LAS VEGAS — 10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears combined a smothering defensive effort with the offensive line’s best performance to date to defeat the Las Vegas Raiders 20-9 on Sunday afternoon at raucous Allegiant Stadium.
1. The music pumped so loudly in the visitors locker room, you could hear it through several sets of walls in the bowels of this stunning new stadium just off the Strip.
Bears fans who packed the joint — it’s fair to say the crowd approached 50-50 — were delirious in the fourth quarter, drowning out Silver and Black fans and making Raiders quarterback Derek Carr contend with what sounded like a hostile road crowd in his own backyard as he attempted to rally his team.
Club Dub, Matt Nagy’s postgame creation in 2018 for victories, was open and thumping.
“I can hear it through like five walls, I think,” said tight end Jesper Horsted, who was active on game day for the first time this season and made the most of it, snagging a 2-yard touchdown pass from Justin Fields early in the second quarter. “Everyone’s dancing. You’ve got guys like me who usually don’t get in that circle going and throwing some moves.
“Everyone is very excited because it was a great game in all phases. The defense played their tails off. The offense is moving the ball and taking really long drives to eat up that clock. And special teams was lights out, too, against a really good unit.”
The Bears are right to feel good about themselves at 3-2 and a game behind the Green Bay Packers (4-1) entering Sunday’s NFC North showdown at Soldier Field. They should take time to enjoy the road win considering all they’ve been through in just a five-week span.
There was intense focus on the quarterback situation before starter Andy Dalton was injured, and many were eager to pounce on just about every word Nagy uttered. There was a dreadful loss in Cleveland in Week 3. Nagy handed over play-calling duties. He then promoted Fields when Dalton was cleared to return from injury, and there have been a couple of significant injuries along the way. That’s a lot to traverse before kicking off a Week 5 game across the country as a 5½-point underdog.
Maybe someone in the Bears locker room turned the volume to 11 with hopes that Raiders coach Jon Gruden would hear the beat. He, of course, joked about not having a disco in his locker room after the Raiders defeated the Bears in London during Week 5 of the 2019 season.
Both games were won in pretty much the same fashion. The Raiders imposed their will on the Bears in that game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It was the Bears’ turn Sunday to get the upper hand physically, with Nagy referencing Tyson Fury versus Deontay Wilder III, a classic heavyweight fight that took place Saturday night in Las Vegas with Fury winning on an 11th-round TKO.
“We talked about last night in the team meeting,” Nagy said. “We talked about it all week long. This was going to be a fistfight in a back alley, and ironically we’re out here with that big fight last night and you could kind of feel how that was going to go today.
“Our players just really stepped up to the plate when they needed to at big-time moments. You can’t pick any one person out. Everybody did a good job. There’s signs of toughness throughout, signs of resiliency. Just across the board, everybody.”
Nagy has taken his share of hits already this season, some of them deserved. There’s no need to review the effort in Cleveland, and he has been awkward at times in discussing the quarterbacks and who is calling plays.
But when a coach gets a team to respond like the Bears have, you have to step back and acknowledge that the Bears came here and played their butts off. They didn’t beat the Raiders with a bunch of big plays or fluky takeaways or long returns. They beat the Raiders down, and that requires the entire roster.
“Man, my blood is still going,” said running back Damien Williams, who started in place of the injured David Montgomery and had 64 yards on 16 carries, including a 4-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. “I feel like I did more in the locker room than I did on the field, all the dancing we were doing. It was a great team victory, so we felt good. Feel great about the win.”
There’s no telling what the Bears will do from here, but to be 3-2 having played four pretty good teams — I think the Cincinnati Bengals are trending up and I know the Los Angeles Rams and aforementioned Cleveland Browns are good — is a solid start. The schedule will remain a meat grinder for the Bears, but they earned the right to enjoy a long flight home before a day off and what should be some positive film review Tuesday.
“Guys lock in,” free safety Eddie Jackson said. “We block out all the noise and we rally around each other and continue to fight.”
There’s a level of belief in the locker room. The emergence of Fields as a talent who should only improve brings a new level of energy. Nagy hasn’t nailed every decision, but what coach does? He has hit enough lately to have this group feeling remarkably better than it did two weeks ago, when it looked like nothing could go right.
