Sports

Justin Fields shows some encouraging signs — but needs to cut down on the ‘Krenzels.’ Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts on the Chicago Bears’ Week 6 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

10 thoughts after the Green Bay Packers came to Soldier Field and won for the 11th time in their last 12 visits, playoffs included, defeating the Chicago Bears 24-14 on Sunday afternoon.

1. If this season is all about the development of Justin Fields, there were some positives to take away from yet another loss to the rival that is most important to the McCaskey family and the fan base.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields walks to the sideline after throwing an interception in the first quarter against the Packers at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

Justin Fields became the eighth Bears quarterback to lose to Aaron Rodgers and was clearly outdueled, but the rookie showed a little something. There will be teachable moments and corrections. The interception in the end zone is unacceptable, whether defensive tackle Kenny Clark was in the neutral zone before the snap or not. (More on that play in a bit.) The Bears should have come away with at least a field-goal attempt at the end of the second quarter. Fields is losing too much yardage when he takes sacks, and while there’s risk/reward with his superior athletic ability and the opportunity for him to turn broken plays into big gains, he needs to develop a better sense of when and how to escape danger. The Bears left some yardage on the field, but faced with a 17-7 deficit to open the fourth quarter, Fields put together an impressive drive that gave the defense a chance to keep the team in the game.

The Bears went 80 yards in 10 plays, with Fields finding a wide-open Darnell Mooney for a 5-yard touchdown to draw them within a field goal with 8:44 remaining. The defense didn’t do its part — and we’ll also get into that in a bit — but this was a really nice drive. It was how you want to see a young quarterback perform when trailing in the fourth quarter against a good opponent, even if the Packers were missing key frontline players, especially in the secondary. It was the kind of drive the Bears have to be able to replicate because the bottom line is they’re not scoring enough points and they won’t beat many quality opponents unless this offense can get rolling.

“I’m really proud of where he’s at,” coach Matt Nagy said of Fields. “And every day he’s going to keep growing, every single day in practice, these games he’s going to grow. He’s doing a really good job of making sure he communicates with us where he’s at, and in the game he’s going to keep getting looks. He’s starting to see more and more defenses. He’s starting to get more and more timing with these wide receivers and tight ends. The beautiful thing about Justin is he’s a competitor, he stays extremely positive, he’s hard on himself in a good way.”

Fields hit Allen Robinson for a 20-yard strike on third-and-3 to reach midfield. On the next snap, he connected with tight end Cole Kmet over the middle for a 21-yard gain, the longest pass play of the game for the Bears and the kind of connection these two should start making with regularity.

Two snaps later, Fields scrambled around the left side for a 14-yard gain. He ran for a season-high 43 yards on six carries, and those kind of numbers will boost the offense’s yards per carry, which was 5.4 for Sunday’s game. The problem is with the sacks — he took four for a combined loss of 37 yards — those numbers are almost a wash. Included was a 10-yard sack on third-and-13 from the Packers 38 with 20 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Throw the ball away — or better yet find a short check-down for a minimal gain — and Cairo Santos has a shot at a long field goal.

Ideally a quarterback loses 5 yards or fewer when he’s sacked. For the longest time I’ve called sacks for big yardage “Krenzels.” Former Bears quarterback Craig Krenzel, another Ohio State product, had a knack for taking really bad sacks when he was a rookie in 2004. Krenzel had 16 sacks on which he lost 6-plus yards and eight on which he lost 8-plus yards. He took only seven sacks on which he lost 5 yards or fewer. In no way am I comparing Fields to Krenzel; I’m noting that the Bears want to see Fields rush for close to 50 yards and lose significantly less when he’s sacked, which will happen from time to time. It’s something he will get better at as he gains more experience.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields kneels on the ground while Packers linebacker Jonathan Garvin and nose tackle Kenny Clark celebrate after Clark sacked Fields during the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on Oct. 17 2021.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields kneels on the ground while Packers linebacker Jonathan Garvin and nose tackle Kenny Clark celebrate after Clark sacked Fields during the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on Oct. 17 2021. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

“He can make plays with his legs,” Nagy said. “When something’s not there, he’s going to look to try to make plays. We tell him that. We want him to do that. He’s a very smart quarterback that makes a lot of good decisions. Every now and then there’s a lot of quarterbacks that make decisions where you end up taking a sack and you don’t throw it away. You’ve got to get into understanding what happened on the play. Was it a protection issue? Was it a Mike (linebacker) ID? Was it he had somebody open and he should have (thrown it)? There’s a lot of things that go into it. After we watch the tape, we’ll be able to evaluate it. As you go into this you understand, in particular (on) third down, you come into situational football and how you have to grow from it.”

