Nine games is enough sample size to erase the mystery about what the 2023 Bears might or could be.
They've shown us who they are, and the product leaves a lot to be desired.
That product, and the things that have doomed it to sub-mediocrity, were on full display during Sunday's Week 9 loss to the New Orleans Saints. It was a perfect encapsulation of why a team that is much more talented than last year's 3-14 teardown outfit remains glued to the league's undercarriage.
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We can open with the two things that have plagued the Bears all season and cost them chances to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos, and Saints.
Turnovers and penalties.
When head coach Matt Eberflus arrived in Chicago, he promised his team would follow the H.I.T.S. (hustle, intensity, takeaways, smart football) to a T. They would follow that religiously, have it drilled into them and never beat themselves.
And yet, that's all the 2023 Bears have done. The T and S in H.I.T.S principal have been AWOL all season.
They didn't board the plane to New Orleans, either.
The Bears turned the ball over five times and committed eight penalties in the 24-17 loss at the Caesars Superdome. You can put some of the blame for the turnovers Sunday on rookie mistakes from backup quarterback Tyson Bagent. That's fair, but the Bears have failed to execute all season, no matter who is under center.
This was left tackle Braxton Jones after the Bears turned it over twice and committed five penalties in a loss to Tampa:
"Just have to figure out why we're losing focus in key moments."
Six weeks later, tight end Cole Kmet was frustrated at the Bears' continued issues with consistency and execution after a blowout loss against the Chargers.
"That's just us not being professionals as players," Kmet said of the Bears' constant issues. "We got to be better. We got to execute the plays that are given and do a better job when we're in away environments."
After nine weeks, the Bears are tied for the NFL in accepted penalties with 60 (they rank eighth in total penalties at 69). They lead the NFL in takeaways with 18. They are third in pre-snap penalties with 27 and third in accepted penalty yardage with 510.
Nine weeks. It hasn't changed. It hasn't improved. There have been one-off blips, but otherwise, the Bears have only been consistent in their sloppy play and inability to protect the football.
The Bears opened the season with a 38-20 loss to a Green Bay Packers team that has been beyond dreadful ever since. They talked about mental errors and beating themselves after that loss. Seven days later, the now-departed Chase Claypool got flagged for a critical offensive pass interference penalty on a screen that he thought was a run. Justin Fields threw an interception on the next play.
It didn't improve. After getting their doors removed by Patrick Mahomes in Week 3, the Bears turned the ball over twice and committed 10 penalties while blowing a 21-point lead to the Denver Broncos.
It has been the only through line in the Bears' season. Only Jack Del Rio and Josh McDaniels have kept it from being a nine-game sweep.
While the turnovers and penalties are the weights around the Bears' ankles dragging them into the NFL abyss, the two other foundational pillars of the 2023 Bears threw them into the deep end with no way to swim.
Through nine weeks, the Bears have just 10 sacks. That ranks, you guessed, dead last in the NFL. They did not record a sack or takeaway in New Orleans.
General manager Ryan Poles' significant offseason acquisitions on the defensive line, DeMarcus Walker and Yannick Ngakoue, have combined for 3.5 sacks. Rookie defensive tackle Gervon Dexter has failed to get to the quarterback so far.
The newly acquired Montez Sweat should theoretically help that. Sweat generated four pressures on 25 pass rushes for a pressure rate of 16 percent Sunday, per Next Gen Stats. Sweat's impact should continue to grow, but it will mean little if the rushers opposite of him and next to him can't win one-on-ones. Per ProFootballFocus, Ngakoue has a pass-rush win percentage of just 5.1 percent this season. That ranks 40th out of 41 edge rushers with at least 200 pass-rush snaps. Walker ranks 33rd with a 9.2 win percentage.
It's not going to get that much better with this group. The Bears aren't going to wake up one Monday and have a magic elixir to create pressure. They can't consistently generate pressure with four.
Turnovers, penalties, zero pressure.
What's behind door number, you ask?
The inconsistent and puzzling offensive gameplans.
The first three weeks of the season saw the Bears' offense try to rely on a straight shotgun dropback game that was ineffective. There were very few easy access throws for Fields, the wide-zone run game the Bears' championed last season was used sparingly, and nothing worked.
Some tweaks in Weeks 4 and 5 saw the Bears' offense explode. The running game got going, and the Bears found ways to get the ball to star wide receiver DJ Moore consistently. Then, Week 6 rolled around, and the Bears looked totally unprepared for the Vikings' blitz-heavy approach despite having 10 days off to prepare for it.
The Bears leaned on a physical run game in a win over the Raiders, but that physicality on the ground didn't make it to LA in Week 9.
The loss in New Orleans was the perfect illustration of the maddening roller coaster the Bears offense, directed by Luke Getsy, has been on this season.
The first half against the Saints was filled with good work from Getsy as he got Bagent out of the pocket and dialed up good looks off play-action.
Things changed in the second half as Bagent mainly operated from the pocket, and the Bears went away from a successful ground game and the play-action.
In the first three quarters in New Orleans, Bagent had only 17 dropbacks from shotgun. He had 12 in a fourth quarter that saw the Bears turn it over three times and only pick up one first down.
Per PFF, Bagent finished the game 7-for-10 for 110 yards, two touchdowns, and a passer rating of 158.3 on play action in New Orleans. And yet, the Bears went away from that in a one-possession game in the fourth quarter.
Getsy has had some nice moments this season, but he seems to consistently forget himself and go away from what works.
There's no one reason for the Bears' failure this season. There are four. They all reared their head in New Orleans, and they'll continue to show up in the remaining eight games.
This is who the Bears have shown themselves to be for nine weeks.
There's no reason to expect it to change now.