2. You have to appreciate what the Bears did offensively — and we’re going to dive into it — but first let’s establish that two games do not establish an identity.
That’s not to take away from what the Bears did in winning this game and defeating the Detroit Lions in Week 4. It’s just not possible to meander for 2½ seasons and all of a sudden fall into having a legitimate identity with elements of the playbook the team can hang its hat on week in and week out. But the Bears very well could be on their way to determining an offensive identity. I will say that much.
Consider they were without two tight ends who have been effective blockers in Jesse James (personal) and J.P. Holtz (quadriceps) and were calling on Damien Williams, who limped off the field in Week 4 with a thigh injury, to start at running back with rookie Khalil Herbert serving as a reserve. They bumped up Ryan Nall from the practice squad and lined him up in the backfield as a fullback a few times, and reserve offensive lineman Alex Bars played 16 snaps by my unofficial count as a blocking tight end. And they got after the Raiders up front.
A week after the offense had 39 rushing attempts against the Lions, the Bears had 37 carries versus the Raiders and totaled 143 rushing yards. Williams had a long gain of 14 yards, and Herbert, who carried 18 times for 75 yards, had a long of 11. The Bears weren’t gashing the Raiders but they delivered body blows time and again. The league’s last-ranked team on third down converted 5 of 7 in the first half in vaulting to a 14-3 lead.
It’s really something for the Bears to have 37 or more rushing attempts in consecutive games. You have to go back to November 2010 for the last time that happened, when the Bears had a combined 77 rushing attempts in a 27-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings followed by a 16-0 win at Miami. They had 37-plus carries in back-to-back games in 2006 in blowout wins over the Seattle Seahawks (37-6) and Buffalo Bills (40-7).
That’s it for this century. You have to go all the way back to the start of the 1989 season for the last time the Bears had 37 or more rushes in three consecutive games. That was a different era of football.
The Bears got after a Raiders front anchored by defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Quinton Jefferson. From the 400 level of the stadium — and it felt like the 900 level, it was so high — it looked like the interior of the offensive line had a really good game in knocking the Raiders off the ball. Williams and Herbert both ran with power.
The Bears ran 60 offensive plays, and by my count 34 were with the quarterback under center. That’s a week after they had 57 snaps against the Lions with 31 plays from under center. The offense took a total of 40 snaps under center in the first three games combined, and now there have been 65 the last two weeks with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling plays.
“You guys would probably agree there’s a little bit of an identity going on right now,” Matt Nagy said. “That’s real. And how do you build off of that? When you have that running game, it certainly makes things a lot easier in a lot of different ways.
“I’ll remind you that defense we played against today is pretty good. They can get after you. You have to be careful how much you get into (dropping back) because they don’t need to blitz a lot. They play their stuff and get after you at the edge, so you’ve got to be able to run. And our guys did that.”
We’ve heard Nagy talk about finding an identity before, and then he seems to get pulled away from the running game. The Bears will encounter problems moving the ball on the ground, and all of a sudden they go through a four-game stretch in which the running game looks like an afterthought.
They won’t be able to run the ball 30-plus times every week. It’s not feasible. Fall behind and have to start playing catch-up and you could see Justin Fields have a game with 40 pass attempts. A week after going 11 of 17 against the Lions, Fields was 12 of 20 for 111 yards. Andy Dalton completed one pass for 8 yards.
The Bears did it on the ground, and for that, they put faith in the offensive line.
“Can you ask me that (Monday) after I watch tonight?” Nagy said when asked if it was the line’s best performance this season. “I would say it felt good to have all those rushes, what was it, 37 or 38 rushes for whatever it was? It felt like we were rushing the ball for 5 yards a carry. And when you have that, it’s huge. I can say in part, yes.”
Subtract Fields’ three rushes for 4 yards, and Williams and Herbert averaged just under 4.1 yards per carry. It probably felt better to Nagy because the Bears did a nice job of staying out of too many third-and-long situations, and they wore the Raiders down.
The change to Lazor has created a different dynamic for the Bears, and it will be interesting to see how things develop. A running game is a rookie quarterback’s best friend, and the offense also isn’t putting stress on the line, especially the tackles.
