Bears were winning run game against Packers. So what happened?
It's OK to ask why the Bears attempted just 11 passes in Sunday's loss to Green Bay.
But maybe a better question is how it's possible for the offense to have such a bad night when David Montgomery and Kahlil Herbert combined to average 8.4 yards per carry?
Stick with what's working is such a simple concept and on Sunday, that was running behind fullback Khari Blasingame. More disturbing than Justin Fields' 11 pass attempts was Blasingame's 13 offensive snaps.
Just about all of those appearances were during the Bears' first-quarter touchdown drive and the fourth-quarter march that ended somewhere very close to the Packers' goal line.
The log of running plays by running backs while Blasingame was on the field was 9 carries for 116 yards -- an average of 12.9 per carry.
Talk about a head-scratcher, not long after Montgomery and Herbert gained 55 yards on 2 running plays, the Bears reached first-and-goal at the 10-yard line, and pulled the fullback off the field. Using 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end), Montgomery had two runs of 2 yards.
Then Fields was rushed and almost scrambled to the pylon. The shotgun QB sneak didn't work and the game was essentially over.
So what happened to the run game during the 35 minutes or so between quality drives? A lot of first-down failures.
The Bears' next three first-half drives started with a sack, false start and incomplete pass on first down. They added a 5-yard loss on second down to the last drive, a run by Montgomery with no fullback.
After three straight three-and-outs, a tired defense couldn't muster the energy to keep the Packers out of the end zone before halftime.
To start the third quarter, the Bears tried to ignite the offense with a Fields' outside run. Good plan, it gained 7 yards. But on second-and-three, instead of getting back to what worked well, they went empty backfield and Fields was sacked. Another three-and-out.
As long as the Bears are in the argument for having the league's worst set of receivers, it's probably best not to count on Fields to generate big plays with his arm.
Locked on the rookie: It would have been in character for Aaron Rodgers to start Sunday's game by pointing at rookie corner Kyler Gordon and yelling, "I will own you."
Rodgers picked on Gordon all night long. At one point in the broadcast, Chris Collinsworth said Gordon is going to be a "great, great player," but we'd like to know what evidence he's utilizing.
According to pro-football-reference.com, Gordon has been targeted 20 times in two weeks, allowing 15 receptions for 210 yards. On the other side, Jaylon Johnson has been targeted just four times and may never see the ball come his way again.
It's not unusual for opponents to pick on rookies. Quarterbacks targeted Johnson during his rookie season, while all was quiet on Kyle Fuller's side. But Johnson held his own, getting beat sometimes, but making his share of good plays.
Outside of the one pass deflection in the end zone Sunday, Gordon hasn't made many plays in the passing game. Does Gordon lack the speed to survive as an NFL corner? Well, he ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the combine, according to pro-football-reference.com. That doesn't match up well to, say, Packers CB Jaire Alexander, who ran a 4.38. Then again, Johnson clocked a 4.50, so speed isn't everything.
Worst play: After that second-down sack to open the third quarter, the Bears faced third-and-nine. They were so concerned about the pass rush, Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet and David Montgomery all stayed in and blocked before releasing on pass patterns. So Fields was looking at a two-receiver pattern, before dumping it off to Montgomery for a 7-yard gain, setting up another punt.
Hopeful sign: Rookie safety Jaquan Brisker stayed aggressive and just missed a couple of drive-stopping tackles. He's showing signs as a potential playmaker.
For the past four years, Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack made most of the big plays on defense. Without those guys, an argument could be made the Bears defense has been better than expected so far.
Credit is due: Twice Green Bay linebacker Preston Smith, who measures 6 feet 5 and 265 pounds, was locked up one-on-one against Justin Fields and made the play both times. One was on a third-and-two running play in Packers territory, then again on a sack. Green Bay signed Smith as a free agent in 2019.