Chicago Bears Week 17 Takeaways: PACK Your Bags, the Bears are BACK in the Playoffs
The Bears fell to the Packers in Week 17 but still punched their ticket to the playoffs with some help from the Rams.
The Chicago Bears 2020 regular season finally concluded on Sunday afternoon with a 35-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Falling in the season finale dropped Chicago’s record to 8-8, a record they have now managed in consecutive seasons. It wasn’t all bad though. Despite the loss, the Bears managed to clinch a playoff berth thanks to the Los Angeles Rams defeating the Arizona Cardinals.
2020 was a rollercoaster of a season that began with promise and a 5-1 record followed by frustration and a six-game losing streak. Mitchell Trubisky started under center, rode the bench while Nick Foles took over, and then regained the starting job and rattled off three straight wins. In those wins, Chicago’s offense rattled off points like no Bears fan had seen before. That resurgence put the 8-7 Bears in control of their own destiny when they faced off with the 12-3 Packers in Week 17. Green Bay was playing for a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Bears were fighting for their playoff lives, not knowing how the Rams-Cardinals game would play out.
As the Bears prepare for their Super Wild Card matchup with the New Orleans Saints, let’s reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly from their loss to the Packers.
Unlike the last time these two teams met, the Bears’ offense wasn’t necessarily all that bad. Yes, they struggled to put up points, which is the name of the game. However, they outgained Green Bay 356 to 316 in total yards. Chicago picked up 248 yards through the air and 108 on the ground and even managed to outperform the Packers in the first downs department by a 21-17 margin.
In fact, the Bears’ overall game plan against the Packers felt right. They controlled the ball and managed to keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ high-powered offense off the field as long as they could. The Bears held the advantage in time of possession and it wasn’t necessarily all that close, as Chicago possessed the ball for 35:29 compared to Green Bay’s 24:31. That’s a difference of 11 minutes. Consequently, the Bears ran 30 more plays as well.
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Red Zone Efficiency
Despite all the aforementioned statistical advantages, the Bears’ offense struggled mightily in the red zone. They converted just one of five opportunities once they entered the red zone. That crucial lack of production is by and large why they lost the game. Leaving points off the board is a big no-no and it becomes even more magnified against a team like the Packers, especially when Aaron Rodgers roams the opposite sideline.
Going forward, the Bears’ success will be contingent on finishing drives with touchdowns and not settling for field goals. There were three instances in which field goals could have been touchdowns on Sunday. Converting on those opportunities would have led to 12 more points than they finished with.
Fourth Down Efficiency
While it’s not ideal to have to go for it on fourth down as frequently as the Bears had to, the referees did them no favors when spotting the ball. Regardless, the Bears did convert on five of six (83.3%) fourth-down attempts. That percentage looks good on paper, but Trubisky and co. failed to convert the most crucial opportunity which opened up the floodgates for the Packers to pull away late.
The Bears only committed one penalty all afternoon, which came on the Packers’ first offensive drive of the game when Duke Shelley was called for a defensive pass interference. It turned out to be a pretty clean game for for the Bears in that regard. They were very disciplined group.
All in all, the Packers only sacked Mitchell Trubisky on one occasion. Beyond that, the offense averaged 3.5 yards per run. Given the Packers’ defense isn’t a bottom-of-the-barrel unit, these feats are fairly impressive. The big bodies up front have proven to be a strength in the Bears’ recent offensive resurgence.
While David Montgomery didn’t sniff 100 yards against the Packers, he did find the end zone once.
This marked his fifth consecutive game with a touchdown.
Even though Montgomery experienced a bit of an injury scare early on, he finished the day with 132 all-purpose yards on 32 touches — nine receptions for 63 yards and 23 carries for 69 yards.
The rookie tight end had himself a nice game statistically, as he finished with seven catches for 41 yards. One lapse came in the form of a fumble, but Kmet seemed pretty close to being down by contact. After a review, the referees decided to stick with their original call which was unfortunate for Kmet the Bears.
