10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears had four shots from the 5-yard line and closer in the final minute but couldn’t convert in a 12-7 loss to an embattled Washington Commanders team on Thursday night at Soldier Field.
1. There is a problem with folks who want a weekly referendum on Justin Fields and how things are coming along in his development at the most difficult position to play in sports.
It’s impossible to measure on a weekly basis, but so many are rushing to determine the specific moment things are beginning to click. It leads to a host of questions seeking declarative remarks.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus said he thought Fields took a step forward in the Week 6 loss when asked if it was actually a step backward for the QB. I think everyone accepted Fields was better last Sunday in a 29-22 loss at Minnesota, but the second-half improvements in that game led to 12 points. It’s not like it was an offensive explosion. Expectations for quarterback play have fallen so ridiculously low that any spark leads to giddy reactions that usually ignore the big picture.
I totally understand Eberflus wants to stand by his guy, but I have a hard time buying into the idea Fields took a step forward in a game which the Bears scored seven points.
“I think he took a step forward,” Eberflus said. “I really do.”
“Because of the toughness, the ability to take the ball and drive it down at the very end to give us a chance to win it,” he said. “That’s to me what was the improvement. Was there other moments we need to clean up and offense needs to clean up? Sure. But we have the drives down there, and if we punch those in, the game is a different game. That’s 21 points, right? So for me, that was really inspiring to watch him doing that at the very end. Got to do better job next time.”
The Bears went 0-for-3 in the red zone and that ultimately cost them the game. Fields’ throw on fourth down from the 4-yard line was bobbled by Darnell Mooney and by the time the wide receiver came down with the ball, Commanders cornerback Benjamin St-Juste had pushed the defender back across the goalline.
Fields made an amazing play with just more than a minute left in the game after the Bears crossed midfield. He dropped back to pass and wound up escaping out the left side, running 39 yards to the Washington 5-yard line. The Commanders only had 10 defenders on first down from the 5; Fields scrambled for a 1-yard gain. A second-down throw for Mooney was deflected by defensive end James Smith-Williams. I thought a touch pass would have been an easy score there. Fields missed Dante Pettis, who was covered tightly by safety Darrick Forrest on third down, and Fields thought it might have been defensive pass interference. Then, Mooney couldn’t come down with the ball near the pylon on a pivot route on a well-thrown ball.
The Bears were in position to take the lead in the final minute against a Commanders team that entered with a 1-4 record. Sure, you want to see the offense mount the drive there, but calling that a step forward seems wide of the mark considering everything else that happened.
“I’m just saying that — he asked if it was step forward, step back,” Eberflus said. “For me, taking that drive to take us down for a chance to win it, that’s a step forward. It was during two-minute and it was when it counted, so to me, that’s encouraging. That’s a step forward in that light.”
I I’s easy to understand what Eberflus is saying, but this was maybe the greatest example of Fields not making it deep into his progressions on many plays. Fields finished 14 of 27 for 190 yards with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Pettis and an interception by defensive tackle Jonathan Allen on a pass that deflected off the helmet of defensive end Efe Obada. He was sacked five times and had 12 rushes for 88 yards with nearly half coming on a long run in the final minute.
There were a couple nice throws to Mooney and Pettis, but the passing game was rocky again with the talented Commanders front bringing a lot of pressure. Defensive end Montez Sweat overmatched rookie left tackle Braxton Jones twice in the game’s opening series — a sign of things to come. Sweat had four of Washington’s 12 quarterback hits and one sack.
“(Shoot), I give a lot of credit to Justin,” Sweat said. “He kept getting up. That wasn’t our goal — to knock him out. We just wanted to affect the QB. When you affect the QB, you come out with good results. He was a warrior, for sure.”
Toughness and grit are factors you love to see in the quarterback, and Fields displayed an abundance of it. But he’s also probably more responsible than anyone for issues in the red zone. He was dropping his eye level in the pocket, which led to a handful of the runs.