“It feels good to have that,” Nagy said. “And now what we’ve got to do is, as we go through this identity and figure out where we’re at, is be able to grow with that, right? Because teams start to see who you are and they’re going to have counter ways to counterattack you and we’ve got to counter that. We always talk about you’ve got to keep them chasing the cat’s tail. So that’s important.”
How long will it take the Bears to truly create an identity on offense that feels legitimate and not temporary? A half-season is certainly fair to ask when you’re talking about evaluating substantive change. But give the coaches credit for the designs the last two weeks and the players credit for executing, especially the guys up front in the middle — guards Cody Whitehair and James Daniels and center Sam Mustipher.
3. Matt Nagy’s announcement Wednesday that Justin Fields will be the starting quarterback even with Andy Dalton returning from the bone bruise in his left knee ended around-the-clock hand-wringing from those who were adamant about seeing the first-round draft pick play now.
Reality was Nagy would get to that decision sooner rather than later even if he didn’t come out and say that publicly. If you took a step back and considered the scope of everything involved here, it was the only thing that could happen.
Was it clumsy and unnecessarily awkward at times how the Bears arrived here? No question, and that, almost as much as Nagy’s reticence to publicly anoint Fields, created more public angst. What matters moving forward is the performance of Fields, who is in position to potentially start 15 games in his rookie season. Nagy didn’t cave to public pressure or get a directive from above that it was time to start Fields. Fields has been the key for Nagy all along.
Nagy’s future as head coach of the Bears has been tied to Fields’ development since the moment the Bears traded up in the draft to take a shot at a quarterback. That was the most telegraphed pre-draft move the Bears have made in some time. The entire league knew it would happen — or at least that general manager Ryan Pace would try like hell to pull it off. The only questions were which team the Bears would be able to put together a deal with and which quarterbacks would remain on the board when their pick came.
They managed to get the 11th pick in a deal with the New York Giants and were fortunate that Fields, the fourth passer selected, was still available. Barring a sizzling hot beginning to the season by Dalton, which didn’t happen against the Los Angeles Rams, things were going to shift to Fields quickly. As Nagy explained, that process sped up a bit when Dalton was injured.
So here the Bears are with 12 games remaining and a ton of time for Fields to play, and evaluations of the trade to acquire him and his developmental process will be put under the microscope. As I detailed in this column after the season-opening loss to the Rams, coaches of first-round quarterbacks haven’t necessarily gotten the extended time to develop their young passers as you might think.
From 2015 through 2020 — a span of six drafts — 20 quarterbacks were selected in Round 1. The head coach was fired after the rookie season of 10 of those quarterbacks. Included in that list is former Bears coach John Fox and Anthony Lynn, whom the Los Angeles Chargers fired after last season even after Justin Herbert threw for 4,336 yards with 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions as a rookie and ran for five more touchdowns. Lynn was heavily criticized for game management issues, and his plan was to go with Tyrod Taylor at the start of the season before a freak injury sidelined him. Still, Herbert’s rapid ascension didn’t secure Lynn’s future.
I don’t believe there are a lot of parallels between Nagy and Lynn. Every situation has its own unique circumstances. If Fields can come close to the type of numbers Herbert posted, he would look incredible when you stack him up against the quarterbacks who preceded him in Bears history. The Chargers have been blessed with outstanding play at the position in Philip Rivers and before him Dan Fouts.
A decision on Nagy — and it’s not productive to hold a weekly referendum on his status — won’t be based on statistics alone. It’s about production, development, the vibe in the building. Wins and losses matter, but will there be a feeling the Bears are building something for the future that can be significantly better in 2022? They’re laying a foundation with Fields, and Nagy had to know he would have to do that this season.
Rebounding from the disastrous performance in Cleveland, Fields was good at home last week against the Lions, driving some aggressive throws downfield and on the money. He made a couple of nice throws against the Raiders. The third-and-12 pass over the middle to Darnell Mooney midway through the fourth quarter moved the chains and prevented the Bears from punting after the Raiders had pulled within 14-9. It was a huge play.
The Bears have been fortunate to play complementary football in winning the last two games, so they haven’t had to put too much on Fields. They should be able to lean on him more, and he will have electric moments. Fields gets to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for the first time this week, and he’s two weeks away from facing Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The growth process will be fascinating.
