LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears traded for Montez Sweat and subsequently signed the edge rusher to a $98 million contract extension to have him anchor their defense for the foreseeable future. A player of Sweat's caliber, who produces and is paid handsomely, must be on the field as much as possible, especially in critical situations.
That's why he was brought to Chicago.
But that wasn't the case Sunday in the Bears' 31-26 meltdown loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Sweat played just 39 snaps in the loss in Detroit. That's good for 63 percent of the Bears' total defensive snaps. Yannick Ngakoue paced all Bears edge rushers with 45 snaps, and DeMarcus Walker nearly equaled Sweat with 38.
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Sweat was also off the field on several critical third-down and red-zone plays. After the game, the defensive end told reporters that he subbed himself out on a third and goal play that the Lions scored on.
For comparison, Lions star edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson played 69 snaps Sunday, good for 92 percent of the Lions' defensive snaps.
That's what is required out of a star pass rusher. They should rarely come off the field.
On Monday, head coach Matt Eberflus defended the Bears' defensive line rotation that kept Sweat off the field in some big moments.
“For sure, we want him out there more," Eberflus said Monday. "But those guys are rotating. Travis rotates them in and out. Usually, they’re five to seven plays – somewhere in there – during the two-minute drive like that. You just gotta platoon them and get them in there fresh. And when those lead dogs are fresh, you put them back in. You just gotta do that because those guys are throwing their fastball every time.
“Sweat’s one of our best players, he really is, and that’s just how we do it," Eberflus later said when asked if Sweat should be playing more. "We platoon our guys and keep them fresh that way. That’s how we do it.”
After reviewing the film, Sweat was on the field for just 50 percent of the snaps in which the Lions either had a third down or were inside the red zone (9/18). The Bears' star edge rusher was on the field for the majority of the Lions' final two offensive drives that decided the game (12/17).
That 9/18 number on critical downs is a problem. There are some defensible reasons for that, depending on the length of the drive and the tempo of the offense, but the Bears need Sweat to be on the field more, especially on the money downs.
That's why he's here.
After a dominating performance against the Carolina Panthers, Sweat notched just one pressure against the Lions. That pressure resulted in a sack, but otherwise, the flash plays needed didn't show up on a consistent basis.
Perhaps that's because he only played 39 snaps. It's also a credit to Detroit's offensive line, which stymied Sweat but allowed Walker and Ngakoue to combine for seven pressures, per Pro Football Focus.
Eberflus lauded "The 'Tez Effect" after the win over the Panthers. It was evident against a bad Carolina team. The effect was different/less noticeable against a more proven Lions front.
The Bears need Sweat to have a more consistent impact and find a way to make sure he's on the field in critical situations. Having a rotation is important, but the staff and Sweat must solve the issue that popped up in Detroit. Getting Rasheem Green and DeMarcus Walker snaps is nice, but Sweat should outpace them significantly as other top-tier edge rushers do.
On Sunday, Hutchinson played 92 percent of the Lions' snaps. T.J. Watt played 97 percent of the downs for the Steelers, Myles Garrett clocked in at 84 percent, and Nick Bosa checked in at 87.
The Bears need Sweat to play that high percentage of snaps, especially in a game where the defense was only on the field for 62 total plays. Hutchinson played more snaps than the entire Bears defense Sunday and almost doubled up Sweat.
That's the bar for an elite, game-changing edge rusher. Sweat shouldn't factor into a normal "rotation."
Here's the snap count from the Bears' loss to the Lions:
Quarterback: Justin Fields 75
Running back: Khalil Herbert 32, Roschon Johnson 25, D'Onta Foreman 18, Khari Blasingame 16
Wide receiver: DJ Moore 73, Darnell Mooney 45, Equanimeous St. Brown 32, Tyler Scott 27, Trent Taylor 5
Tight ends: Cole Kmet 59, Marcedes Lewis 30, Robert Tonyan 13
Offensive line: Teven Jenkins 75, Nate Davis 75, Darnell Wright 75, Braxton Jones 73, Dan Feeney 40, Lucas Patrick 35, Larry Borom 2
Defensive line: Yannick Ngakoue 45, Montez Sweat 39, DeMarcus Walker 38, Justin Jones 37, Gervon Dexter 30, Andrew Billings 23, Rasheem Green 20, Zacch Pickens 17
Linebacker: T.J. Edwards 61, Tremaine Edmunds 41, Jack Sanborn 29, Dylan Cole 1
Defensive backs: Eddie Jackson 62, Jaquan Brisker 62, Jaylon Johnson 61, Kyler Gordon 53, Tyrique Stevenson 49, Terell Smith 13, Elijah Hicks 1
Special teams: Cole 19, Jaylon Jones 18, Josh Blackwell 18, Blasingame 16, Hicks 16, Travis Home 16, DeMarquis Gates 16, Cairo Santos 13, T. Smith 13, Tonyan 13, R. Johnson 13, Trenton Gill 9, Stevenson 9, Sanborn 8, Patrick Scales 8, Wright 6, Jenkins 6, Cody Whitehair 6, Borom 6, Kmet 6, Feeney 6, Edwards 6, Davis 4, St. Brown 4, Brisker 4, Green 3, Walker 4, Ju. Jones 3, Taylor 3, Patrick 2, Moore 1, Herbert 1, Scott 1, Lewis 1, Ja. Johnson 1, Ngakoue 1, Sweat 1, Edmunds 1, Pickens 1