Fields is in a tough spot for all of the reasons detailed here for a while. The Bears want to really dissect his play at the end of the season — they don’t want to do it Friday as they review game film and begin a weekend self-study project. They didn’t do it last week after some improvement at Minnesota. It makes for great banter, I suppose, but there is a lot that needs to improve and that shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise after Week 6 of Season 2 in offense No. 2.
I listened to the Ross Tucker Football Podcast Thursday afternoon. Respected NFL Films guru Greg Cosell, who spends an enormous amount of time studying the game weekly, was on with Tucker. Naturally, Fields came up in the preview of the prime-time game.
“I thought this week there were a couple of plays that you kind of said to yourself, ‘OK, maybe there’s some incremental progress being made,’” Cosell said of Fields in the Vikings game. “They’ve obviously told you as a team and coaching staff that they don’t want him throwing the ball an awful lot, which in and of itself tells you much about where they see Justin Fields at this point in his development.
“Fields is really at this moment still lacking any refined sense of anticipation. He’s a see it, throw it quarterback. And by that, I mean he needs the throw to be clearly defined and he needs to see the throw, and in the NFL that limits the throws you can make because you have to be able to throw the ball with some sense of timing because of the defense. But there were a couple where I said, ‘OK, that’s what you want to see.’ Now, again, I don’t know if that means that there’s incremental progress that will continue or if it just happened to play out in that game. But the way I would say this overall is this: It’s a tough situation for the Bears passing game right now. It’s an O-line that is young and a work in progress. And they’ve got a second-year quarterback who at this point does not possess any kind of nuance or refinement to play the position efficiently from the pocket, so it’s a tough mix right now and you just have to work through it and you hope each week it gets incrementally better.”
If you’re in the Eberflus camp on this one, Fields got incrementally better. Just don’t overlook what Cosell said about efficient quarterback play from the pocket. It’s essential for any discussion of elite play at the position.
2. One area of Justin Fields’ game that needs work is the red zone.
On the season, Fields has completed 4 of 11 passes in the red zone for 27 yards with two touchdowns and one interception (the one that went off the helmet and into the hands of Commanders defensive tackle Jonathan Allen). One of the touchdowns was the little toss to wide receiver Velus Jones on the fly sweep at Minnesota last week. Fields has only been sacked once in the red zone and has carried the ball 10 times for 23 yards and one touchdown. I’m guessing three of those runs — at most four — have been designed QB runs.
It was a little something different on each red zone trip this time and not entirely all on Fields. He targeted tight end Cole Kmet in the end zone in the first quarter and somehow the ball was low enough to go off the helmet of 6-foot-6 Efe Obada.
“That’s my soccer skills,” Obada said, joking it was like a header. “I saw it coming. I was still rushing. It hit me and I’m like, ‘Where is it?’ I think (Fields) was trying to drive the ball, force it in there for the touchdown. The ball just came out real low.”
The Bears defense quickly got the ball back after the interception, and Khalil Herbert busted off a 64-yard run on the first snap of the next possession, the biggest play on the ground in a 238-yard effort. That set up first-and-goal from the 6, which became first-and-goal from the 3 after a 12 men on the field penalty. Herbert ran for no gain on first down, and then on a beautiful play fake on second down, tight end Ryan Griffin was wide open but Fields overshot him when a delicate touch pass was needed.
“I wasn’t surprised by (being that open),” Griffin said. “That was the play design. We just missed on it.”
Said Fields: “When the play is there, make it. Plain and simple. There is no logistics. It’s not complicated. It’s when you have that opportunity, finish. We just didn’t do that tonight. You don’t have to make it harder than it is, pitch and catch. The one that’s making me mad is the one to Griff in the end zone. He probably could have ran a little bit more, but he’s wide open. I’ve got to hit that. I’m an NFL quarterback. I’ve got to hit that.”
Fields scrambled for 2 yards on the next play to set up fourth-and-goal from the 1. To my surprise, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy called a handoff to Herbert straight up the middle. The Bears tried running into the heart of the Washington line — Allen and Daron Payne — and it didn’t work.
Later, the Bears got another long run to set them up again in the low red zone again — and they got nothing again. Darnell Mooney should have made the catch, saying afterward he temporarily lost the ball in stadium lights.
