The Bears lost in laughable fashion, as Ihmir Smith-Marsette failed to step out of bounds and had the ball stripped from his arms. It was dumbfounding and made many people very angry, as the Bears were marching down the field to tie the game. However, the fact that the Bears even had a shot at winning the game was incredible. Fields looked better, the defense continued its second-half dominance, and the play calls were much improved.
Justin Fields was 15/21 with 208 yards and a touchdown. He was 12/13 for 135 yards and a touchdown in the second half alone. He looked much, much better in all aspects of the game. Primarily, he was calm in the pocket and trusted his protection more than in past games. He didn’t leave the pocket prematurely and didn’t look nervous. When he was pressured, he ran, as he usually does. However, he also did something he hadn’t done much before; checking down. Obviously, his legs are one of his best weapons, and they have gotten him out of many predicaments, but rushing isn’t always the answer. Against the Vikings, he checked the ball down much more and much better than he had before, which is promising. It wasn’t a spectacular performance, but it was miles better than the season’s first four games. If Fields can continue to progress like this, the future is much brighter than the first quarter of the season showed.
The defense was the weak link in the loss to the Vikings, giving up 29 points and over 400 total yards. They gave up ten receptions to Justin Jefferson in the first half. However, Jefferson was held to just two receptions in the second half. They also had the Vikings to just eight points in the second half. They did give up the game-winning touchdown, but they were good up until that point. For a secondary that was missing their superstar corner, they held the Vikings in check and limited the passing game. If the Bear’s defense can continue their play through the season, they have a real chance to lead the Bears to some wins.
The biggest takeaway, and most significant improvement, was the coaching staff. The play-calling on offense improved, and Matt Eberflus was more aggressive than ever. Going for it on a multiple fourth down and randomly trying an onside kick in the third quarter(which I loved). It seemed that Eberflus was trying to win instead of trying not to lose. It was great to see the team look competent and competitive. I’ve been preaching all season that it is worse for Fields to play conservatively. Letting Fields take shots and run the offense is great for his development. Hopefully, that kind of approach continues through the season and throughout Eberflus’s tenure.
Obviously, it sucks to lose in such a strange fashion. However, the offense looked much better, and the defense continued to play well in the second half. The coaching staff is becoming more comfortable with every game and creating an identity. As long as Fields looks good, the losses will feel much less lousy.