10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears showed the emotional fallout that arrives with a thud when playing four days after trading away the team’s highest-paid player.
The Dallas Cowboys got off to a fast start against a Bears defense that had played well of late and rolled to a 49-29 victory before 93,767 fans on Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
1. I totally understand trading Robert Quinn.
I don’t think anyone will say general manager Ryan Poles made a bad decision sending the veteran pass rusher to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round draft pick. Some folks around the league said it was interesting the Eagles got the Bears to pay down the contract this season, essentially sending $7 million in cash with Quinn to Philadelphia. But the Bears got something for a player who wasn’t in their plans for 2023, and it’s not like they’ll have a shortage of salary-cap space moving forward.
Poles almost foretold what was coming, though, when he discussed the difficulty he had in making the move, understanding how it would ripple through a young locker room. Quinn, who had one quarterback hit in his Eagles debut Sunday — a rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers — wouldn’t have made a difference in the Bears-Cowboys game. It was that lopsided, and the Bears couldn’t play catch-up in the fourth quarter primarily running the ball.
What you saw is an example of how the NFL is a relationship business and the human element is real. Roquan Smith got choked up at the podium upon learning Quinn had been dealt Wednesday. The defense choked up as a whole once this game kicked off, and the Cowboys sliced right through it using tempo throughout the first quarter.
The trade was good in the long term for the Bears, who now own seven picks in the 2023 draft — their own in every round but the sixth and the extra selection from the Eagles, which figures to be near the end of the round. The trade was bad in the short term for the Bears because of how it was perceived in the locker room. When you tell a 3-4 team you don’t care about this season — and that message is sent immediately after a major, emotional victory at New England — you get what looks like a disinterested performance. In fact, “disinterested” is a kind description of what the Bears put on tape.
That’s the only way to account for the fact the Cowboys scored touchdowns on their first four possessions. The 49 points were the most the Bears have surrendered since a 55-14 beating at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 9, 2014.
The Cowboys had success doing whatever struck the fancy of play caller Kellen Moore. Quarterback Dak Prescott completed 21 of 27 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Tony Pollard carried the ball 14 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns — the first player to run for three scores against the Bears since Roy Helu in a 45-41 Washington win on Oct. 20, 2013.
The Bears prevented wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (seven targets, five catches, 77 yards) from taking the top off the defense but had no solution for the Cowboys tight ends. Dalton Schultz, Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot were targeted 10 times and combined for nine receptions, 90 yards and a touchdown. It was pitch and catch underneath for Prescott, who was rarely pressured.
“Emotionally different — yes, sir,” said defensive end Trevis Gipson, who moved into the starting lineup in Quinn’s place. “Job-wise different — no, sir. Still have to pay attention to details, do your job. Still got to play technique sound and play great H.I.T.S. principle football.”
The Bears looked terrific on defense last Monday at New England, a game they had 11 days to prepare for. They had a tough turnaround from playing on the road to coming to Texas on a short week. That could have played into it as well. But the Cowboys averaged 7.8 yards per play — and they were at 8.1 before Prescott kneeled on the final two snaps.
“I’m not going to blame this on (the Quinn trade),” said free safety Eddie Jackson, who inherited the captain patch Quinn had been wearing. “We’ve got a job to do as men. We’ve got to come out here and prepare well and we’ve got to execute.
“Offense, they played a good game, a great game, putting up (29) points. That’s for us to take advantage of. To come out and let them score the first (four) drives, that’s not us. We’ve got to get that fixed — and fast.”
Quinn isn’t walking back through the doors of Halas Hall, and the Bears will move forward from here. But this week was going to be difficult, especially for the defense and especially when players saw the team prioritizing the future over the goals immediately in front of those occupying the locker room.
“When you ride the wave of momentum like this, it can be a tricky thing for a young football team, so you have to look at every performance for what it is,” coach Matt Eberflus said.
The Bears got smacked in the face by that momentum. They will go to work this week and clean up mistakes with their gaps. Improvements need to be made in coverage. The pass rush has left a lot to be desired all season.