4. NFL coaches always used to divide the season into quarters.
They could point to things their team did well or needed to improve on after first quarter or first half of the season. The final quarter of the season was often a battle of attrition for teams in the mix for the playoffs.
I’ve yet to figure out how coaches are going to divide the 17-game season. 4/4/4/4/1? 5/5/5/2? The point is we are beyond the four-game mark, and more than one-fourth of the way through the schedule — but not quite one-third there — and you just can’t divide 17 in a nice and tidy way.
To get a feel for what outsiders think about the Bears, I touched base with two scouts who have watched on film on them to help assess where the team currently is.
- If the Bears can show legitimate growth with this unit, what you’ve seen the last five weeks could look significantly different before season’s end. Justin Fields has played 3 ½ games and the Bears accept some Sundays will look like he’s taking two steps forward and others as if he’s taking one or two steps back. Fields should make the offense more explosive because of his ability to make second-reaction plays and threaten defenses with his legs. But it’s a big puzzle with more parts than just Fields.
- “They did a very good job max protecting against the Lions,” Scout 1 said. “I think they have to do more of that because when they put that subpar O-line one-on-one without chipping and keeping running backs in, they obviously have problems. The Rams got after them a little bit as well. I thought Bill Lazor did a good job of protecting the quarterback, but more importantly, I thought he started the game out with the intention of forcing the run game, which gives the offensive line confidence. So, I think they need to max protect more and I think they need to continue to run the ball.”
That certainly happened again in Week 5 as the Bears remained committed to the run, got Fields on the move a little bit and kept help into block at times.
- The offense has not involved the tight ends enough in the passing game. There were only 17 passing attempts in Week 4, and the Bears have not been utilizing big targets that can be productive. Entering Sunday’s game, when Jesse James (personal) and J.P. Holtz (quad) did not play, there had been a total of 18 targets for tight ends — 15 for Cole Kmet and three for Jimmy Graham. Kmet had eight catches for 59 yards with a long gain of 11 and Graham had one grab for 11 yards. Talk about underutilization, but as I pointed out in a mailbag last week, it’s not like the tight ends can throw passes to themselves. Kmet was targeted four times against the Raiders, catching two balls for 22 yards, including a nice 14-yarder across the middle. Jesper Horsted caught a 2-yard touchdown on his only target, a really nice throw by Justin Fields. Add it up and that is 23 targets for tight ends through five games.
“It’s important in a way of just kind of know, OK, what are defenses doing to us?” Matt Nagy said Friday. “When we go through the game plan together, we’ll make sure we’re not too heavy in one area or another because they look at who you’re throwing to. They’re going to try to take certain guys away and we’ve got to be able to have plan B and plan C. The biggest thing right now is the tight end target production has been a lot lower than probably we thought going into this point.
“I love tight ends and so it’s something that we’re going to try to make sure that we help out. Sometimes it doesn’t reflect in the stat book, but we’re always trying to do everything we can to do whatever’s best for this offense.”
There are only so many ways Nagy can explain why the tight ends haven’t been at least productive secondary parts of the passing game.
“I think they have to shorten their routes because the offensive line can’t protect for the longer ones,” Scout 1 said. “The routes that they’ve run with the receivers and tight ends have been longer routes. That takes time for that all to develop and the young quarterback, he doesn’t see the field as well although he did better against the Lions. We both know the Lions are awful. I think he has to get the tight ends involved with more shorter passes, like 7 yards.
“Lazor has to work the intermediate passing game as opposed to working those deeper routes with Kmet and those guys. 5-yard outs and little checkdowns where they can get the ball to Kmet fast. That doesn’t sound great but those kinds of things can get those guys going and they need to do that. Their tight ends are jump-ball headaches because they’re all over 6-foot-6. If they can get down near the goalline and just throw jump balls, I think that will help them get some more action.”
- “Darnell Mooney is definitely an ascending young player,” Scout 1 said. “He reminds me of Emmanuel Sanders. He’s a good football player, man. He’s not Tyreek Hill or DeSean Jackson like the coach said. Mooney is fast now, but he’s not built like those other players either. He’s built like Sanders and Sanders has been a damn good player.”
