As ugly as it got in Tampa, the Bears aren't as bad as they looked
Yes, I have been through the tape of the Bears no-show in Tampa a number of times.
No, I am not going to stick with our weekly format of grading each position group individually.
Frankly, almost no one played well enough to warrant it.
Obviously Khalil Herbert was very good for the second straight game. His missed pickup on the safety blitz on the game's second play is his only demerit. Even there, he gets a gold star for his outstanding effort recovering Justin Fields' fumble.
James Daniels is becoming a force blocking the run.
Jason Peters is getting very close to very good again, his one issue being he will still occasionally get beat on an outside speed rush.
Cole Kmet had an awful drop on his first target that was arguably Fields' best throw of the day, but after he had a second straight productive week.
Roquan Smith was Roquan Smith, DeAndre Houston-Carson had one costly missed tackle, but otherwise did an excellent job stepping in for Tashaun Gipson and Deon Bush.
While not his 2018 self, Eddie Jackson is playing better than he's getting credit for.
Other than that, no one played well enough to grade any higher than C, D or F -- or even compete with the Bucs.
However that does not mean the 2021 Bears are doomed to be a C, D or F.
How do the Bears grade as a team through seven weeks of the season?
They are in the middle of the NFC pack with the Vikings (3-3), Saints (4-2), Falcons (3-3), Panthers (3-4), 49ers (2-4) and Seahawks. Two of those teams will almost certainly be in the playoffs.
It is hard-to-impossible to prove the quality of these clubs with statistical comparisons because of the way one or two very good or very bad performances can skew season totals.
But quality of wins and quality of losses can say a lot. The following chart will show the combined records of each team each club has beaten and each club they've lost to, wins over winning teams and losses to losing teams.
Wins Winning Teams Losses Losing Teams
Bears (10-11) 2 (22-6) 0
Vikings (5-15) 0 (16-5) 0
Saints (13-15) 1 (5-9) 2 Falcons (4-16) 0 (10-11) 2
Panthers (6-13) 1 (12-14) 2
49ers (2-12) 0 (18-10) 2
Seahawks (5-8) 0 (21-11) 0
Clearly the Cardinals, Bucs, Rams, Packers and Cowboys are the class of the NFC, but this chart suggests a real possibility that the Bears are the sixth or seventh best team in the NFC.
They are the only club with wins over two quality teams, the current No. 1 and No. 2 in the AFC (Bengals, Raiders), and three of their four losses are to three of the five best teams in the league (Rams, Packers and Bucs).
All of this proves nothing, but it suggests two things.
First, the Bears aren't as bad as they played Sunday in Tampa even before you factor in the absence of key studs David Montgomery, Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks. Tashaun Gipson, Deon Bush and Elijah Wilkinson were also out, which forced the Bears to start third-stringers at right tackle and safety.
No. 2: The offense's F for its play to date is skewed by an F -- -- for the passing game. The ground game has become a solid B+, and in spite of Tampa -- 5 of the Bucs 6 scoring drives started at the Bears' 32, 40, 35, 48 and 37 -- the defense is a solid B, It'll be much better if it can ever put 11 starters on the field together, and the offense takes care of the football.
You can win a lot of games in the NFL with good-to-very good ground games and defenses.
If the passing game can just get to average, you might even occasionally hunt with the big dogs.
The Bears are a C at this point in the season, but it's still too soon to write them off.
The 49ers are obviously beatable and then the Bears get the Steelers with bad losses to the Bengals and Raiders, teams the Bears beat.
These next two weeks going into the bye might as well be the Bears season and should dictate who these 2021 Bears are, not the last seven.