On the snap after the 14-yard scramble, a holding penalty backed up the Bears to first-and-20 from the Packers 26. There was no panic. Fields connected with Robinson and Kmet again to create a manageable third-and-2, and after a Khalil Herbert run, they scored on the pass to Mooney.

The Bears opened the game with an 80-yard, eight-play touchdown drive, but other than that, it was a slog moving the ball and that is where they need to be better. Fields, who finished 16 of 27 passing for 174 yards, needs to have four or five high-quality possessions a game, not two.

“I should have played better,” he said. “I didn’t play as well as I wanted to. The drive before the (first) half ended, we should’ve got points right there, so that’s on me. And I mean, I’ve just got to play for my teammates. I think Bill (Lazor) was calling a great game, what we were doing. I’ll take the blame. I just need to be better.”

Going back to the drive at the end of the second quarter, Dean Lowry sacked Fields for a 13-yard loss on third-and-13 from the 38. It knocked the Bears out of range for Santos. I’m not sure what Fields could have done. It was a tough call. The Packers were playing 2-man coverage and the Bears had three deep curls, all at about 15 yards. It takes a long time to develop and that is a tough route to throw against 2-man. Fields waited for Robinson to come open before feeling the pressure. In that situation, the Bears might have been better off with leveled routes in the middle of the field. A target at maybe 7 yards and another at 12 to 15 yards against a team that plays a lot of split-safety coverage. There just weren’t any windows for Fields on this play. The Bears were counting on a receiver to get a one-on-one and no one did.

Fields should be better the next time the Bears face the Packers on Dec. 12 at Lambeau Field. Who knows? Maybe the passing game will be clicking by then. It would really help. It’s crazy that in the entire history of the Bears-Packers rivalry, a series that includes 203 games, the Bears have passed for 300 yards in only six of those meetings. That’s not suggesting passing yardage always correlates to winning, but it does underscore how abysmal the team’s passing history is.

2. The Bears figured they had 5 yards in their pocket and a chance for much more late in the first quarter when Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark appeared to enter the neutral zone before the snap.

Bears coach Matt Nagy on the sideline in the fourth quarter of a game against the Packers at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021.

Bears coach Matt Nagy on the sideline in the fourth quarter of a game against the Packers at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

That’s what center Sam Mustipher saw.

“He came across the football,” Mustipher said. “I thought it was a free play. I snapped the football. That’s why Justin threw it up.”

Fields went deep for Allen Robinson, and safety Darnell Savage intercepted the ball in the back of the end zone. Robinson had pulled up his route short of the end zone. No big deal, the Bears figured, they would take a 5-yard penalty and have third-and-2 at the Packers 42. But there was no flag on the play and the Packers got a touchback on what turned out to be the only turnover of the game.

Privately, I figure the Bears are incensed about the play. They’ll surely pore over the film and ask the league office for clarification. It was definitely close and it’s precisely the kind of play Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has killed opponents with over the years. He’s considered the best in the league at manipulating defenses with his pre-snap cadence. It’s impossible to deliver up-to-date statistics, but in November 2019 the NFL released data that indicated from 2006 to that point, Rodgers had thrown more passes on free plays (84) than any other quarterback in the league for nearly 2,000 yards — almost double the next-closest QB on the list, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger. In that span, Rodgers averaged 25 air yards per attempt. Given a free play, he’s going deep just like Fields tried to do.

“That was a weird-looking play,” Rodgers said of the Savage pick. “It looked like it was almost a false start as well. A lot of times in those situations where we’re trying to draw them offside, you have to time it perfectly where the guy’s offside and the snap happens before the tackle or the guard of that side moved. It looked like that (play) could have been blown dead possibly.