Sanders, now 34, had a 1,404-yard season for the Denver Broncos in 2014 when he caught a career-high nine touchdown passes. He’s in his first season with the Buffalo Bills now, the fifth organization he’s played for, and has 678 career receptions for 8,887 yards and 49 touchdowns. That’s a pretty good career especially when considering the Bears have one receiver in franchise history with more than 5,000 yards receiving — Johnny Morris (5,059).
- “They’ve got to get Allen Robinson more involved because he’s one of the best players in their building,” Scout 2 said. “And they’ve got to get the tight ends going especially for a young quarterback because those are the middle of the field guys that can stretch the seams. They can run in-breakers and they can be a security blanket for a young quarterback in third-down situations where do you don’t have to so heavily scheme guys open, you can have a big body tight end who can find a middle of the field window and sit it down and help you move the sticks.”
Robinson and Mooney each had five targets against the Raiders, so the Bears have looked for the veteran Robinson more the last two weeks.
- “The pass rush has been good,” Scout 2 said. “It’s not just four-man fronts, they’re getting in multiple fronts, they’re using stunts and it helps when you have a guy like Robert Quinn who is playing with so much more juice. He’s winning one-on-ones. How many times did you see him do that last season?”
- “Their front seven /(has)/ done a good job rotating those guys in so they can all stay fresh,” Scout 2 said. “However, their rotation isn’t always good because they’ve been late getting on the field a few times. You can probably see that happening. They have to be careful.”
- “I like the addition of Alec Ogletree,” Scout 1 said. “He’s surprised me. I think he’s done a good job of helping be that next athletic guy that they didn’t have in (Danny) Trevathan. You know about Roquan (Smith) because he can flash and flow to the ball. But you could kind of isolate away from him and try to go after Trevathan, who was more of an instinctive and aware guy. But you could put (Trevathan) in man-to-man (coverage) and take advantage of him whereas Ogletree, he gives them a lift and he is playing the run way better than I thought he would.”
- “I think they’re still trying to figure out what they have at the cornerback spot with (Kindle) Vildor and especially with Duke Shelley,” Scout 2 said. “Four- or five-game sample size isn’t enough to really evaluate them and they’re going to start running into some higher level competition coming up. They ought to find out soon what they have in the secondary. They need those guys to make some plays on the ball or they are going to be in some tough spots.”
- “The secondary has played well,” Scout 1 said. “I like the two (starting) corners. I like (Jaylon) Johnson more because he’s got better size. I don’t think he’s a shutdown guy like they’re trying to portray him to be. He’s not there yet, but I do like him. I don’t think they tackle well as a whole in their secondary. If you’re headed right at them, those guys don’t wanna tackle. They’re good cover guys. They’re quick. I love Eddie Jackson, but he’s not a tackler. His angles are bad. He will miss a lot of tackles. So that’s where they need to improve when teams get into the second level against them, whether it’s a long run or pass, those guys aren’t good tacklers. They’ve had some blown coverages too, given up some long plays. I don’t know if it’s missed assignments or miscommunication because they haven’t played back there together for too long but they need to clean that up.”
The Bears did a better job of tackling in this win. There were still some chances to get guys down, but it wasn’t like Josh Jacobs got loose (the Raiders running back had only 48 yards on 15 carries).
- “Tell you what, I like that guy 45 (Joel Iyiegbuniwe),” Scout 1 said. “He’s a problem on special teams. If you’re playing the Bears, he’s the guy you need to find and block. He looks like one of their better core players.”
Kicker Cairo Santos and punter Pat O’Donnell have been steady and new returner Jakeem Grant provides them with a new element. He had 38 yards on two punt returns and had a 32-yard kickoff return.
5. One thing the Bears have done a much better job of defending this season has been opposing tight ends.
They had a difficult time keeping big bodied pass catchers out of the end zone a year ago. The defense allowed 12 touchdown receptions to opposing tight ends in 2020 — including four to Green Bay Packers tight ends. Only the New York Jets (14) and Jacksonville Jaguars (13) were worse defending tight ends.