“If I just catch the damn ball the first time, we win the game,” Mooney said. “I got to be there for my guy, ma. He called my number. I just got to be there for him.”
Commanders cornerback Benjamin St-Juste knew which way Fields would be looking.
“Game on the line and they’ve got their top receiver one-on-one against me,” St-Juste said. “We call zero coverage, man to man, no help. I figured the ball was coming my way. I knew there was a combination of certain routes he could have run, like a slant, maybe a quick out. He ended up going with a zigzag (or pivot) route.
“Instead of looking back and playing the ball, because it’s such a quick and short throw, as soon as (Mooney) broke out, I decided to run through him and play his hands, hoping he would drop the ball. I just tried to drive through the man.”
Mooney bobbled it enough that by the time he came down with the ball, the receiver wasn’t even with the goalline. Another failed opportunity on a night where one score would have been the difference.
3. Is it possible the Bears misevaluated Velus Jones as a punt returner?
Twice in three weeks he has tried catching a punt while moving to his right and two times he’s muffed the kick, resulting in a turnover. It happened in his NFL debut in Week 4 at the New York Giants, and in Week 6, it set up the game-winning score for Washington.
Commanders punter Tress Way hit a 54-yard punt that Jones made the ill-fated choice to try and to catch on the Bears’ 6-yard line while falling to his knees. The ball bounced off his helmet and Washington recovered, scoring two plays later on Brian Robinson’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Jones has electric speed, but if you can’t trust a returner to field the ball cleanly — Jones has five returns, one fair catch and two fumbles — it doesn’t matter how dangerous he is in the open field. Jones spent six years playing college football and was used as a punt returner for one season — a year ago when he had 18 returns for 272 yards (15.1 average) for the Tennessee Volunteers.
“Simply I was trying to do too much,” said Jones, a phrase he repeated several times. “The ball went deep — it would have went in the end zone — but I tried to run back and make a play on it. Should have let it roll in the end zone for a touchback.
“I know the competitor I am but it wasn’t a smart play. Tried to do too much. We had a one-point lead. Should have let it roll in the end zone.”
Jones had one muffed punt in college last year. The Bears didn’t get anything out of Dante Pettis in the role in the first three games — three returns for a total of 1 yards and four fair catches — but they can’t live with turnovers, not when they are averaging 15.5 points per game.
“Yeah, we are going to have to look at that,” Matt Eberflus said of the return game. “No. 1 job of kick returner or punt returner is to catch the ball.”
Eberflus dismissed the idea that wind played a role in the costly mistake. Jones could get a shot at returning punts later in the season still, but they need to pull him out for now and try someone else. He’s not trustworthy at this point and teams are going to kick away from him and hope he tries to field the ball on the move, knowing he’s got a propensity for putting the ball on the ground.
4. Will the Bears encounter a lot of what the Commanders did defensively the next two weeks when they travel to New England and Dallas?
The Patriots are sure to have stuff that Justin Fields isn’t familiar with and the Cowboys have one of the best defenses with a dominant front that can get after the quarterback.
Washington felt like it could have success corralling Fields in the pocket because they didn’t think he would make it to secondary reads often or efficiently. The Commanders got a steady push on the interior andMontez Sweat gave Bears left tackle Braxton Jones a rough ride.
“That’s what it is — one read and he pulls it down and he’s running,” cornerback Benjamin St-Juste said. “That’s why we sent a lot of pressure and ran mixed the coverages from man to zone. We knew that once he doesn’t see his first read — it’s not open — he just runs. We didn’t want to give him any time. It worked.”
“You gotta be real aware of how you rush,” defensive tackle Daron Payne said. “He’s a slippery guy. You think you’ve got him and then he can get up out of there. You have to have awareness when rushing and really get him down.”
It’s going to be interesting to look at the pressure numbers. How often did defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio dial it up?
“Everything was fine until we let the kid scramble for (39) yards,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “That’s the heartbreaker. You’ve got him contained. You have a chance. You sack him on the first play. They convert on their third down. And now you’ve got them a little confused, and he pulls the ball downs and runs. That’s undisciplined. That’s where you get angry because, again, we had a chance to keep him — we’d done a pretty good job with a lot of the rush lanes. And for whatever reason, we got a little undisciplined at the end.”