They will recover, but don’t overlook what shipping out Quinn did to those who had been battling alongside him.
2. The Bears lost this game in a lot of ways but none bigger than a complete failure on third down.
As bad as the Bears were in Week 5 at Minnesota, when the Vikings converted 12 of 15 third downs (80%), they were worse Sunday. The Cowboys converted 9 of 11 (82%) and scored touchdowns on three of those plays. They averaged 14.3 yards on third down, and that includes an 8-yard sack by rookie safety Jaquan Brisker with less than four minutes remaining and the Cowboys simply trying to bleed time off the clock.
The Cowboys hit on their first six third downs after entering the game 30th in the NFL on third down, converting only 32.2%. In fact, they hadn’t been above 40% all season despite a powerful offensive line and a treasure trove of skill-position players, at least compared with the Bears.
As bad as it was to see Dak Prescott run around left end for a touchdown on third-and-2 from the 7-yard line and then see the quarterback take advantage of either a miscommunication in coverage or poor execution to target CeeDee Lamb for a 21-yard touchdown, the worst of the first half came on a third-and-1. The Bears had pulled within 14-7 and the Cowboys were on the Bears 43-yard line. Prescott was under center and the Bears left a good gap around the ball. He took the snap on a sneak, crossed the line of scrimmage and ran for 25 yards.
The Bears battled late in the second quarter — more about that in a bit — and pulled within 28-23 midway through the third quarter on Khalil Herbert’s 12-yard touchdown run. They would have had a chance to take the lead with a defensive stop and immediately got the Cowboys in third-and-9 on their 26. Prescott dropped a dime to Dalton Schultz in a little void deep over the middle for a 30-yard gain, leading to a Tony Pollard touchdown.
Justin Fields’ 10-yard touchdown pass to Cole Kmet at the start of the fourth quarter provided a little life and trimmed the deficit to 13. Again the defense had a chance to get off the field quickly. This time it was third-and-1 on the Bears 46. The Cowboys had three tight ends to the left side of the formation and ran Pollard to that side. He got through a hole and was gone — 54 yards to the end zone.
There’s an issue here and as much as folks might not want to hear it, I believe it’s a talent issue. The Bears lack the kind of game changers needed to win money downs. Sure, execution has to be better and it will be drilled all week. Yes, I am willing to bet defensive coordinator Alan Williams wishes he had a call or two back. What play caller doesn’t at the end of a game? Sure, you can knock the scheme if you want.
But the issue here is talent — or lack of it — and that’s how the Bears find themselves back above 50% on third down with opponents converting 50 of 99. They will be better than this most weeks, but they’ve been shredded twice in a month. The overriding issue is they can’t rush the passer on third down and they’re not stopping the run.
Here are the five instances, according to Pro Football Reference, of the Bears allowing an opponent to convert 70% or more of its third downs:
- Oct. 30, 2022, at Dallas: 9 of 11 (82%)
- Oct. 9, 2022, at Minnesota: 12 of 15 (80%)
- Dec. 5, 2004, vs. Minnesota: 7 of 10 (70%)
- Sept. 20, 1998, at Tampa Bay: 8 of 11 (73%)
- Sept. 11, 1995, vs. Green Bay: 13 of 18 (72%)
That’s it. What are the chances another 2022 date joins this list?
3. Quarterback Justin Fields continued to show growth from where he was early in the season.
He completed 17 of 23 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns — only the third time in his career he has thrown more than one scoring pass — and posted a 120.0 passer rating. Completing 73.9% of his passes is a big deal, as a poor completion percentage bogged down the offense in previous weeks. He was crafty at times, dropping down to sidearm some throws at the line of scrimmage. Add in eight carries for 60 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown, and it was another positive a week after Fields made advances in the upset victory at New England.
