Examining the Bears Narrow Loss to the Lions

The Bears lost a close game to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at home, 31-30. Heading into the fourth quarter, the game looked like it was put away after the Bears were up 24-10. Was it the Lions offense that sparked them back? Was it the referees? Was it Fields’s pick-six? Was it the defense? Let’s take a look.

I really wish I didn’t have to write about a Bears loss, but here I am. Justin Fields broke more NFL records as he once carried the team on his back, scoring a total of 4 touchdowns, 2 passing and 2 rushing. Tight End Cole Kmet was instrumental to the Bears win today, tallying on 2 receiving touchdowns to his now-career total of 7. Montgomery and Herbert both had mostly quiet games as the ground game was led by Fields. The defense once again heavily felt the absence of both star players Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith as both players were traded away before the trade deadline. D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams both tacked on a rushing touchdown against the Bears rushing defense, who cannot seem to stop running backs on the first tackle most of the time. Cairo Santos, who has been mostly automatic this year, missed an extra-point try after Fields redeemed himself on a historic 67-yard rushing touchdown. In order to win football games at any level, you have to be consistent from all 3 phases of the game: offense, defense and special. The offense was consistent scoring as they have averaged 31 points in each of their last 4 games. The defense, on the other hand, has given up 32.25 points per game over the last 4 games. On special teams, Santos has been automatic kicking Field Goals, going 14-14 on the year, but has struggled with PATs, going 11-14, one of which was enough to be the difference in Sunday’s game. Nonetheless, the game wasn’t terrible, but the closing of the game from the defense, Fields’s pick-six, and Santos’s mixed extra point all proved costly as the Bears fell in heartbreaking fashion to the Lions 31-30.

The Good
No doubt, the good is obviously Justin Fields. Even though he had one bad play that resulted in immediate points for the Lions, Fields should not be the first to be blamed for the Bears loss, if at all. Scoring in the NFL is a hard task no matter what, so the fact that Fields did it 4 times speaks volumes to his athletic ability and knowledge of defenses. Fields is developing perfectly into a dual-threat quarterback like Lamar Jackson who can take over the ground game with his legs and the passing game with his deep-ball. The other bright spot offensively was 3rd year tight end Cole Kmet, who scored both receiving touchdowns for the Bears. The way Luke Getsy has been able to scheme Kmet open in blocking roles and play-action roles is simply amazing to see. Luke Getsy is playing to the strengths of his players first, and then implementing play calls based on that. As Bears fans, it feels like we haven’t had that in such a long time.

Believe it or not, there were two significant bright spots on the Bears defense: Chicago-native Jack Sanbron and veteran Eddie Jackson. Sanborn recorded two sacks and almost recorded his first career interception against Jared Goff, had it not been for a hands to the face call from the referees on Jaylon Johnson. He has played exceptionally well for being a UDFA who is stepping up when the Bears need him to. The other bright spot in Eddie Jackson didn’t necessarily come from his play, but more from his postgame presser. Eddie Jackson didn’t play terribly, just nothing to stop and admire. But what was worth stopping and watching was Jackson’s veteran leadership. Jackson said, “We got to be better on D, man. We got to get him some help. What him and the offense is doing, it’s something different. It’s something different. Them boys is balling. I feel like we just leaving them out to dry. Got to get that changed man.” That is the exact type of leadership you want to see out of a cornerback no matter what.

The Bad
Unfortunately, the defense failed to stop the Lions running game when it mattered most. Quinn and Smith would have been nice to have in the mix, but the emphasis from Ryan Poles is building a young and cheap team while still competing. I cannot harp on that too much. But nonetheless, the Bears running defense let up too much. And the passing defense allowed a couple of big plays when the Detroit offense should have been sent back to the sideline. A 3rd&8 play that could have closed the game out was instead a 44-yard completion to Tom Kennedy which set up the Jamaal Williams touchdown. All together, the defense needs to step up more. Hopefully, Ryan Poles can draft well once again to give the Bears some new Monsters of the Midway to step up defensively.

Sure Cairo Santos’s missed PAT is mathematically the difference in the loss, but his automation during the season has also kept the Bears in close games. Despite all that, that’s a kick he has to hit as a kicker. One thing to note is that the temperatures were much lower and the wind was different at Soldier Field on Sunday, which could have contributed to the missed PAT.

Thousands of fans like myself could write pages upon pages on our opinions of what seems to be the NFL’s 33rd team, the referees. The referees have made some controversial calls to not just the Bears, but to all 32 NFL teams.

The Bears have no doubt that they have found the next generational talent in the NFL in Justin Fields. Fields will continue to be humble, work hard and play his heart out during games, win or lose. Hopefully, these are some of the growing pains and learning curves that have to occur in order for the Bears to be competitive in the NFC North for the years to come. I believe in the way Ryan Poles is building a football team, and hopefully Fields and the Bears can get equipped with some star-studded players come time for the NFL Draft and the offseason.
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