5. One of the best offensive line prospects in the nation is in the Bears’ backyard.
Peter Skoronski is from Park Ridge, starred at Maine South and followed Rashawn Slater as the left tackle for Northwestern.
Skoronski, a true junior, will have to consider his options at the end of the season. He has been on the radar of scouts and agents, and the economics major who is working on a minor in history will have a decision to make.
The evaluators I have spoken with have questions about where Skoronski projects as an NFL player, but what really struck me when talking to Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian and scouts is how quickly the tackle emerged.
It’s rare to see a Big Ten lineman step into the starting lineup Day 1 as a true freshman — and rarer for a left tackle. That wasn’t the plan for the Wildcats during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. Slater was projected to be the left tackle and Skoronski, one of the most high-profile recruits Fitzgerald has landed, was going to be in competition for a job.
“Probably competing for the right tackle position,” Fitzgerald told me after a practice earlier this month. “Came in ready to go. At Maine South, Dave Inserra and that staff did an unbelievable job. Guy was like valedictorian-level academically, freak show athletically, functional strength, great basketball player, he had it all. We thought he would come in and be an instant impact guy.”
Before fall camp, Slater made the decision to opt out and begin training for the NFL draft in the Dallas area with Duke Manyweather, a move Fitzgerald and his staff supported. But it left them without a left tackle.
Bajakian, a Bears assistant coach under Lovie Smith for three seasons, arrived after Skoronski committed. Offensive line coach Kurt Anderson reassured the new coordinator that the freshman was the real deal.
“In terms of him being sharp and his intellect, to put it in perspective, one of the most remarkable things about him is that he came in and was a Day 1 starter despite not enrolling midyear,” Bajakian said. “The reason he didn’t enroll midyear is because he was the leader of the pack for being valedictorian, so he wanted to finish the school year to earn the honors. Then COVID hits, they throw the whole thing into the tank.
“On top of that, he was a Day 1 starter in the COVID year where we didn’t have a real training camp. We spent half of camp running plays on air because we were going through all the rules of social distancing and we weren’t allowed to have a defense in front of us. … We eventually started practicing against our defense and then we go into Week 1. He’d been there for such a brief time and for him to perform as a true freshman against Maryland the way he did was amazing.”
Said Fitzgerald: “It’s about as unique as I have ever had on the O-line. You might have a skill guy, but on the offensive line with that instant impact, it’s pretty incredible.”
Helping Skoronski along the way was Slater, with whom he bonded with in the short time before the left tackle left for the Los Angeles Chargers, about six weeks. They would text back and forth and Skoronski would send Slater practice video with questions.
“Rashawn spent a good amount of time watching practice, watching opponents, watching game film and giving me feedback,” Skoronski said. “He still does that a little bit now (and has) been a tremendous resource for me.”
Slater hosted Skoronski on his official visit to NU, and that’s when their bond formed.
“I looked at his film and I remember thinking he had the most technically sound high school film I had ever seen,” Slater told me Thursday. “Guys can dominate because they are bigger and stronger, but he had technique. That’s really rare to see out of a high schooler.”
The linemen worked out together during summer 2020 before Slater, the No. 13 pick in the 2021 draft, left Evanston.
“What it shows the most is a love for the game,” Slater said of Skoronski. “He just wants to get as much knowledge as possible, which is something I really respect about him. It’s crazy because he just showed up and started dominating as a true freshman. It’s been the same story ever since. It’s been cool to watch.”
Northwestern’s recent struggles — the Wildcats have lost five consecutive games since a season-opening victory over Nebraska in Dublin — have made things challenging for everyone in the program, including Skoronski, who was voted a captain.
“It’s been tough, especially when you are leading a team, you want to lead them to victory,” Skoronski said. “It’s been forcing me to dig a little deeper and try to bring guys along. You can’t lock down and focus on yourself when you are a leader and things go wrong. ‘Oh, I’ll just play harder.’ You’ve got to bring other guys along with you. We’ve got to get there at some point.”