“But most times, including 12 (players) on the field, I’ll peek to the line judge to the side of the foul and just make sure that there’s a flag coming out. Now, I think there’s been a couple times over the years where we think we’ve got them and we didn’t, maybe we didn’t check, but because of those reasons, I usually like to check and make sure that flag’s in the air.”

Maybe that’s something Fields can learn from moving forward. It will take patience and discipline to scan for a flag while the play is going, but it’s certainly a teachable moment even if the Bears believe referee Brad Rodgers’ crew got it wrong.

“I saw him jump,” Fields said. “After he jumped, I saw Sam snap the ball and I threw the ball downfield. Wanted A-Rob to go down the middle, and when (Savage) picked it off, I was confused on why there weren’t any flags on the ground. So I don’t know if the refs just missed that or he didn’t jump offside or what.”

It certainly can’t hurt to study some tape of Rodgers on free plays. He is the master of them, and it’s a good sign that Fields wanted to be aggressive.

3. The backbreaker for the Bears turned out to be the 41-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams.

Packers wide receiver Davante Adams flips into the end zone after running out of bounds on the 21-yard line during the fourth quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021.

Packers wide receiver Davante Adams flips into the end zone after running out of bounds on the 21-yard line during the fourth quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

It came a little more than a minute after Justin Fields led the touchdown drive I detailed above. The Packers were facing second-and-10 from their 38. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson followed Adams wherever he went for the majority of the game, and Adams got a clean release off the line of scrimmage. After that he was wide open, and Rodgers, as he’s prone to do, dropped the ball right in there. Free safety Eddie Jackson made another poor tackling effort, refusing to wrap up, and was fortunate he knocked Adams off balance just enough for him to step out of bounds at the Bears 21.

The Bears were in nickel personnel and brought a simulated pressure with inside linebacker Roquan Smith. It looked like some form of zone coverage, but it’s hard to tell what happened. Johnson tried to quick jam Adams, missed and stopped. Something went wrong on the play besides the missed jam, and Johnson wasn’t playing true man coverage.

It’s why playing Rodgers can be so maddening. The Bears defense did a pretty good job against him all day. He completed a 32-yard pass to Adams in the second quarter, but the league’s leading receiver entering the game is going to get his yardage. If you would have told folks before the game that the Bears would limit Rodgers to 195 passing yards and Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks would all have sacks, I think most would have described that as a good day and figured the Bears would be in position to win.

The long pass led to a 6-yard scramble by Rodgers for a touchdown, and the Bears, unable to get enough explosive plays from their passing game, were done.

“That was a great call by (Rodgers),” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “I actually called the quick-game version of that, and he checked it to the double move. He recognized the look and thought we could get it, so that’s what he did. It’s nice to have big-time players that can make you look pretty good.”

That’s where the experience of Rodgers and Adams comes into play. They’re going to counter and counter throughout a game and usually they’re going to hit one. It happened to be at a critical point in the game when the defense badly needed a stop.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws a touchdown pass in the third quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws a touchdown pass in the third quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

“Just a conversation on the sideline about certain things,” Rodgers said. “I told him in the locker room, the thing that I will miss 20 years down the line is moments where you make a solid adjustment and look over at the guy, and it’s a stud like (Adams) and he just went like this (nodding his head). My whole body started tingling. I just knew it was going to be one of those special plays. And the guys gave me enough time, and he ran a nice route and almost scored, other than stepping out there barely.”

Adams got so loose, it looked like something broke down in the coverage. Whether that is the case or not, Johnson owned it.

“It was on me,” he said.

Is that what happened? I don’t know. If it’s on Johnson, I figure he would have been turning and flying after Adams, but he didn’t. And then whatever error there was got compounded when Jackson didn’t wrap his arms in an effort to make the tackle.

Adams finished with 89 yards on four receptions. He was targeted five times. Pedestrian numbers by his standards, but his two long plays — which accounted for 73 of his yards — came on two of the Packers’ three touchdown drives. It was a monumental task for Johnson, who followed Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. during the Week 3 game in Cleveland.

“I feel like I did all right,” Johnson said when asked to sum up the entirety of his game. “At the end of the day, I didn’t do good enough, and that is all that counts.”