You can’t complain about the offense when the Bears put up 29 points and left some plays on the field. Fields had a really nice deep ball to Velus Jones Jr. that appeared to go through the rookie’s hands as he laid out for the ball. It would have been good for about a 50-yard gain. Fields played well enough to win — no question about that.
He had a 36-yard pass to Darnell Mooney and a 17-yarder on third-and-7. The Cowboys brought a Cover-0 pressure when the Bears were at the Dallas 17-yard line, and Fields identified it and connected with N’Keal Harry for a touchdown. He hit a pass at the goal line to a tight end this time — remember, he missed Ryan Griffin two weeks ago against Washington — connecting with Cole Kmet for a 10-yard touchdown.
Fields mishandled his responsibility on a 2-point conversion. The Bears called a run-pass option and he should have handed the ball off. He kept it instead and never saw DeMarcus Lawrence, who rocked him for a sack.
Then there was the David Montgomery fumble that Micah Parsons recovered. Fields hopped over Parsons, thinking the play was dead, when he should have touched the linebacker down. Parsons astutely got up and motored to the end zone for a touchdown. Fields admitted his mistake afterward, but as shoddy as the defense was playing all day, this didn’t determine the outcome. Was the defense going to all of a sudden stop the Cowboys, who would have had possession at the Bears 36-yard line? I think not.
“I can’t remember the last time I made a tackle,” Fields said. “I’ve just to be aware in that situation and make sure he’s down.”
I see Fields getting a little better at identifying things and understanding where his receivers are going to be and what the coverages are. Against a team that entered with an NFL-high 29 sacks and added four more, he hung in there better than he has in some recent games. The Bears were still run-heavy when trailing by two and three scores in the second half. Some of that no doubt is related to concerns the coaching staff had about protecting Fields in this meeting.
“I’m just getting more comfortable with the offense,” he said. “I think other guys are, too, and the offense is growing. It’s Week 9 coming up. I think everybody is getting more and more comfortable as we game plan and play together. (We’ve) done a great job of figuring out what we do as an offense, what each player does individually well. So we’re figuring that out and I think that creates success.”
Fields has rushed for 424 yards on the season — four more than he had as a rookie last year. He’s on pace for 901 rushing yards. The growth he’s starting to show as a passer is maybe the biggest factor in the remaining nine games.
4. The offense remains a work in progress, but there’s one area the Bears are leaps and bounds better than they have been.
No, I’m not talking about the rushing offense, which is the single biggest improvement the team has made this year. I’m talking about scoring right before halftime and often carrying that momentum into the third quarter.
The Bears weren’t able to double up in this game — score at the end of the second quarter and the start of the third quarter — but they did score 10 points in the final two minutes of the second quarter for the second straight game. N’Keal Harry’s 17-yard touchdown reception came with 40 seconds remaining in the quarter, and free safety Eddie Jackson jumped a route by CeeDee Lamb to intercept Dak Prescott and set up Cairo Santos’ 36-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
At New England last Monday, the Bears surged at the end of the second quarter as Khalil Herbert scored on a wide receiver screen with 1:54 remaining and Justin Jones’ fumble recovery set up a 23-yard Santos field goal on the final play before halftime.
The Bears also scored in the final two minutes of the second quarter in Weeks 3, 4 and 5. David Montgomery had a 9-yard touchdown run with 1:08 remaining in the second quarter at Minnesota, Michael Badgley nailed a 40-yard field goal at the 1:44 mark against the New York Giants and Santos was good from 50 yards with 1:48 remaining until halftime against the Houston Texans.
That’s three touchdowns and four field goals in the final two minutes of the second quarter through eight games. The best part is in three of those games — at New England, at Minnesota and at the Giants — the Bears got the ball to open the third quarter and drove to score.
That’s a primary reason coaches defer when they win the coin toss. The idea is to take the ball to begin the third quarter. If a team can score at the end of the second quarter and to start the third, it can really swing the momentum.
The Bears offense got the ball to open the third quarter Sunday, but it was three runs and punt. After a rare defensive stand — cornerback Jaylon Johnson made a nice play to break up a pass to Michael Gallup — the offense then scored.
