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Bears Preseason Takeaways: Nope, Don’t Like That

Here are the major takeaways from the shellacking the Bears received at the hands of the Bills on Saturday.

Chicago Bears Buffalo Bills Preseason
Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

In the words of Michael Scott, “Nope, don’t like that.”

What the Chicago Bears showed to the world on Saturday was embarrassing. Even for preseason standards. It wasn’t necessarily the score or the outcome that was disappointing but rather the overall body of work. All three phases of the game failed to do their jobs or show any glimpse of hope. This doesn’t even account for the travesty that was the coaching. The Buffalo Bills trounced the Bears by a score of 41-15.

Again, it’s just preseason. There was no game-planning involved and the Bears came into this contest missing a good portion of their starters. What happens in the preseason doesn’t always correlate with the results during the regular season.

Nevertheless, here are the major takeaways from the Week 2 of the preseason.

Missing Players

The Bears were short-handed against the Bills. The team was missing several key players, specifically their starters. A lot of players dressed but did not have their pads on, per reports. Here is a list of notable players that were absent on Saturday:

It seemed like a few others were missing from the game as well. Hopefully, once the official snap count report from the game drops we’ll get a better look of who played and who didn’t.

Defense

All in all, that performance by Sean Desai’s unit was a disaster. The Bears couldn’t stop Brian Daboll’s offense at all. The Bills offensive coordinator ran circles around Desai. Furthermore, the Bears’ tackling was absolutely atrocious. In short, the overall the effort by the defense was an embarrassing.

How can any of those players take pride in that monstrosity yesterday? It often seemed like a unit that was going at half speed with a tentative approach in the first half. If they were playing scared and trying to avoid injury, then there was no reason for them to suit up at all.

Beyond the team’s on-field sloppiness, coach Desai did not have his best game of calling plays. It may be possible that he’s better off coaching from the booth upstairs, which is where he was last week against Miami. The preseason opener was a relatively clean game and the defense looked alright. But this week, Desai was on the sideline calling plays against Buffalo.

Only time will tell, but this game definitely gave a lot of fans some pause.

Matt Nagy

New year, same story. Yes, it’s just the preseason, as mentioned earlier. However, the struggles we saw on Saturday are a recurring theme with Nagy’s offense. The Bears seemingly can’t get off the ground and off to a fast start.

The Bills played several first-string players in the first half and stifled the Bears offense. There is too much talent on the offensive side of the ball to look this anemic. At this point, it’s not just a preseason vs. regular season thing. It’s a Matt Nagy issue and has been since 2018.

However, I will give him one thing. The Bears’ offensive line is a patchwork unit and a multiple starters didn’t play. Even so, Nagy is going to be (at least he should be) on thin ice in 2021. This offense absolutely has to click and fire on all cylinders this season. Otherwise, he’ll be looking for work come next January.

Offense

Now that the Matt Nagy portion of the offensive woes has been dealt with, let’s get into the the actual by-product of the offensive “genius”. The first half of this game was an absolute clown show.

In the first quarter, the Bears managed only one first down compared to Buffalo’s 10. At halftime, the team was already down 34-6. The offense logged just 145 total yards at the intermission.

While Justin Fields entered the game in the second half, the offense didn’t improve much statistically. However, the eye test will tell you otherwise. After Fields checked in, the offense looked much smoother and his escapability bailed out the shoddy offensive line play. Below is a comparison of the Bears’ offense with Andy Dalton (first half) vs. Justin Fields (second half).

First HalfSecond HalfGame Total
First downs41014
3rd Down Efficiency0-5 (0%)0-6 (0%)0-11 (0%)
4th Down Efficiency0-1 (0%)1-3 (33%)1-4 (25%)
Passing Yards14680226
Sack Yards Lost9514
Total Passing Yards13775212
Total Rushing Yards87886
Total Yards145153298

Notably, 78 yards on the ground is a vast improvement over just eight in the first half. Upon diving into the numbers further, 46 of the 78 second-half rushing yards came from the rookie quarterback’s scrambling.

Kick/Punter Coverage

For the most part, the kick coverage team was dreadful. It’s apparent that the loss of Sherrick McManis and Cordarrelle Patterson played a huge part in the decline. Personnel losses aside, several Bears players often took bad angles, over-pursued on directional punts, and were flat-out lazy in their effort. Pat O’Donnell did a heck of a job pinning the Bills’ punt returners to one corner, but they still achieved great field position because of the poor kick coverage by the Bears. It’s hard to tell how much that falls on coaching, Chris Tabor, or the lack of talent or effort.