Skoronski said his focus is on the Northwestern season but added he did some fact gathering in the offseason to learn about the NFL and the process that could lead him to the 2023 draft.
“More than anything, just trying to work on my game really,” he said. “That is what will get me there.”
Four NFL evaluators I spoke with believe he will play guard in the NFL, but there were similar questions about Slater at this time two years ago — and he was a second team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection last season as a rookie for the Chargers.
“I thought he was a good player when I watched him in the summer,” a national scout said of Skoronski. “It looks like he’s better than he was last year and he was good in 2021. (Guard) is always going to be the thought when the arms don’t measure out 34 inches, that inside will be the best spot. If the feet are really high level, that can compensate for (shorter arms).”
Skoronski went against Michigan’s Aiden Hutchinson and David Ojabo and Purdue’s George Karlaftis last season and did well. Hutchinson was the No. 2 pick in the draft, Karlaftis went in Round 1 and only an Achilles injury dropped Ojabo to Round 2. Skoronski performed well and that could help the argument to play him at left tackle, or at least start him there.
“I absolutely think he can play left tackle,” Slater said. “It’s just a question of where the team wants to put him. He had two really great games against future first-round picks in Hutchinson and Karlaftis, so he’s shown he can do it at that level. He definitely deserves a chance and I think he will be dominant wherever he goes.”
Fitzgerald was steadfast Slater would be a left tackle in the NFL and he’s saying the same thing to scouts about Skoronski. Whether the coach is right again remains to be seen.
“So many similarities between Rashawn and Peter,” Fitzgerald said. “They are different guys but they’re kind of cut from the same cloth — they’re O-linemen. They’re part of that brotherhood that makes them who they are. Both really off-the-charts intelligent, off-the-charts football intelligence, functional strength, there is so much comparison with their feet. They are such easier movers, it almost looks like they’re floating. Peter coming off the ball was a little bit different than Rashawn coming in — he could move people in the run game. That’s where you have seen Peter now become a complete guy, run and pass, and he was great in pass pro as a freshman. He’s a complete player.”
6. Matt Eberflus said the coaching staff would launch into a self-scouting mission, specifically about how they can better prepare players.
I get continuous questions about the offensive line and potential changes there, and I’s sure those will be renewed after this game.
“We’re going to reassess everything,” Eberflus said “It might be a lineup change or might be technique, fundamentals, all that, scheme, how we’re running certain plays, who we’re getting ball to, what we’re doing well, what we need to improve on. So that’s going to be — we’re going to look at all that for sure.”
What the Bears are doing well is running the ball. They have 1,025 rushing yards, the most through the first six games since the 1986 team rushed for 1,100 yards. Quarterback Justin Fields is on pace to rush for 799 yards, probably more than the team would like, but they need to clean some stuff up in the pocket.
The Bears dodged some injury concerns for the line: Lucas Patrick was evaluated for a concussion and returned and Teven Jenkins missed a handful of snaps with a shoulder issue. I don’t think we will see movement unless it’s because of an injury until Cody Whitehair is healthy — and he’s got at least two more weeks on injured reserve with a sprained MCL in his right knee. I doubt the Bears are anywhere close to evaluating how Alex Leatherwood can potentially help them. This is going to be the group. They have to pass block a little better and the quarterback has to perform better in the pocket, especially when there is room to climb and deliver the ball.
7. The Bears have started to get the Justin Fields-Darnell Mooney connection going a little bit.
Mooney was targeted a game-high 12 times after connecting last week on some vertical shots. Mooney had a 56-yard reception in Week 4 and a sensational one-handed grab for 39 yards last week at Minnesota. He ended up with seven receptions for 68 yards, leaving him with 17 catches for 241 yards through six games.
Mooney is going to have to pick up the pace to have a 1,000-yard season, a benchmark for wide receivers that has become a little easier to reach since the season expanded to 17 games last year. Mooney had 1,055 yards in 2021, averaging 62.1 yards per game. Many figured 1,000 would be a shoo-in for Mooney this season, provided he remained healthy. He needs 759 yards in the final 11 games — that’s only 69 yards per game, but it’s in an offense that’s averaging 144.8 yards.