The Packers for years put a great emphasis on possessions just before halftime and the idea of doubling up, so that’s part of the culture Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was exposed to under Mike McCarthy and Matt LaFleur.
“It’s Lombardi, right?” Getsy said. “He has the famous quote back in the ‘60s that most games are won and lost in the two-minute drill at the end of the half or end of the game. It’s always been an important part of the game.
“You’re talking about elite players on each side, so the game is usually played back and forth. Very similar to the first half at New England. We went up and then they went up. When you finish those halves the way we were (against the Patriots), you saw how that dramatically shifts the momentum. We get it in our favor and now we get the ball coming out and then we score again. That is a big emphasis.”
“We have practiced more two-minute drills here than I’ve ever done in my life,” Getsy said. “So key situations are a huge part of what we talk about here. And, yes, McCarthy was always big on it.”
Getsy said he has a separate portion of his call sheet for these situations and if there’s any broad strategy, it’s to try to score with as little time remaining as possible.
“That’s what Aaron (Rodgers) has done such an unbelievable job of up in Green Bay for so many years,” Getsy said. “He doesn’t let the other team get another crack at it.”
The Bears stumbled too often in situational football the past couple of seasons. They have a lot of areas they need to clean up, but there has been marked improvement not only in scoring right before halftime, but also in starting crisp in the third quarter.
“If the Bears play fast and play with tempo, like you sometimes see when time is running down, they can be tougher to defend because of Justin Fields and how he can impact a defense,” a scout said. “You talk about the end of the first half, a lot of times you’re getting defenders off the ball, more shell coverages and it’s easier for a young quarterback to see it. You’re not getting as much disguise or late rotation in the secondary because the defense doesn’t want to get caught (out of place) and the clock is running and everything is moving fast.
“On top of that, he’s got the ability to break contain and now you’ve got deeper routes working downfield, defenders are further removed from the line of scrimmage and there is a lot of space for him to attack as a runner. A lot of defensive coaches go into a shell and say: ‘We can’t give them seven. We’re going to give them three? OK, that’s the best we can do. We’re not going to get beat over the top.’”
5. The Bears have a pass-rushing problem and they’re unlikely to resolve it this season.
They have a really hard time getting home unless they blitz, and it reminds me a bit of 2017, when Leonard Floyd was the team’s top pass-rushing threat off the edge with 4½ sacks.
They won’t solve the pass-rushing issue because they lack players who can win one-on-one matchups off the edge. And they won’t solve the issue because they continue to be gashed by opposing running games. Tony Pollard became the third back to top 100 yards against the Bears this season, joining Aaron Jones of the Packers and Saquon Barkley of the Giants.
It’s also the third time an opponent has totaled at least 200 rushing yards against the Bears defense — the Cowboys had 29 rushes for 200 yards. This is where it gets a little ugly because nine games remain and you shudder to consider what could happen to this unit if it has a couple of injuries.
The Bears allowed four opponents to top 200 rushing yards in 2013, when the defense was a complete mess across the board. That defense allowed 161.4 rushing yards per game. This one is now up to 156 per game.
The 1951 Bears also allowed four 200-yard rushing games. The only team in franchise history that did worse was the 1955 team that saw five opponents top 200 rushing yards. Who knows where this will head in the second half of the season, but when you can’t play the run effectively, it makes for a rough day and reduces the number of legitimate pass-rushing opportunities.
“This is just one outing,” said linebacker Roquan Smith, who was credited with five tackles. “We hit a stride where we were playing some really good ball and we had a down week. That’s not acceptable. You have to be ready each and every week and obviously wasn’t ready today. They hit us in the mouth and we didn’t respond the way we should have.
“I put this one on myself, the defense, starting with me and trickle down through the rest of the ‘D.’”
The defensive ends — minus Robert Quinn — were basically wiped out. Trevis Gipson had two assists and one hit on quarterback Dak Prescott. Dominique Robinson had one tackle and one pass deflection. Al-Quadin Muhammad, who started, didn’t appear in the game book with any statistics. Neither did undrafted rookie Kingsley Jonathan.