Offensive Line

The offensive line was woeful for most of the game, particularly at the tackle spots. Arlington Hambright, Lachavious Simmons, and Elijah Wilkinson are nice depth options to have, but they are definitely not the answers up front.

However, Larry Borom did stand out for the Bears. Once Fields checked into the game, so did Borom. To the surprise of many, he held his own for the entire second half. Now, how that translates against first-string players has yet to be seen. But the fifth-round pick out of Missouri acted as a wall during his time on the field, which was a positive takeaway.

Hopefully, for the Bears fans’ sake, nobody has to see a starting offensive line like this one ever again.

Ideally, the Bears would love to see Jason Peters at left tackle and Larry Borom at right tackle. Those two players likely give them the best chance to protect the quarterback and run the offense the way they envision it.

Jesse James

Despite the lopsided loss, a few Bears players managed to stand out on Saturday. For example, Jesse James continues to dazzle and fit in well with the offense. Since his arrival, James has gotten comfortable with both quarterbacks and vice versa. The highlight below is a prime example, as Justin Fields connects with James for a big gain.

James hauled in four catches for 54 yards and was the second-best receiver on the team.

Rodney Adams

James was the second-best receiver only behind Rodney Adams, who continues to make a case for being on the final 53-man roster. Adams logged 89 yards on three receptions and a touchdown, including this 73-yard dart from Dalton.

Wide receivers coach Mike Furrey was hyped following this play and found Adams on the sideline to show him some love.

Brian Johnson

The Bears’ backup kicker continues to impress. This time around, he booted another long field goal (54 yards) with ease. While the team probably won’t carry two kickers on their roster, the Bears may now have a trade chip to dangle in front of a kicker-needy team for the right compensation.

I’m only half kidding though… or am I?

The Hit on Justin Fields

Late in the fourth quarter, Justin Fields took a shot from Bills linebacker Andre Smith. It was a vicious-looking hit that had Bears fans collectively holding their breath.

Smith came free on a blitz off the right side and Fields just simply didn’t see him, nor did the right tackle account for him. Either way, it was an unnecessary hit during garbage time of a meaningless game to the future franchise quarterback of the Chicago Bears. All in all, Fields is fine and everyone can move on without worry.

Injuries

There were two injuries of note during the game. First, long-snapper Patrick Scales hobbled off the field in the first quarter. However, he did return later in the game.

More significantly, the injury to Bilal Nichols is a cause for concern. During the second quarter, Nichols was reportedly in the medical tent. Later, he went into the locker room and wasn’t seen again for the remainder of the game. Currently, the only update on Nichols’ injury is that it could be something regarding his foot, per Mark Grote of 670 The Score.

The Return of Mitch Trubisky

Finally, the Bears and their fans got closure regarding Mitch Trubisky. His return had been the storyline heading into this game, and it went well for him and the Bills. Trubisky played all of the first half and carved up the Bears defense. Of course, a lot of the credit goes to Brian Daboll. In his return to Soldier Field, the Bears’ second overall pick from 2017 posted a stat line of 20/28, 220 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT (106.2 QB Rating). He also added 11 yards on the ground.

Furthermore, the reception for Trubisky was a warm one.

Mostly serenaded in cheers with some boos mixed in, Bears fans acknowledged Trubisky with class, just as he treated Bears fans, play on the field be damned.

Here are some of the pre-game Trubisky moments with fans, ex-teammates, and his successor.

Trubisky signs autographs for his die-hard fans.

Here, Trubisky can be seen meeting new Bears quarterback, Justin Fields.

Does this include Matt Nagy?

What’s On Tap Next?

The Bears home portion of their preseason schedule has concluded. Now, they’ll head down to Nashville and take on the Tennessee Titans in the preseason finale.

Justin Fields is expected to get some run with first-team offense while Andy Dalton hangs back after being penciled in as the Week 1 starter. Kick-off is scheduled for Saturday, August 28 at 6 PM Central. Those in the local Chicagoland market can catch the game on FOX 32 Chicago. NFL Network will also carry the game for out-of-market viewers.

Stay tuned to the Bears On Tap podcast all season long for Chicago football updates, analysis, and commentary.


Writer/contributor for On Tap Sports Net and Bears on Tap. Lifelong and a die-hard fan of the Bears, Cubs, Bulls, and Blackhawks. Nothing but respect the White Sox though. Enjoying life and having a good time. Interests also include eating, gaming, sometimes reading and tons of tomfoolery. Good sense of humor (although sometimes dry). Occasionally witty. Follow me on Twitter

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