4. What really hurt the Bears was the run defense.

Packers running back Aaron Jones runs the ball in the fourth quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021.

Packers running back Aaron Jones runs the ball in the fourth quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

The Packers rolled up 154 rushing yards with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon leading the way. Jones had gains of 32 and 28 yards, and Dillon had a 36-yard run against a Bears front that had nose tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks on the field for the first time since the 2019 season, with the exception of the first snap against the Detroit Lions in Week 4 this year. That’s the play on which Hicks suffered a groin injury.

The Bears had to be mindful of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, and that led them to lean heavily on nickel personnel and even a good amount of dime personnel. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai likes his defensive backs and knows them really well after working with that group in previous seasons. He replaced Duke Shelley with Xavier Crawford at nickel this week, subbed in DeAndre Houston-Carson in that role a little and had a package to use safety Deon Bush as well. The Packers saw an advantage there even after center Josh Myers went out with a knee injury. They attacked the Bears up front.

“Early on we tried a lot more outside zone,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “And that wasn’t working too well. And then we started to go a little bit more downhill and we seemed to have a little bit more success with that. And so we kind of shifted, I’d say midgame. But you know, that’s a credit to that defense. I mean, that defense is one of the tops in the National Football League. And it’s tough to run against, it’s tough to throw against.”

Jones totaled 76 yards on 13 carries and Dillon had 59 on 11 rushes. Jones busted off his 32-yard run at the start of the third quarter to reach midfield against a nickel front. The defense had six in the box with strong safety Tashaun Gipson walking down. The Bears got whipped by a pair of combination blocks. Right guard Royce Newman climbed to block inside linebacker Alec Ogletree at the second level, and there wasn’t any backside pursuit. Jones read Gipson coming down and cut to find daylight.

With a 10-point lead and the ball at midfield with 2:14 to play, the Packers had passing personnel on the field and the Bears responded with nickel. The Packers ran right at them to grind out the clock and leave with a victory.

“They had some big runs there toward the end,” Matt Nagy said. “We talked about it in the huddle down there toward the end of the game. We’ve got to, at worst case, hold them to a field goal and make it a six-point game, and they ended up getting that touchdown on the scramble. The leaders we have on that defense, they understand where we’re at. That defense has been playing really well. That’s a good offense that we played. They’re well-coached. They’ve got a great quarterback. And so that’s a challenge.

“What you do is you look at where you went wrong. The effort by our guys is always there. It never changes. I thought Coach Desai and the rest of the coaches have coached them well and done a good job, so now you figure out why. You look at each other and say, ‘OK, let’s pick the pieces up. Let’s get right back at it.’ ”

It will be interesting to see what strategies the two sides take when they meet again. The Bears need to be more stout against the run, but focus too much on that and you’re opening a world of possibilities for Rodgers.

5. If you were left wanting to see a little more from rookie running back Khalil Herbert after he carried 18 times for 75 yards a week ago in Las Vegas, he certainly delivered.

Bears running back Khalil Herbert celebrates in the end zone after running in a touchdown during the first quarter of a game against the Packers at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021.

Bears running back Khalil Herbert celebrates in the end zone after running in a touchdown during the first quarter of a game against the Packers at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

With David Montgomery (left knee) on injured reserve and Damien Williams moved to the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday as the result of a positive test, the sixth-round pick from Virginia Tech was forced into the starting lineup and delivered. Herbert had 97 yards on 19 carries and caught two passes for another 15 yards, proving the Bears made a nice pick on a player who had only one season of big-time college production after he struggled to get consistent playing time at Kansas before transferring.

So what was Herbert planning to do after a solid outing that included his first NFL touchdown?

“Yeah, I’m going to get in the film and see what I’ve got to correct,” he said. “There’s always stuff I’ve got to fix.”

That sounds like the same player Hokies running backs coach Adam Lechtenberg described. Virginia Tech signed Herbert after he entered the transfer portal during the fall of 2019 because they wanted a veteran option at the position. Herbert wanted out of Kansas, where he didn’t feel he was being used properly. It turned into a perfect match as Herbert rushed for 1,183 yards (7.6 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns in 11 games for the Hokies in 2020.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Lechtenberg said. “First, he’s very talented. Second, the way he approaches everything. When he got here, he never worried about anybody else. He just did what he was supposed to do and worked his tail off and he has talent. Happy for him but not surprised.

