The Bears Must Implement Pass Game Adjustments Beyond Assessing Justin Fields and Luke Getsy

Vince Carbonneau
January 8, 2024  (3:42 PM)

The Bears faced a Week 18 game with nothing but pride at stake. The 17-9 loss to the Packers likely won't significantly sway end-of-year evaluations for anyone. It's improbable that anyone secured or lost their job solely based on this performance. However, one undeniable point emerged during the game at Lambeau Field: the Bears' offense still has a considerable distance to cover before they can seriously contend for the postseason.

Although the Bears have excelled as a running team throughout the year, they struggled on Sunday. Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson, and Justin Fields collectively managed just 75 yards on 25 carries against the Packers, resulting in an unimpressive 3.0 yards per carry average for the day. This falls significantly short of their 4.5 yards per carry average leading up to the game.
With the ground game faltering, the onus fell on the passing attack to step up. Unfortunately, the team couldn't generate success through the air, which aligns with their prior struggles. While Justin Fields completed a solid 68.7% of his passes, he only accumulated 148 yards and failed to record any touchdowns. The Bears entered the game ranked 27th in the NFL in total passing yards, a ranking likely to drop even lower once all the numbers are finalized.
Head coach Matt Eberflus acknowledged, "Obviously that needs to improve."
The addition of DJ Moore was expected to provide a significant boost to the passing game, but despite Moore's impressive season, featuring 96 catches, 1,364 yards, and eight touchdowns, the anticipated improvement did not materialize.
Cole Kmet showed progress as a pass-catching tight end, setting career highs with 73 receptions, 719 yards, and six touchdowns. Justin Fields also achieved career bests in completion percentage (61.4%), passing yards (2,562), and passer rating (86.3).
However, these individual accomplishments were insufficient to elevate the Bears from their standing as one of the league's weakest passing teams.
So, what's the solution? How can the Bears take the next step?
The answer isn't straightforward, as decisions regarding Fields and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will have a significant impact. Nevertheless, Week 18 revealed a few important insights.
First, the Bears must challenge defenses downfield more frequently. In Week 17, they attempted five passes of 20+ yards, three of which were successful, putting the team in scoring position and forcing defenses to respect the deep threat. In contrast, Week 18 saw the Bears attempt only one pass beyond 20 yards, which was completed. Nine of Fields' 16 passes traveled fewer than 10 yards, emphasizing the importance of downfield plays to prevent defenses from playing conservatively.
The lack of deep passes isn't solely due to playcalling; it also highlights protection issues. The second key takeaway from Week 18 is that the Packers consistently pressured Fields, preventing receivers from getting open downfield.
While the offensive line generally performed better this season than the previous one, there are still areas that require improvement, particularly in the interior. Lucas Patrick had moments of solid play at center, but his performance didn't consistently meet expectations. Teven Jenkins excelled in the run game and provided solid pass protection when healthy. However, his recurring injuries have been a concern throughout his three-year career. Adding depth and addressing these issues, especially at center, would be beneficial.
Lastly, the Bears need more pass-catching options. While DJ Moore is a standout WR1, and Cole Kmet continues to develop as a versatile tight end, the team lacks viable alternatives. Darnell Mooney failed to reach his potential in this offense, Tyler Scott is a promising deep threat but needs further development, and Velus Jones appears limited to gadget plays.
The upcoming draft boasts top-tier wide receivers, and with two first-round picks, the Bears have an opportunity to bolster their receiving corps. Exploring free agency is another option, with several talented receivers potentially hitting the market.
As the Bears' regular season concluded, it remains uncertain whether Getsy will be retained. The future of Fields also hangs in the balance. Regardless of these decisions, the Bears have work to do in order to enhance their passing game.
The Bears Must Implement Pass Game Adjustments Beyond Assessing Justin Fields and Luke Getsy

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