Home Sports Column: Chicago Bears have been nothing short of ugly on offense — despite what OC Luke Getsy says

Column: Chicago Bears have been nothing short of ugly on offense — despite what OC Luke Getsy says

by staff

Numbers don’t matter, Justin Fields said after Sunday’s 20-12 road loss to the New York Giants, explaining that the Chicago Bears’ 2-2 record is the only figure that counts.

That’s hard to dispute, and as the sample size grows it’s becoming increasingly difficult to say anything is working well on offense outside of the running game.


For the longest time, coaches divided seasons into quarters, evaluating the smaller portions. The addition of a 17th regular-season game a year ago changes that math.

Fields has the lowest passer rating in the NFL at 58.7. The next lowest is Mitch Trubisky at 73.7, and he lost his starting job with the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. Fields is 31st out of 32 in QBR, the ESPN-created system that incorporates quarterbacks running the ball. Fields is at 26.2. The Carolina Panthers’ Baker Mayfield is below him at 15.3.


“Who said the passing game wasn’t working?” Fields said Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy disputed the notion it has been a bumpy first four weeks for Fields, who is completing 50.7% of his pass attempts, 32nd in the NFL.

“I don’t think he’s had a rough month,” Getsy said. “He’s gotten better each week. He’s growing tremendously. We’re playing good football teams. It’s not easy to become the level of quarterback that he wants to become and I know that he can become. The important thing is that we stay focused, keep our eyes on that progress or process and we make sure we get better each week, and I believe that we’re in that phase.”

Coach Matt Eberflus has said multiple times recently that the passing game is beginning to look better in practices, something that should carry over into games, but the idea the Bears have had a lot of good moments throwing the ball is disingenuous.

It’s easy to point to issues all over the place — quarterback, offensive line, skill-position players — but let’s zero in on a recurring theme. The offense is in the same spot it was in the last two years when former coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor regularly circled back to the common cause they believed was preventing them from unlocking the offense. Lazor said the Bears had to put third down on “the top of the list” for things to improve in 2021. It never happened.

  • The Bears were 34.6% on third down in 2020, 31st in the NFL.
  • They were 34.7% in 2021, last in the NFL.
  • They currently are at 34%, 26th in the league.

As much as things have changed — coaching, scheme, personnel — the ineffectiveness on third down remains remarkably consistent. When they are struggling to sustain drives and cannot generate enough explosive plays, it makes scoring touchdowns a big challenge. Combine that with the red-zone ineptitude the Bears encountered last week and it’s a recipe for consistent failure.

The Bears have converted 17 of 50 third downs. In fairness, two were Fields kneel downs, but that doesn’t support the idea the offense has been anything close to OK. Of the 15 third downs the team has converted, seven were on scrambles or runs by Fields. That simply cannot be the answer for the Bears — it’s not sustainable and will make it difficult to keep the quarterback healthy.

Wide receiver Darnell Mooney has caught one pass for a first down on third down, an 18-yard play on third-and-9 on Sunday. He has been targeted only two other times on third down and both throws were intercepted. That doesn’t do anything to support the idea that Mooney can emerge as a No. 1 receiver.


Tight end Cole Kmet had big gains of 24 and 16 yards on third down in Week 3 against the Houston Texans. Otherwise, he has been invisible. The offense lacks a crafty slot receiver who can find space underneath to make big plays on third-and-6 or less.

Fields is 15-of-22 passing for 216 yards on third down with two touchdown passes. Those numbers are pretty good. The problem is Fields has dropped back to pass 35 times on third down resulting in seven passing first downs — two on screens that were well blocked. Fields has 13 rushing attempts on third down — 10 scrambles and three designed runs — that have resulted in 77 yards and the seven first downs.

There is no easy solution to improving the third-down woes, and the struggles are easily traced to ineffectiveness on first and second down. Getsy said there isn’t a common them to third-down issues. It’s notable that of the Bears’ 50 third downs, 36 have been third-and-6 or more. The Bears are getting behind in down and distance and too often cannot catch up.

It would be a huge help if the offense could be more aggressive and productive on first down. The 56-yard pass to Mooney in the first quarter against the Giants came on first down. It flipped the field and led to a field goal. That long play accounts for 32% of Fields’ passing yards on first down.

Fields is 19 of 45 (42%) for 255 yards on first and second down on a total of 65 drop-backs. If that is not part of a “rough month,” what is? He has been sacked 11 times on first and second down, putting the offense behind the chains. If he can get to 55% passing on those downs — which still isn’t good — the offense would be in a better position. His poor passer rating is due in part to the fact he’s missing a lot of easy throws near the line of scrimmage or simply not attempting them.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields watches from the sideline during the third quarter against the Giants on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.

The Bears face a Minnesota Vikings defense Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium that is tied for 11th in the league on third down, allowing opponents to convert on 35.4% of opportunities. Improvement on third down won’t come until first and second downs are better. Perhaps Getsy, who said the benchmark for third down is 48% — that usually is the top figure at the end of every season — can be more aggressive on early downs to produce more chunk plays.


Pressed into how he doesn’t see the first four games as a rough patch for Fields, Getsy kept his focus on the process — even if it hasn’t affected results.

“I know what I know and I believe what I believe,” he said. “And what we do in this building is what we pay attention to, and the questions that you ask, that’s your right to ask whatever you want. As long as we stay focused on what we know and what we believe in, we know in the end we’re going to get where we want to get.”

They’re not going to get far by routinely facing third-and-unmanageable, but if you’ve been following the team for more than a minute, you know that.

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