It’s been a struggle for the Bears to find 1,000-yard receivers, but they’re not at the bottom of the league since 2000.
Most 1,000-yard receiving seasons since 2020
- 23: Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts
- 21: Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 20: Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers
Fewest 1,000-yard receiving seasons since 2020
- 9: Bears, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins
- 7: Philadelphia Eagles
- 6: New York Jets
I reached out to former Bears wide receiver Tom Waddle of the “Waddle & Silvy Show” on WMVP-AM 1000 to get his take on the challenges the franchise has in getting major production from the position, something that is closely tied to the quarterback position.
“As a receiver, I am going to point the finger at the quarterback,” Waddle said. “That’s tongue in cheek, obviously. But I think you have to draw a line between that, which has been some comparative ineptitude in terms of receiver stats with the fact the Bears have never had a 4,000-yard passer and never had anyone throw for 30 touchdowns. Is it the chicken or the egg?
“At the end of the day, they’re complementary positions. When you get the quarterback position right in spurts, you’ll find (good seasons for receivers). Brandon Marshall? Well, Jay (Cutler) had talent. Jay was a flawed quarterback when you look at him in totality. But Alshon (Jeffery) and Brandon, when you look at them, what did they have that others didn’t?
“Marty Booker had a couple of good seasons. Even going back to the end of my playing days, when Erik Kramer came to town, Jeff Graham and Curtis Conway both had a thousand yards in a season.”
The Bears, obviously, have a lot of heavy lifting to do at the position in the offseason ahead. General manager Ryan Poles is acutely aware of that and there wasn’t a great crop of free-agent options to consider. They wound up with Byron Pringle, who is now sidelined with an injury. Some will say, “Well, they let Allen Robinson walk in free agency!” Robinson wanted to leave — free agency is a two-way street — and he hasn’t played up to his contract with the Los Angeles Rams despite opposing defenses paying extra attention to Cooper Kupp.
“Those guys are getting drafted high now,” Matt Eberflus said earlier this month when asked about wide receivers. “It’s a premium position, for sure. And it’s an impactful position.”
The Bears can continue to develop Mooney, but they need to add to the position in a big way. Mooney probably isn’t a No. 1 receiver. He can still be of great value to the offense if he isn’t.
“Guys that are smaller like (Mooney), Tyreek Hill is shorter than Darnell, but he is built like a fullback and he can do things Darnell can’t,” Waddle said. “Darnell is a very good player, don’t get me wrong. But if you’re expecting him to all of a sudden advance from being a No. 2 to a No. 1, I just think you’re putting too high of expectations on him. One of the only guys in the league that is kind of built like him and can do it is Stefon Diggs. He’s probably comparable (physically). Maybe Stefon is a little taller (6-foot, 191 pounds to 5-11, 174 pounds), but he’s coming from a Vikings offense where a 1,000-yard receiver is a constant, and he goes to Buffalo with one of the top two or three quarterbacks in the league.
“Darnell can be really good, but there is no complement to him on the other side and you’ve got a quarterback that is struggling to do the little things well.”
8. After a lousy showing on third down last week at Minnesota, defensive coordinator Alan Williams got aggressive with pressures.
This was a fine effort by his unit. The Commanders totaled only 214 yards and converted just 2 of 11 third downs, a welcome sight.
Washington quarterback Carson Wentz completed 12 of 22 passes for 99 yards and was sacked three times. The Commanders hit a couple decent runs, totaling 128 on 28 rushes (4.8), and that is clear improvement for a Bears run defense that was woeful the first four weeks.
Usually the combination of eliminating explosive plays — Washington’s longest play from scrimmage was 18 yards — and dominance on third down is a winning formula. It means the opposition will have difficulty scoring.
The return of cornerback Jaylon Johnson helped a good deal. I thought the tackling was better than it has been. It’s never going to be perfect, but it was improved. But the same thing was missing as discussed last week — a game-changing play.
9. The starting quarterback for the Bears’ next three opponents have health questions, creating situations worth monitoring in the weeks ahead.