“It wasn’t a deal where we promised him a job here. He had to come in and earn it. He did that. He didn’t really win the job until the end of fall camp, and he didn’t complain one time about anything. You could tell pretty early on he was pretty talented.”

Bears running back Khalil Herbert breaks a tackle from Packers linebacker Jaylon Smith during the third quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021.

Bears running back Khalil Herbert breaks a tackle from Packers linebacker Jaylon Smith during the third quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

Lechtenberg said Herbert, even though he was new to the program, emerged as a leader by example as he was constantly in the facility doing extra film work and studying upcoming opponents. That’s what Bears teammates have noted as well. He’s one of the first players in the building every day.

What has struck me about Herbert is the Bears, going back to the Week 5 victory over the Raiders, haven’t shied away from using him on passing downs. They had a veteran option against the Raiders in Williams, who has a lot more experience in handling blitz pickup assignments, yet Herbert was on the field for more snaps. Often NFL coaches are hesitant to put unproven rookies on the field in passing situations until they have a good feeling that a mistake in blocking won’t get the quarterback killed.

“When he started training for the NFL, some of our conversations were about him having to improve in that area,” Lechtenberg said. “The one thing with him, if you tell him something, he doesn’t take it personally. He evaluates it and says, ‘OK, how can I fix it or how can I solve the problem?’ He was OK in pass protection, but you saw at the Senior Bowl he took it seriously and improved in terms of fundamentals.

“With COVID, we didn’t have spring (practice) or any time to work with the kids, and then you get into fall camp, he had to learn the offense. So fundamentally he had a little bit of improvement to make, which I felt like when he went to train for the NFL he obviously did. Schematically, we do a bunch of different things in protection that probably helped him because I think where he was before, they probably just did one or two protections. We do a ton of different things, scanning all the way across to half-slide to full-slide and play-action protection. So we do of different things and he was exposed to them and that probably helped him. He’s a tough kid. He was always willing. He works at it. That’s why he is good.”

I think the Bears have stumbled onto a player who can be a part of the offense even when Montgomery is back. Herbert is a downhill runner who doesn’t hesitate like rookies do at times. He’s a very nice discovery for general manager Ryan Pace and his staff.

6. The Bears have to get more explosive plays.

Packers cornerback Eric Stokes and safety Adrian Amos guard Bears wide receivers Allen Robinson and Marquise Goodwin while they go up for a pass in the final minutes of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021.

Packers cornerback Eric Stokes and safety Adrian Amos guard Bears wide receivers Allen Robinson and Marquise Goodwin while they go up for a pass in the final minutes of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

I’ve written about that extensively this season, and it was another big issue Sunday. Justin Fields had the 21-yard pass to Cole Kmet and two 20-yard passes to Allen Robinson, and he scrambled for a 16-yard gain when he was flushed out of the pocket. There was also a 14-yard scramble and that was about it for explosive plays in the passing game for an offense that has now gone 13 consecutive games without passing for 300 yards. That’s why the Bears couldn’t mount more scoring drives. It’s really hard to dink and dunk down the field against even an average defense, and while the Bears have run the ball well for three straight weeks, they have yet to parlay that success into shot plays downfield via play action.

One opportunity for a huge play happened late in the second quarter. The Bears were on their 35 facing second-and-7. It was a positive play as Fields ran for 7 yards to move the chains, but Robinson was ridiculously open deep down the middle of the field. The only thing surrounding him was grass. If Fields had seen and hit him, Robinson could have waltzed into the end zone on the possession during which the Bears were knocked out of field-goal range just before halftime.

“That’s a naked play — yeah, I know what play you are talking about,” Fields said. “(Robinson) is usually running off the corner on that, but that’s a naked play and I just pulled up because the end was upfield, but that play is not designed to go to him.”

Robinson was wide open, but according to Fields, he wasn’t in the progression. I don’t know if Fields didn’t see Robinson until it was too late, but this struck me as the kind of off-script play that can be turned into a huge gain. The kind of blown play by a defense that elite quarterbacks don’t miss.

“That’s a naked play and my eyes aren’t supposed to go there,” Fields said.