Darnell Mooney is balling out. The rookie was the focal point of the offense’s aerial attack as he hauled in 11 receptions for 93 yards. Notably, the biggest catch of the day was this 53-yard strike:
Unfortunately, Mooney exited the game early in the fourth quarter and did not return to the game after taking a vicious hit from Adrian Amos. We’ll have to monitor his status as the week progresses, but losing Mooney would be a massive blow to the Bears’ offense.
On the first drive of the game, Roquan Smith’s day was cut short due to an elbow injury. Just as Mooney’s status is a major point of concern on the offensive side of the ball, the defense could be losing its best player by far in 2020.
The Bears may want to consider giving this guy a contract extension. Santos has proven to be one of the most reliable kickers in the game. He drilled all three of his field goals and his lone extra point on Sunday. As a result, he broke a Bears all-time record previously set by Robbie Gould.
While seemingly every aspect of the Bears’ performance has been a rollercoaster in 2020, Cairo Santos has been nothing but consistent.
Yikes! What happened to the once-dominant unit? Typically, the defense shoulders the load for the Bears. However, that unit has been a weakness as of late. While it seemed as though the defense was hardly on the field on Sunday, they allowed a handful of big plays. The biggest gash was a 72-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Packers frequently struck quickly with their scoring drives.
Chicago’s defense was so putrid in the first half that Aaron Rodgers didn’t log a single incomplete pass.
As for the pass rush, they mustered up just one measly sack of Rodgers all game.
If the front four can’t generate consistent pressure and get to the quarterback, the Bears’ defensive struggles will continue in the playoffs.
The tweets below say it all. It’s been a drastic fall-off since the Vic Fangio days.
Special Teams Makes a Play
The defense isn’t forcing turnovers as of late, but the special teams group came up with a key takeaway in Week 17.
For the most part, Matt Nagy was okay. As previously alluded to, the Bears’ gameplan and approach to handling the Packers’ defense were fine. However, the problem was Nagy’s situational play-calling. He got scared and settled field goals instead of being slightly more aggressive and going for it on fourth down early in the game. Nagy had the right play calls. His offense converted on 5/6 fourth downs. Obviously, it was working for them. The most egregious of his decisions came on the fourth-and-one situation during a drive that already spanned 14 plays and 51 yards while also chewing up 8:04 off the clock. Nagy called a roll-out pass to Allen Robinson to the short side of the field, which was a bust from the start. The Packers knew it was coming. It’s the Nagy staple.
Mitchell Trubisky has now surpassed the quadruple-digit completion mark in a Bears uniform.
The Bears hung tough with the Packers up until 11:22 left in the fourth quarter. This rejuvenated style of offense is fully capable of beating teams in the playoffs. However, it’s going to take a mistake-free effort if they want to upset the Saints. The Bears need to clean things up and stop leaving the points off the board.
Beyond that, the real concern lies in the defense’s ability to ramp up their pass rush and get to the quarterback consistently. If the defense can be half of what they were in the past, that may be good enough for the Bears to make a run.
Additionally, the health of this team will be a major factor. Jaylon Johnson, Buster Skrine, Roquan Smith, and Darnell Mooney would all be devastating losses if they’re not able to suit up in the postseason. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Bears can make some noise in the playoffs. Wild Card teams have done so in the past.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Chicago Bears have a date with the New Orleans Saints down at the Superdome in Louisiana. This NFC Wild Card contest will take place on Sunday, January 10th at 3:40 PM CT. The game will be televised on CBS. The Saints won the NFC South this year and finished with a 12-4 record, which was good enough for the second seed in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Bears ended their 2020 regular season at 8-8 and squeaked into the seventh seed. Drew Brees looks to make one last run at the Lombardi Trophy before he hangs up the cleats. It’s possible that the veteran quarterback “may” have to do so without Alvin Kamara and/or Michael Thomas… at least for this week.
Be sure to tune in to the Bears On Tap podcast for postgame reactions, updates, and analysis throughout the week in addition to discussions on a variety of other Bears-related topics.