Another loss for the Chicago Bears came in a familiar fashion despite the chaos that it took to get there.
Not only did starting quarterback Justin Fields struggle to start the game, but he suffered a dislocated thumb. He popped it back in during the game. But injury knocked him out of the contest and may force him to miss significant time. He is already considered doubtful for Week 7 by head coach Matt Eberflus.
Still, what Fields put on film in Week 7 showed a quarterback afflicted and surrounded by the same types of lapses that have plagued this outfit since the start of the season: indecisiveness, turnovers, and mental errors.
And the grades for this week from Pro Football Focus showcase that exact thing.
Pro Football Focus Grades Highlight Bears’ Passing Regression
1) Bears Passing Game Posts Worst Grade Since Week 2
Chicago’s passing game received a grade of 55.8 from PFF. That is the Bears’ third-worst mark of the season, and the worst since their Week 2 loss versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And it didn’t really matter who was under center. Both Fields and backup Tyson Bagent checked in with grades of 60 or lower.
Fields led the way with his overall grade getting a 1.0 point boost thanks to his rushing ability. He also had one less turnover than Bagent who matched Fields with one interception but also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Bagent finished with a 54.0 in passing and 56.6 overall with the latter score bolstered by a rushing touchdown.
It will be interesting to see how well Bagent fares with a full week of preparation.
Of course, that means the defense will get a chance to prepare as well. The Bears’ Week 7 opponents, the Las Vegas Raiders, are not a defensive juggernaut. But they do boast one of the best pass rushers in the game, Maxx Crosby.
Crosby is tied with the fifth-most sacks in the NFL with 5.5 and the fifth-most pressures (15) through five weeks. But he is also tied for the third-most hurries (8).
Crosby has been durable too, not missing a game since entering the league.
2) Vikings Blitzed Bears Into Oblivion
The Vikings’ blitz-heavy approach was a focus during the week at Halas Hall. But, on the very first play from scrimmage, Danielle Hunter came unblocked as the offensive line adjusted for the blitz and sacked Fields. Bears head coach Matt Eberflus suggested Fields should have slid away from the pressure on the play which served as an omen of what was to come.
Minnesota blitzed Fields on a season-high 70.6% of his dropbacks.
The Bears’ offensive line dealt with a shuffle at right guard. Ja’Tyre Carter had to step in for an injured Nate Davis. But they received the highest two grades on the offensive line which continues to miss left tackle Braxton Jones. They also saw several errant snaps, potentially disrupting some plays as the line posted its second-lowest grade of the season.
It wasn’t great blocking up the run, either, though that has been the case most of the year.
Both centers – Cody Whitehair and backup Lucas Patrick – received the lowest grades among the front five (which was actually seven-deep with the shuffle). Patrick replaced Whitehair after multiple errant snaps.
While Eberflus said it was for Bagent’s comfort, the quarterback said he generally gets a good mix with all of their centers during practice.
Special Bagent 0017 pic.twitter.com/uor1eHLXbR
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 15, 2023
3) Bears QBs Handled Blitz Well
Despite Fields completing just 57.6% of his passes against the blitz this season, his 62.5% mark in Week 6 was just the third-highest that he has posted in those scenarios this season. The problem, as has been the case more often than the blitz, is that when Fields was pressured he completed 50% of his passes, the same percentage he completed when he wasn’t blitzed.
He finished the night with 58 yards on 60% completion, so the sample size is far from conclusive.
The same is true about Bagent’s line, though there was a difference.
Bagent faced blitzes on 13-of-14 dropbacks and completed 76.9% of his passes for 83 yards. However, he also threw the backbreaking interception late in the fourth quarter while under pressure in a blitz situation.
The offensive also kept the rookie clean on 10 of his dropbacks compared to four for Fields, though part of that was surely getting the ball out of his hands quicker (1.13 seconds faster than Fields) surely played a part in that. And, for as athletic as he is, he needed a quick trigger given the inconsistent protection.
4) Special Teams Posts 2nd-Best Grade of 2023
The Bears special teams unit has been the most consistent unit, hands down. They rank third on the season, and they are coming off their second-best performance of the campaign in Week 6. Kicker Cairo Santos is perfect on the season while punter Trenton Gill has seen the third-lowest net return yards per punt.
Gill’s stat, in particular, also speaks to the Bears’ coverage unit.
The Bears have also solidified their return game, with Trent Taylor ranking a solid if unspectacular 14th on the season. He spoke to Clocker Sports about steadying that role and trying to help the young returners Velus Jones Jr. and Tyler Scott.
Jones and Scott are further down the list, though both are holding their own thus far despite the lack of big plays so far. Jones especially made a couple of solid returns in Week 6. Officials called one back, though. But the group as a whole is doing solid work which is a vast step up from what the unit has produced in past seasons.