Matt Eberflus

Bears' lack of execution and energy vs. Packers both concerning

There should've been no trouble getting hyped and staying hyped for a rivalry game to start the season

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Over the course of the Bears’ blowout 38-20 loss to the Packers on Sunday, there were plenty of disappointing moments for fans to moan about. New star wide receiver DJ Moore only touched the ball twice. The defense couldn’t get off the field on third or fourth down. Justin Fields had a ho-hum day instead of looking like the MVP candidate that Vegas oddsmakers think he can be. And the screens. Oh my, the screens.

But one day later, a couple of troubling trends became clear that ultimately doomed the Bears. First, the team was out-executed by the Packers across the board. The Bears talk about the importance of winning their one-on-one matchups, and for the most part, they lost. Second, the Packers seemed to rise to the occasion more than the Bears and brought more energy to Soldier Field.

Let’s start with the execution. Bears coaches took the brunt of the criticism on Sunday night for how the team looked, and a lot of that criticism is fair. The team didn’t seem to have a plan to get Moore the ball when the Packers unsurprisingly rolled coverage to him time and time again. Apart from one successful pass to Khalil Herbert on the second play of the game, the screen game and quick pass game was ineffective. Yet offensive coordinator Luke Getsy dialed up those concepts continually, and didn’t move off of them until the game was out of hand.

Those things wouldn’t have looked so bad if the Bears had done their jobs in key moments, however.

Chase Claypool drew a lot of attention for his lackluster blocking on several of the plays highlighted above. Bears head coach Matt Eberflus acknowledged the poor blocking on screens in general on Monday.

“That has to improve,” Eberflus said. “That has to improve. We all saw that, right? So we’ve gotta block the perimeter better. We’ve gotta sustain our blocks. We’ve gotta take better angles. That’s part of what we need to improve, for sure.”

Here’s a play where good design helped Moore get open. Yet Fields missed him because he already moved on in his progressions before Moore came out of his break. It’s hard to tell exactly what went wrong, or if Fields needs to better anticipate Moore coming open, but it’s clear the timing was off.

When the game was still close and the Bears had a legit chance to score a go-ahead touchdown, it appeared Cole Kmet had a great chance to score. The big tight end drew a mismatch against the much smaller Rasul Douglas, but Kmet couldn’t use his four-inch or 50-pound size advantage to box out Douglas. Instead, Douglas locked him up and easily swatted away the pass.

These plays are a microcosm of a larger issue. There were holding penalties and false starts that put the offense behind the sticks. Missed assignments on defense led to Packers third-down conversions. Each issue, again, boiled down to execution.

On Monday, Khalil Herbert said he was surprised to see the numerous miscues over the course of the team’s tape review.

“You prepare and come out and do practice and all this stuff,” Herbert said. “You come out and put on a better display than we did yesterday. It was definitely surprising, but everything happens for a reason. You can learn from these losses. It’s a long season.”

Jaylon Johnson was bothered by what he saw.

“It showed up too many times where we looked at something and it was like, ‘Aw, that’s all we had to do and we would have been good.’ We knew what we had to do and then we didn’t execute. That’s something you don’t really like. That doesn’t sit well in your stomach and in your system.”

“Really that comes down to individual technique,” said Eberflus. “The technique and fundamentals of that position, be it beating a guy in protection or a guy getting beat in protection. We always look at those one-on-one matchups and again, we did a lot of good things. Obviously, a lot for improvement.”

The Bears did not agree with the idea that they didn’t put forth enough effort to beat the Packers. That’s been a stated pillar of their identity since Eberflus took over the head coaching job last year, and he didn’t see that wane on Sunday. However, Herbert and Johnson each conceded the team’s energy dipped as the game got out of hand. From Johnson’s perspective, energy comes with execution.

“During camp when we’re playing at a high level, we’re winning reps, it’s easy to have energy and juice,” Johnson said. “But when you’re not doing what you know you can do and you’re not getting off on third down, when the offense isn’t quite moving the ball, whatever it may be, not quite executing at the level they want, it’s hard to let a team have energy and juice. I mean you’d be faking it at that point.”

Johnson pointed to Darnell Mooney’s third-quarter touchdown to pull the Bears within 10 points heading into the fourth quarter as a moment that gave the Bears a little spark, but it was short lived.

“Like, ‘Ok, let’s go. We gotta get back in there, we gotta get a stop.’ Then when we don’t get a stop it kinda depletes it a little bit. So it’s not a matter of us not having juice as a team. I think it’s a matter of us not executing and allowing that energy to flow throughout the entire game.”

Problem is, the Bears are going to be faced with adversity again. They’re going to be faced with adversity every game. They can’t rely on success as an energy source. At times they’re going to need to find that spark from within.

“There's highs and lows, a roller coaster throughout the game, so it's bound to happen,” said Herbert. “You've just got to find ways to keep it higher than lower throughout the game. When it's low like that we've got to find ways to make plays and make things happen. You know, and just do our job and execute and I feel like it will be higher than not.”

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