As I wrote earlier this season, sometimes it’s not who you play but when you play them.
Oct. 24: at New England Patriots
Mac Jones, a first-round pick in 2021, has been sidelined with a high (left) ankle sprain the last two weeks and has been limited in practice this week leading up to New England’s meeting Sunday with the Cleveland Browns. Complicating the plot: Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined to say whether Jones would assume the starting job when he’s fully healthy.
“We’ll see,” Belichick said earlier this week, sparking speculation. “I don’t know.”
Jones’ backup is Brian Hoyer, a one-time Bear, was placed on injured reserve with a concussion — so that forced Bailey Zappe, a rookie fourth-round pick who played three seasons at Houston Baptist before spending last year at Western Kentucky, into action. Zappe has completed 75% of his passes with two touchdowns and one interception in a little more than one game of action. Maybe it’s classic Belichick, who simply doesn’t want to show his hand, or perhaps a depth chart change is forthcoming. The Bears are up next following the Browns.
Oct. 30: at Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are on a heater with Cooper Rush starting in place of Dak Prescott, who has missed four games since undergoing surgery to repair his right thumb. Prescott is practicing this week, but reports are that Rush — 4-0 as the starter in Prescott’s place — will start Sunday’s NFC East showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t have to rush Prescott back because the Cowboys, who have been excellent on defense, have been playing well. Prescott told reporters Wednesday he felt “great” throwing to receivers in practice. Figure there is a good chance Prescott is behind center when the Bears roll into AT&T Stadium, but that’s not a lock.
Nov. 6: vs. Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa has become the symbol for player safety after he was injured in a Week 3 win over the Buffalo Bills with what was called a back injury and then knocked out of a Week 4 game at Cincinnati with a concussion. He’s already been ruled out for Sunday’s meeting with the Minnesota Vikings, so the Dolphins will start Skylar Thompson, a rookie seventh-round pick from Kansas State as backup Teddy Bridgewater is in concussion protocol along with Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa was a limited participant in Wedneday’s practice, but there is no timetable for him to be cleared from concussion protocol. Could Thompson be the starter when Miami comes to Soldier Field?
10. The Bears demolished the New England Patriots 46-10 in the teams’ biggest matchup of all time in Super Bowl XX.
Here’s a nugget you might not be aware of: The Bears have never won a road game against the Patriots. They are 0-4 all time, with two games at Gillette Stadium and two at Foxboro Stadium. The last time the Bears defeated the Patriots was a Dec. 10, 2000, meeting at Soldier Field. The Bears won 24-17 as running back James Allen scored two touchdowns. The Patriots won the last five meetings with Tom Brady at quarterback.
10a. The Bears, who don’t have their bye until Week 14 (Dec. 11), will have a “mini bye” this weekend. Players will be off, and with the Week 7 game against the Patriots not until Oct. 24, they won’t practice until Thursday. They will have meetings prior to before that practice, but it’s a chance for the players to get fresh, something Eberflus is regularly focused on. The Bears will have a quick turnaround following the Monday night game before a Week 8 road game against the Cowboys.
10b. The Bears have trailed at halftime in all six games this season.
10c. Former Bears safety Chris Harris could land a defensive coordinator job in the near future. Harris began his coaching career in 2013 with the Bears as a defensive quality control coach under coordinator Mel Tucker. He held that spot for two seasons. The 40-year-old was an assistant defensive backs coach for the Chargers from 2016-2019 before being hired by Ron Rivera in Washington. Harris interviewed for the Eagles coordinator job in 2021 and the Colts spoke to him as a potential replacement for Matt Eberflus.
10d. The Bears will wear their orange jerseys and helmet again Oct. 30 against the Cowboys.
10e. Another offensive positive: there was only one three-and-punt.
10f. Pretty nice block from Commanders QB Carson Wentz on Roquan Smith. Wentz is listed at 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, and he knocked Smith over on a Brian Robinson run play.
“It was just an instinctual thing,” Wentz said. “Any time I see a guy cut back, if I can get in the way, get in the way. If I need to actually block, I’ll block. Situationally down there, close to the end zone, I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team.”