I get that, but, wow, I can tell you everyone in the stadium saw Robinson uncovered. The play is straight out of the Kansas City Chiefs playbook. It’s a post (Robinson)/wheel (Darnell Mooney) with a bootleg. The Bears cleared out with the post/wheel and Kmet was the flat read and Jimmy Graham was the crosser, so it’s a high/low read for the tight ends. That wasn’t there because the Packers jumped the tight ends and dropped Robinson. The Packers blew it as two defenders took the wheel to Mooney.

You have to understand where the read is for Fields and what he’s prescribed to do on the play. The Bears were trying to clear space for Graham. When Fields rolled out, he needed to see the post to Robinson and hit him. That’s a throw that will come with experience. Aaron Rodgers is going to read high to low, not just where the ball is supposed to go on a card in practice where the scout team defense doesn’t blow coverage.

7. We’ve covered the breakdown on the long pass to Davante Adams and the success the Packers had running the ball.

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson guards Packers wide receiver Davante Adams while a pass goes over his head during the first quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021.

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson guards Packers wide receiver Davante Adams while a pass goes over his head during the first quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

It was still a pretty good game for Sean Desai’s defense. The Bears held the Packers to 17 points until late in the fourth quarter. That’s what you’re hoping for going against that offense. Desai continued to be creative with tilted fronts, freeing Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks for opportunities to win for sacks. Those were really well-designed plays.

The Packers’ second touchdown came on a check-down to Aaron Jones. Rodgers’ first read was Allen Lazard and his second was Adams. The Bears covered both of them. Safety Tashaun Gipson was the curl defender. He had outside leverage but stopped his feet and lunged at Jones, who did the rest, going 12 yards for the touchdown. Maybe there should have been better help — perhaps safety Eddie Jackson has to get there to make a tackle — but that’s a play Gipson has to make. He has to run through the ball carrier Jones in that situation and force the action. Schematically, it wasn’t an error. The Bears just got beat by high-caliber offensive personnel, players with a knack for producing in big moments. The defense will have another huge challenge this week as the Bears have to travel to Tampa, Fla., to face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

8. Mario Edwards Jr. was called for unsportsmanlike conduct in the first quarter, his third 15-yard penalty in two weeks.

Bears defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. lines up for a play during a game against the Browns on Sept. 26, 2021.

Bears defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. lines up for a play during a game against the Browns on Sept. 26, 2021. (Kirk Irwin/AP)

That will get the attention of coaches, and future opponents will target Edwards as a player who can be provoked into doing dumb things. That kind of stuff is put in advance scouting reports each week. One scout told me he looks for a “penalty guy” on each side of the ball to alert coaches and players of someone to target. In this instance, Aaron Rodgers grabbed Edwards’ face mask before Edwards retaliated, and the Packers benefited.

“They usually get the second guy,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think my grabbing of his face mask was that physical. It was a strange tackle from behind, one of those weird ones where you kind of go knee first. And he got up talking a lot of trash. So I wasn’t trying to grab his face mask, necessarily, but that’s where my hand kind of stuck. The taunting, I don’t think was to me. I think it was more to some of the other guys that were coming to my defense. But, again, it wasn’t any forceful contact on my part. But whatever it was, got him a little heated.”

Edwards will have to play through being the “penalty guy” for a few weeks until he proves he can get through games without being flagged.

9. The Bears entered the game ranked in the top 10 or just outside of it in nearly every significant defensive metric.

Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack celebrates after sacking Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021.

Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack celebrates after sacking Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter of a game at Soldier Field on Oct. 17, 2021. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

The one area where they haven’t been great is on third down, but having the league’s third-ranked unit in the red zone has helped make up for that. The defense entered Week 6 ranked 23rd on third down at 43.9%, but it did a nice job against the Packers, limiting them to 2-for-8. The key was putting Aaron Rodgers in third-and-long. The Packers needed 10, 14, 7, 1 and 25 yards on five third downs in the first half. In the second half, the Packers had to gain 1, 9 and 13 (during kneel-downs). That went according to plan for the Bears.

Looking at the numbers on third down entering the week, a few things were going on.

