Like so many Chicago Bears coaches before him, Matt Eberflus came to the visitor’s news conference room inside Lambeau Field late Sunday in a dour state.
Eberflus had a lopsided loss to digest and a boatload of concerning issues to sort through.
His young and hungry team couldn’t survive on intangibles alone in Week 2, struggling to tackle and failing to generate much offensive momentum. On a prime-time stage, the Bears were exposed by the reigning NFC North kings as flawed, error-prone and clearly overmatched. A 27-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers landed like a cement pillar to the gut.
“When this happens and you have adversity, it stings,” Eberflus said. “It hurts. And you have to soak that in.”
Like so many Bears quarterbacks before him, Justin Fields fielded questions about the deficiencies of the offense he’s tasked with running. With the Bears netting only 48 passing yards on a perfect fall evening in a game they trailed by double digits for the final 34 minutes, Fields was asked what’s missing.
“I’m not sure what’s missing in the passing game,” he said. “I don’t know.”
His aggravation was evident.
So much for those dreams of a 2-0 start and an early two-game lead over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Instead, Sunday night became a reality check, like so many of the Bears’ trips to Lambeau tend to offer.
As a rebuilding team with a thin margin for error, the Bears had far too many missteps — particularly late in the first half — to sneak out of Wisconsin with an upset.
The second quarter in particular was an absolute fireworks show for the Packers. Literally. They scored three touchdowns in the quarter, prompting a flurry of pyrotechnics in the September sky.
The Packers outgained the Bears 125-3 in that quarter and held a 9-0 advantage in first downs during a 21-0 blitzkrieg from which Fields and Co. never recovered.
Running back Aaron Jones scored on the first play of the quarter, a nifty 15-yard touchdown run that opened the door for the Packers stampede. Also included in the second-quarter avalanche:
- The Bears went three and-out on their three full possessions, once when Fields was penalized on third down for throwing a pass from 2 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
- The Bears offense ran almost as many plays for negative yardage (four) as it did for positive yardage (five). Mix in two penalties and the offensive sloppiness was apparent.
- The Packers, meanwhile, crawled out of a second-and-28 situation without much anxiety. Rodgers hit Romeo Doubs for 20 yards on a screen pass, then converted on third-and-long with a dart to Randall Cobb. That drive ended two plays later with a touchdown.
- The final Packers touchdown drive of the first half was an effortless 67-yard journey in which they never faced third down and scored when Rodgers hit Allen Lazard on a 5-yard slant against rookie Kyler Gordon.
“The rest of the three quarters were decent,” Eberflus said. “But you can’t play like that in the NFL. Every play matters.”
Just like that, the early buzz from the 7-3 lead the Bears took on Fields’ 3-yard first-quarter touchdown run turned into a pounding headache.
“That was tough, man,” said defensive end Trevis Gipson, who had two first-half sacks as one of the Bears’ few bright spots. “We’re a tough team that works really hard. And we’re built to handle adversity. … We’ve got to get back in the lab and figure out what we could have done better and implement that into our entire practice scheme.”
Much will be made of the Bears’ failed fourth-and-goal play from inside the 1 in the fourth quarter, a Fields run that was — depending on the vantage point — stopped a few whiskers short of the goal line. Eberflus challenged the officials’ ruling, convinced Fields had broken the plane, but was denied.
But more than any officiating verdict, many Bears fans will be spewing invective in Week 3, wondering why, with 9 inches to go for a possible comeback-fueling touchdown, the Bears called a quarterback run out of the shotgun rather than trying a simpler sneak from under center or even a handoff to David Montgomery, who ripped off 122 yards on 15 carries.
Eberflus and his players felt strongly the play call was a good one to attack the Packers in that situation.
“I like (that play) and the coaches liked it,” Eberflus said. “We looked at it and we practiced it and we repped it because a lot of times, you outnumber the box. Using your quarterback as a runner, you have an additional blocker, so you like your numbers in the box there. That’s why we called it.”
Added left guard Cody Whitehair: “It’s a great play, especially against this defense, with some down blocks and you’ve got a puller coming around, too, to open up that hole.”
Sure, had that play gone for a touchdown, the game might have taken an unpredictable spin down the stretch. But it’s also worth noting that the Bears lost by 17 points against a superior opponent and stumbled enough in all three phases to deserve their first loss.
The defense allowed 414 total yards with Jones accounting for 170 of those plus two touchdowns.
“For his size, he runs pretty hard,” Bears linebacker Nick Morrow said. “He’s not 240 (pounds), but he runs behind his pads, he keeps his balance and he’s a good receiver out of the backfield.”
The Bears offense, meanwhile, went 89 minutes of real time without picking up a first down, losing control of the game with four consecutive three-and-outs across the second and third quarters. And on the series that ended with Fields stopped near the goal line, the Bears somehow churned out 103 rushing yards and still went scoreless.
Fields’ final stat line — 7 of 11 for 70 yards with an interception — also will be a hot topic in the coming days as the Bears’ ineffective passing attack draws justifiable scrutiny. Asked for a two-game progress report on the passing game, Eberflus talked in a circle.
“I’ll go back and look at it,” he said. “We have to look at that with the offensive staff. We threw the ball 11 times. But, again, we ran the ball really well. So we’ll look at it.”
Fields was asked if he would like a greater opportunity to throw as the season moves forward.
“Of course,” he said. “I’m a competitor. So, yeah, of course. But my job is to execute the play that’s given to me the best of my ability.”
Together, the Bears quarterback and coach seemed like a disappointed duo, humbled by their division rivals and left to begin an urgent cleanup mission as they left Lambeau Field and headed home with an agitating loss.
It seemed all so familiar.