Through five games, one tight end has scored on the defense and that was Austin Hooper in Cleveland when he got behind coverage in the red zone. The Bears did a nice job on the Raiders’ Darren Waller, limiting him to 45 yards on four receptions. There was some type of breakdown on Waller’s 29-yard catch on the second series of the game. It came on third-and-9 and he was uncovered. Other than that, one of the league’s most explosive tight ends was pretty much a nonfactor. The Lions’ T.J. Hockenson has emerged as one of the better tight ends in the league, with eight targets with four catches for 42 yards last week.
What’s really interesting is that while the defense didn’t have a matchup player to prevent touchdowns last season (the Bears allowed five TD catches by tight ends in 2019 and also in 2018), this defense really doesn’t get hit for too much yardage when it comes to tight ends. Since 2018, there have only been four instances where an opposing tight end went for more than 70 yards. Hockenson had 84 yards in a meeting last December. Zach Ertz went for 103 yards and a touchdown in a 2019 game with the Philadelphia Eagles and Travis Kelce (Chiefs in 2019) and George Kittle (49ers in 2018) each had 74 yards against the Bears. Those are three tight ends who have had much bigger days against a lot of good defenses throughout their careers.
Few quarterbacks do a better job of utilizing tight ends in the passing game than Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, so the next two weeks will be a good test for the defense. Rob Gronkowski has missed the last two games for the Buccaneers with a rib injury, but Brady has other targets in the middle of the field he likes.
6. The Bears can get better at — and better pretty quickly — is quarterback-designed runs.
I’m not talking about using Justin Fields to run a lot, but enough to take advantage of his skills and threaten defenses. Sure, there’s reason to pause when you see him fleeing the pocket on that snap during the second quarter when he was tripped up by Yannick Ngakoue and had to leave the game for three snaps.
His development as a passer is what is most significant. You don’t want to see him in harm’s way, but it would be negligent if the coaching staff didn’t maximize his talents. They called three runs for him and he didn’t get a first down on any of them. He gained three yards on a quarterback draw and had one on a sweep. Another run outside went for no gain, but the Raiders were penalized.
So, Fields has 20 rushing attempts for 59 yards and only four first downs with a long gain of 11. He scored a touchdown against the Rams when the Bears were in the red zone, but there hasn’t been a lot of success since. I’m confident in another five or six games, his rushing statistics will look significantly better. They should.
Quarterback-designed runs have to come with Fields. They will add a much needed element to an offense that, as we’ve seen the last two weeks, really has to scheme hard to win in the passing game. Some well executed runs by Fields is going to help the passing game and the running backs. It’s going to put opposing defenses in consistent conflict if they know they’re going to have to defend four or five runs by him per game. All it takes is one 20-yard run for Fields soon and the practice dynamic for opponents will shift. That’s not on tape yet, but it’s an offensive weapon that an offense lacking explosive weapons needs.
“I would imagine there will always be some QB run in Justin’s game,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Thursday. “Some weeks it might be two plays. Some weeks it might be eight. Designed QB runs will be part of the game and then there will always be some unscripted, for-whatever-reason-it-was-time-to-go part of his game.
“As he gets experience, he’s going to decide, split-second, ‘I’m hanging in here for this one because I know this play and it’s about to come open,’ or, ‘I don’t like how it looks. I can go and get it.’ His whole career, he’ll be balancing those things.”
7. Timing can be everything when it comes to drafting a quarterback. And when this season ends, the Bears could be exceedingly happy they were able to pull off a trade up to select Justin Fields.
That’s not just because Justin Fields looks like a promising prospect at this early stage of his rookie season. It’s also because the 2022 draft class at the position could be a major step down from the 2021 group that saw five quarterbacks selected in the first round with Fields chosen fourth after Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance.
Imagine being a team in need of a young quarterback at the end of this season. The Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers all could be looking for their quarterback of the future. The Lions are 1-4 and the rest of the bunch is 1-3.
Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, one of the preseason favorites for the Heisman Trophy award, was benched during the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Texas. True freshman Caleb Williams helped rally the Sooners to a victory.
What does the 2022 quarterback class look like?
