Film Study: Pressure is on, but Bears could do more to help offensive line
Before the Bears lost two close games in five days, Film Study issued a warning. Left guard Cody Whitehair going on the injured list was going to be a huge problem.
Upon further review, the Bears offensive line still has plenty of room to improve, but the issues on offense are more of a four-pronged dilemma, all easily identifiable by Bears fans.
According to pro-football-reference.com, quarterback Justin Fields actually saw the lowest pressure percentage (17.2) against Minnesota of any of the 15 times he's played a full game.
Washington, one of the league's better pass-rushing teams, was a different story, obviously. But if the Bears had built an early 17-0 lead like they should have, they would have been grinding out the clock in the fourth quarter instead of dealing with blitzes in desperation mode.
Most of Thursday's pass-blocking problems involved left tackle Braxton Jones faring badly against Montez Sweat, but Lucas Patrick and Sam Mustipher also contributed blow-bys late in the game.
Still, the Bears offense has functioned reasonably well. They rallied from a 21-3 deficit at Minnesota, drove inside the 5-yard line on the first two possessions against Washington, and were frequent red zone visitors against the Giants three weeks ago.
Stay on schedule
There have been creative play-calls this season, but it should be obvious by now that Fields' time in the pocket will be brief. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy could help out his QB with more short pass routes.
One example from the final drive of the Minnesota game, Darnell Mooney had inside leverage off his initial break and plenty of room over the middle if he turned and caught a slant pass. Instead, he went 15 yards downfield and sat down in the middle of the zone, which was technically correct, but Fields suffered a strip sack before he could deliver the ball. The Bears recovered that fumble, only to lose one two plays later to seal the loss.
One nice innovation from Thursday was having TE Ryan Griffin cut across the formation and protect Fields on a bootleg, resulting in a 15-yard completion to Cole Kmet. Fields hit another bootleg pass, but was buried later in the game when the Bears tried it with no protector.
Another move that doesn't make sense is the disappearance of fullback Khari Blasingame, who played 9 snaps on offense against Minnesota and just 6 against Washington. The Bears have an offensive line that blocks the run better than the pass, and they ran the ball very well the first three weeks when loading up with a fullback and two tight ends. Maybe some power runs would have helped on those empty trips inside the 10-yard line.
Take it easy
Another piece to the Bears offense is Fields getting in the habit of taking the easy throws that are often right in front of him. After the two red zone failures to start the Washington game, the next two drives ended with frustrating third down decisions.
With just 3 and 4 yards to get the first down, Fields fired two long misses to Mooney, with little chance of success. Both times, there was a receiver wide open over the middle. No QB is going to see everything, and Fields is obviously a work in progress, but he needs to spot relatively easy throws in the middle of the field.
It's not breaking any new ground by pointing out the Bears might have the worst set of receivers in the NFL. But there could some hope in the big game by Dante Pettis (second-most receiving yards of his career) and improving health of N'Keal Harry.
Perhaps Terry McLaurin or Curtis Samuel ruined your fantasy team this week. At least the Bears showed they can keep talented receivers relatively in check, which they couldn't do against Minnesota's Justin Jefferson.
One interesting stat is rookie CB Kyler Gordon was credited with allowing 10 completions in 11 targets against Washington. But, it was for an average of 6.5 yards per catch and a 91.3 passer rating. Gordon has made his best plays in run support this season, so maybe he's learning to give some ground and deliver the hit.