For starters, the Bears were in third-and-short too much. Opponents had 11 third-and-1s and converted six. There were six third-and-2s and two were converted. One other problem showed up through the first five games. Opponents converted 8 of 25 situations in which it was third-and-8 or more. The Bears can and will improve in this area, and they were better against the Packers.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer had a crazy quote last week in which he said he wanted his offense to achieve a 250/250 game — 250 passing yards and 250 rushing yards.

Danielle Watson, Charlene Tomazin, Madison Gabouer and her father Kurt Gabouer take a shot while tailgating before the Bears play the Packers at Soldier Field on Oct. 17 2021.

Danielle Watson, Charlene Tomazin, Madison Gabouer and her father Kurt Gabouer take a shot while tailgating before the Bears play the Packers at Soldier Field on Oct. 17 2021. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

I’d love to win 1 million frequent flier miles in a contest too. Lofty goals are great, but there’s a big difference from coaching at a college powerhouse with a few patsies on the schedule annually against whom that’s possible. The NFL, as Meyer should know, is a different animal.

It got me to thinking, when was the last time the Bears had a 250/250 game? Turns out it happened against the Packers in the most lopsided game in series history when the Bears won 61-7 on Dec. 7, 1980. They had 327 passing yards (316 for Vince Evans) and 267 rushing yards (130 by Walter Payton). Packers coach Bart Starr was furious and reportedly refused to shake hands with Bears coach Neill Armstrong at midfield after the game.

That’s one of only 26 instances of a 250/250 game since the 1980 season. Most recently, the New Orleans Saints had one in a 52-33 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Day last year. The Tennessee Titans also had one last season in a 42-36 overtime victory over the Houston Texans. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers had 250/250 games in 2019. Still, they are exceedingly rare.

Doing a little quick math here, the NFL had 9,896 regular-season games from the start of the 1980 season through Week 5 last week. That means there were statistics for 19,792 offenses with 26 250/250 games. So it happens .13% of the time. Like I said, it’s great to set huge goals.

10a. Keep an eye on the status of defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. He pulled up gingerly after his sack of Aaron Rodgers on the second-to-last play of the third quarter and, by my count, wasn’t on the field for another play. Hicks missed the previous week with a groin injury.

10b. The status of wide receiver Jakeem Grant is worth noting too. He suffered a left ankle injury, was checked out and returned, but running back Artavis Pierce handled kickoff return duties at the end of the game. Grant gives the Bears some real juice in the return game, and they need to get him back healthy.

10c. When Aaron Rodgers said, “I still own you,” after running for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, well, it’s hard to argue with him. The Packers are 22-5 against the Bears with Rodgers starting at quarterback, and he entered Sunday’s game with a 105.3 passer rating against the Bears, the highest rating for any quarterback with at least 250 pass attempts against them.

“Sometimes you black out on the field — in a good way,” Rodgers said. “I’ve definitely blacked out in a concussion, which isn’t a good way. But I looked up in the stands and in the front row, all I saw was a woman giving me the double bird. So I’m not sure exactly what came out of my mouth next.

“I’ve played a lot of games over here. You know, 18 times I’ve been in this locker room — 17 regular seasons and an NFC championship game. Had a lot of fun. I love playing on this field, even though it’s always the longest grass in the NFL. But I enjoy this rivalry so much and I’ve been so thankful to be a part of it. I still feel like I can move around a little bit. I don’t think this is my last one, but I have enjoyed every single one of them.”

10d. The 82-yard punt by the Packers’ Corey Bojorquez was the longest ever at Soldier Field by an opponent and the longest punt there since Dave Finzer uncorked an 84-yarder for the Bears against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 7, 1984.

10e. I don’t understand the pitch to tight end Cole Kmet on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The play didn’t work. Fortunately for the Bears, Khalil Herbert ran it in on second down for the score. No need to flex your creative muscle at the 1.

10f. The Buccaneers opened as 12½-point favorites over the Bears at Westgate SuperBook for Sunday’s game at Raymond James Stadium. The last time the Bears were that big of an underdog was the 2017 season finale at Minnesota, the final game of the John Fox era. The Vikings were favored by 13½ and won 23-10.

Most Related Links :
todayuknews Governmental News Finance News

Source link

Back to top button
Native News Post