompted the CHGO Bears Podcast to have a draft of the craziest Bears losses since George McCaskey took over the team in 2011. The problem is that it wasn’t that hard of a project to execute, and it’s not a great sign that Eberflus and Ryan Poles already have a game that was selected in the second round.
The Bears are certainly going to lose more games in 2022, but here’s a goal for the rest of the season: Avoid this dubious list of unfortunate defeats.
Eberflus hinted in last Friday’s press conference that the team would make some personnel changes during the mini-bye. We learned of one of those changes on Tuesday with wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette getting waived in favor of Isaiah Coulter, who was promoted from the practice squad.
That means the Bears will likely have two new receivers playing significant snaps in New England, with Coulter joining N’Keal Harry, who is expected to play his first game as a Bear against the team that drafted him in the first round.
For the record, my expectations are low, but at least the Bears are trying different options.
Here are a few other changes I’d like to see:
- Offensive line shuffle: This starts with moving Lucas Patrick back to the center — you know, the position they signed him to play. If Patrick was playing well at guard, then I would understand the hesitancy to make the change, but he did not play well at left guard against the Commanders. But if Patrick moves to center, who plays left guard? Michael Schofield and Riley Reiff were signed to be adequate veteran options in this exact type of situation, so they should be used as such. The wild card though is Alex Leatherwood, the 2021 first-round pick the Bears claimed off of waivers from the Raiders in September. He recently returned to practice after dealing with mononucleosis, but it’s unclear how prepared he is in this new system with the practice time he missed. Leatherwood might ultimately be the Bears’ best option at left guard. On the other hand, that would mean that both tackles and both guards are either first- or second-year players, a scary proposition as the second-year quarterback struggles to get rid of the ball quickly.
- Play Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson more: The Bears have two young, promising pass rushers, but they keep playing fewer snaps than Robert Quinn and Al-Quadin Muhammed. The veterans haven’t produced enough and, frankly, Gipson and Robinson have outplayed them.
- Give Jack Sanborn a shot. This one probably doesn’t surprise you, but all Sanborn did in the preseason was make plays. The Bears’ linebackers have been underwhelming and inconsistent. Why not see if Sanborn can provide a spark as the SAM linebacker in the base package?
Next up: New England Patriots
The Patriots regularly do what the Bears do not: Draft quarterbacks. The strategy doesn’t always pay off, but it never hurts to take more swings at the most important position in sports.
Bill Belichick’s latest swing may have saved the Patriots’ season. The casual NFL fan probably didn’t even notice when New England (3-3) selected Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe in the fourth round back in April. In a weak quarterback class, Zappe seemed like nothing more than a flier who put up big numbers playing just one season of FBS-level football. But when Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer went down with injuries, Zappe was thrown into action at Lambeau Field and played pretty well in a loss. Then he looked even better in wins over the Lions and Browns, getting New England back to .500. Now, it’s unclear if the Patriots will even turn back to Jones on Monday night if Jones is cleared from his ankle injury.
Regardless, the Patriots are 7.5-point favorites. Their defense is good, currently ranking seventh in defensive DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. Overall, the Patriots are 10th in DVOA, while the Bears are 31st, only outranking the Panthers.
This won’t be an easy one for the Bears, but they’ve had a realistic chance to win five of their first six games, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they’re in the mix come the fourth quarter.
Make sure you’re tuned into the CHGO YouTube channel all week as we get you ready for the game. And come Monday, we’ll have your pregame coverage at 6pm CT with the postgame show immediately following the game!
Join us at our next tailgate!
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