“Poor,” a national scout said. “Name me one. The (Sam) Howell (North Carolina) kid is overrated. He’s got a big arm but he’s not accurate. He’s a good athlete but he’s not consistent. Name me another. Rattler? Overrated. He’s a good athlete. Is he at the pace those other guys were at Oklahoma? No. Look at the numbers. He’s behind Baker Mayfield. He’s behind Kyler Murray. Even behind Jalen Hurts. But if you need a quarterback, you’re going to chase one and if you chase the wrong one, you’re going to set your franchise back five years and get people fired. The kid at Southern Cal (Kedon Slovis) is down. Talented kid, but you just don’t know and the coaching change might not help him. What about the J.T. Daniels kid from Georgia? He’s surrounded by a ton of talent. Is he really that good?”
Scouts have to sort through a ton of questions when evaluating quarterbacks surrounded by immense talent. They’re playing a lot of games against teams that aren’t nearly as good and when they dominate, there are a lot of factors that have to be considered.
“Dwayne Haskins is the best example for that scenario,” the scout said. “Big, big windows, not a lot of tough throws, not contested very often, not pressured. A perfect example is Eli Manning. He was surrounded by garbage and goes to a New Year’s Day bowl. How many of those have Ole Miss been to before him and after him? He elevated the program. You can’t even name the receivers he played with.”
Mitch Trubisky emerged from obscurity in 2016 to become the No. 2 overall pick by the Bears the following year and Joe Burrow came out of nowhere in 2019 to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2020.
“If there’s one of those guys this year, I haven’t seen him yet,” the scout said. “There are a lot of guys out there that are good college quarterbacks, that are winners. But do they have the right skill set to succeed in the league? Probably not. Now, some team may get lucky with one. Someone may surface in the next couple months, but right now they’re saying the Howell kid is supposed to be the No. 1 pick. I don’t know if I would go there.”
8. Jason Myers, Nick Folk and Graham Gano all lost their standing ahead of Cairo Santos on the active list of kickers with consecutive field goals made through the first four weeks of the season.
Santos has made 34 consecutive field goals in the regular season dating back to Week 3 of last season after he hit two attempts in the win, both from 46 yards. It’s the longest streak in franchise history and Santos is a few games away from being in sight of the all-time league leaders.
Kicker, Team(s): Year, Streak
- Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts: 2015-16, 44 field consecutive field goals made
- Mike Vanderjagt, Colts: 2002-04, 42
- Gary Anderson, San Francisco 49ers/Minnesota Vikings: 1997-98, 40
Vinatieri and Vanderjagt kicked inside a dome for their home games and Anderson’s home games were in a dome in 1998 with the Vikings. That makes what Santos has accomplished a little more impressive.
“I don’t even know,” said special teams coordinator Chris Tabor Thursday when asked if the streak is even something Santos contemplates on gameday. “He’s only made five (so far this season, now seven), so the next one’s the most important one. We don’t talk about it. I know it’s very coach cliche-ish. It’s just about the process. It really is. Had a good day (Wednesday). We’ll do what we call Jiffy Lube drills today to keep him in tune and then we’ll kick (Friday) and then that prepares him for the game on Sunday.”
Three of Santos’ seven kicks this season have come from 40 to 49 yards. He’s now 37-for-39 since the start of last season. The Bears have a guy they can rely on and he’s doing remarkably well just worrying about his next kick.
9. Sean Desai’s background has been on different levels of the defense, but before being elevated to coordinator this year, he was working with the secondary.
It’s pretty clear Desai has a high degree of faith in his cornerbacks as he’s been leaning on the dime package a lot more than the defense went with a year ago. Entering Week 5, DeAndre Houston-Carson had been on the field for 17% of defensive snaps. That’s nearly double the 9% he was at last season and he might have had a season-high for playing time against the Raiders.
Houston-Carson delivered, too, ranging a long way to pick off QB Derek Carr early in the third quarter. The Raiders were facing third-and-4 from their own 27-yard line and Zay Jones got open downfield, but the ball floated too long and Houston-Carson closed on the ball to make the play.
“(Carr) wanted to go to the dig (route),” free safety Eddie Jackson said. “(Tashaun) Gip (Gipson) broke on the dig, and DHC, it was on him to make the play and he made it.”
Said inside linebacker Roquan Smith: “The guy’s number was called and so he stepped up and made some big plays. The guy works his tail off each and every week. I don’t know anyone that works harder than 36 and, man, I got a lot of respect for the guy as a player and as a person.”
