Before the Chicago Bears broke for their bye week, they held meetings Monday at Halas Hall to review the 28-19 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Matt Eberflus said the coaching staff gave each player two or three things he can improve on in the final four games of the season and will send out video cut-ups to illustrate those points. Eberflus wants his players to decompress but then to spend time reviewing that film.
Meanwhile, the coaches will self scout their last seven games, from the victory over the New England Patriots through their current six-game losing streak. The self-scouting process helped coaches make key improvements to the offense – most notably getting quarterback Justin Fields on the run — during a mini-bye week in October.
The Bears will reconvene in Lake Forest on Dec. 12 to discuss those reviews and to continue preparing for the Dec. 18 game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field.
Here are three other things we heard from Eberflus and Bears players before they headed off to their break.
1. Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown got an apology text message from a former Packers teammate Sunday night.
St. Brown read the text from Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander even before he read the comments online.
Alexander jumped in front of St. Brown to intercept Fields on a key fourth-quarter play and told reporters after the game that he could tell St. Brown was breaking down his route from their four years of practice together in Green Bay.
“He’s just not as quick as some,” Alexander said. “He’s just kind of slow with it. He’s real slow. So it was just easy.”
Alexander’s pick came after St. Brown beat him for a 56-yard catch in the second quarter, and Alexander took a dig at St. Brown when talking about that play too.
“I was like, ‘Man, he’s a scrub. I can’t believe I let him catch that over me,’” Alexander told reporters. “But hat’s off to him because he did make a good catch.”
St. Brown brushed aside the comments as typical trash talk, saying, “A lot of DBs talk a lot.”
“It was probably heat of the moment for him,” St. Brown said. “I don’t take anything personal. It is what it is.”
St. Brown had three catches for a season-high 85 yards in four targets Sunday and said he believed the passing game took a step forward, a product of the Bears’ “consistent work in practice.”
But St. Brown not getting to the ball on the interception stung.
“They squat on curl routes, and he’s a good player,” St. Brown said. “He made a great play on the curl route that I ran. And I’ve got to try to get that ball out sooner.”
2. Eberflus called offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood’s debut on offense a “really nice performance.”
The Bears claimed Leatherwood off waivers from the Las Vegas Raiders at the end of August, but his start with the team was derailed by mononucleosis, which kept him out of practices for nearly a month.
On Sunday, he got 10 snaps at right tackle, rotating with veteran Riley Reiff on an offensive line that didn’t allow any sacks and gave up just two quarterback hits to the Packers. It was a notable debut because the Bears could be watching to see if Leatherwood, a 2021 first-round pick, has potential as a starter beyond this season.
“It doesn’t surprise us because he’s had great maturation in the system, working inside and outside,” Eberflus said. “He did really well in practice, so we saw it in practice. We were expecting to see it in the game, but we were excited to see it.”
Eberflus said Leatherwood likely at least will remain in a rotation but indicated he could earn more time with solid play.
“We’ll let it grow naturally and see where it goes in practice and see how he performs in the games,” Eberflus said. “And if he keeps performing like he did, he’ll get more reps and more reps and compete for that spot.”
3. Eberflus said Cairo Santos’ kick on the blocked field goal needed to be higher.
Santos missed an extra-point attempt in the second quarter and then had a 40-yard field-goal attempt blocked in the fourth quarter with the Bears clinging to a 19-17 lead.
Eberflus said he thought the operation on both was good. But Dean Lowry got above offensive tackle Braxton Jones to tip the football on the field-goal attempt.
Santos has made 18 of 20 field goals and 22 of 26 extra points this year.
“Braxton was a little late in there on his inside gap,” Eberflus said. “He could have been firmer in there, but again, from that distance with really no penetration, just pressure from the line of scrimmage, that ball needed to be kicked up a little bit higher and it needs to be made. The hold, snap and everything was really good.”
Eberflus also defended the play-calling leading up to the field-goal attempt following Fields’ 49-yard pass to N’Keal Harry to get to the Packers’ 28. It included two David Montgomery runs on second-and-12 and third-and-5. The latter went for 1 yard.
“You can always criticize play calls. That’s part of the game, right?” Eberflus said. “That’s part of the fun in the media and part of the fun of the fans. The way I see it is those were good play calls. If you look at the execution of the run on third down, if we kick out the three-technique and run the trap the correct way, that thing is hitting on the safety. We’ve just got to do a better job of that. It was a good play call and good design.”