10. There is so much written about the offense and the quarterback situation that I don’t want the defense to be consistently overshadowed.
Some interesting words from Raiders quarterback Derek Carr after the game. He had a rough game, completing 22 of 35 passes for only 206 yards. He was sacked three times and his receivers hurt him with some drops. He also overshot a couple targets when he looked pressured in the pocket. The Raiders weren’t in rhythm really at all. It was a tractor pull for them to move the ball and Carr gave credit for the Bears for scouting the Las Vegas offense.
“They beat us,” Carr said. “We didn’t make the plays. We weren’t on schedule. We turned the ball over, it goes on and on, but that’s from an execution standpoint. I don’t think that’s from, ‘Oh man, they know what’s coming.’ There was times even on a bootleg they’re screaming, “Stretch!” and we ran a bootleg. There’s things like that happening. So, that’s where I can’t say they got us figured out, but I just don’t think we’ve played good enough. If we just sit back and look at it, we just haven’t played at the standard that we expect. Not even close.”
10a. My hunch is the coaching staff will feel better about Eddie Goldman’s 31 snaps (my unofficial tally) in this game than the 31 he got last week against the Lions. Detroit left an awful lot of yardage on the field and the run defense was much better against the Raiders. Las Vegas had 71 yards on 22 carries and Josh Jacobs was controlled. That starts with Goldman, Bilal Nichols and Angelo Blackson in the middle of the defense. They played pretty well here against a Las Vegas offensive line that is struggling.
10b. The Bears activated Danny Trevathan from injured reserve and worked him in on a few series. My math on his snaps might be a little off as I was primarily trying to track the linemen and outside linebackers, but I had Trevathan for 10 snaps. He was credited with three tackles, one of them a solo. I don’t think the Bears want to pull Alec Ogletree out of the starting lineup, but maybe they move forward finding some spots for Trevathan.
10c. Right tackle Germain Ifedi (knee), inside linebacker Caleb Johnson (knee) and outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (pectoral muscle) all left the game and didn’t return. That’s never a good sign. If recent history tells us much, the Bears will probably hold back on any details until the middle of the week. The Bears plugged Elijah Wilkinson in at right tackle and if Johnson is sidelined, they will have to replace him as a core special teams player.
10d. Perhaps you saw the quote from Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley, once the outside linebackers coach for the Bears. It’s a really good explanation why even pass-heavy offenses need a commitment to the running game. It’s not as much about production as it is about commitment, and it’s especially important to remember when thinking about offenses playing young quarterbacks like the Chargers’ Justin Herbert, in his second year, and the Bears’ Justin Fields.
“What I think that the running game does for a quarterback is it gives you some breathers,” Staley said “You don’t need a good running game to be a good play-action team, but what you need the running game for is the physical element of the game. There’s a physicality to the game that’s real, right? If you’re just a passing team, there’s a physical element to the game that the defense doesn’t have to respect. And that’s the truth. Because the data will tell you that you don’t need a run game to play pass. You don’t need that. But what the running game does for you, it brings a physical dimension to the football game.
“And what the running game does that the passing game does not, is the running forces the defense to play block and to tackle. That happens on a run play. You must play blocks and you must tackle. In the passing game, those things don’t need to happen, right? You don’t have to play as many blocks. And you may not have to tackle based on incomplete or not. So, what the running game does is it really challenges your physicality and that’s why I think the run game is important to a quarterback. It’s literally going to allow him to have more space to operate when you do throw the football.”
10e. Every team is dealing with injuries at this point in the season and the Bears are without one of their most consistent offensive performers in running back David Montgomery. Looking ahead to next week, the Green Bay Packers placed cornerback Jaire Alexander on injured reserve Saturday. Arguably the team’s two best defensive players are on IR now with Alexander and outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, one of the best at the position in the league, started the season on the physically unable to perform list and will not play this coming week.
10f. The Fox crew of Joe Davis, former Bears tight end Greg Olsen and Pam Oliver has been assigned to call the Packers-Bears game at Soldier Field on Sunday.
10g. The Packers opened as a four-point favorite over the Bears for the Week 6 game. The last time the Bears were favored against the Packers was when they went off at minus-3½ for the Sept. 5, 2019, game at Soldier Field — a 10-3 Green Bay win.