The Cowboys had 57 offensive snaps and the Bears had two defensive ends on the field for almost every play. I counted one short-yardage situation in which they had only one end with an extra tackle on the line. Maybe there were two. Let’s say the defensive ends played a total of 110 snaps. To get one tackle, two assists, one hit and one pass deflection — that’s a good day at the office for Cowboys offensive tackles Tyler Smith and Terence Steele.
Here are the snap totals at defensive end entering Week 8:
- Quinn, 304 snaps, 68%
- Muhammad, 261, 58%
- Gipson, 197, 44%
- Robinson, 168, 38%
- Jonathan, 9, 7%
Jonathan’s 7% is based on him appearing in only two games before Sunday. Gipson and Robinson will get more playing time the rest of the way. That is a certainty.
6. The offensive line has been under scrutiny all year. But what about the defensive line?
In the offseason, preseason and through the first eight games, the close inspection of the offensive line is warranted. In the process, some have overlooked a defensive line that also is very much under the microscope.
The Robert Quinn trade is a good reminder. As detailed above, the remainder of the season is an opportunity for Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson to show what they can do and where they should be slotted on the depth chart as Ryan Poles and his staff outline an offseason plan.
The Bears told you how significant the defensive line is when the biggest splash move they planned was signing tackle Larry Ogunjobi to a three-year, $40.5 million contract in free agency, a deal that fell through because of concerns over his physical. The biggest move wound up being trading Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers for a second-round pick (used on safety Jaquan Brisker) and a sixth-round pick in 2023. The Bears didn’t hold on to that sixth-rounder for long, turning it around on Day 3 of the draft. Seven months after Mack was traded, Quinn was shipped out.
The defensive line has done a better job stopping the run over the last month after a horrendous start. Justin Jones, the player Poles turned to when the Ogunjobi deal fizzled, has been OK, and Poles singled him out as a leader for that side of the ball when addressing the Quinn trade Wednesday.
But I would be very surprised if the Bears didn’t make significant additions to the defensive line in the offseason. Gipson, who will be in the final year of his rookie contract next season, and Robinson surely figure into future plans, but has either played to the level where the team would want him as a starter in 2023? Al-Quadin Muhammad is in the first year of a two-year, $8 million contract and has added some grit to the unit but hasn’t delivered a lot of production.
The Bears haven’t gotten much from homegrown defensive line talent for a while. The reason? They haven’t used a lot of draft capital on D-linemen. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman was a good Round 2 selection in 2015 and played well until his final two seasons in Chicago. Bilal Nichols, a fifth-round pick in 2018, flashed occasionally but had knee issues and never took off. The Bears haven’t had a drafted defensive lineman make the Pro Bowl since Henry Melton (Round 4, 2009) was honored after the 2012 season. Tommie Harris, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, is their only other drafted defensive lineman this century to be picked.
The team has done well fortifying the defensive front via free agency and trades, adding elite players such as Julius Peppers, Akiem Hicks, Mack and Quinn. Those guys were all anchors and mitigated the need for draft investments. The Bears haven’t used a pick in the first four rounds on a front-four player since 2016, when they selected Leonard Floyd in the first round and Jonathan Bullard in Round 3. Yes, Floyd was an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, but I’m counting him because he was essentially a defensive end in the sub packages. Bullard never panned out for the Bears and now plays for the Vikings.
Here are the defensive linemen the Bears drafted in the first four rounds before adding Goldman, Floyd and Bullard:
- 2014: DT Ego Ferguson, Round 2; DT Will Sutton, Round 3
- 2012: DE Shea McClellin, Round 1
- 2011: DT Stephen Paea, Round 2
- 2010: DE Corey Wootton, Round 4
- 2009: DT Jarron Gilbert, Round 3; DE Henry Melton, Round 4
- 2008: DT Marcus Harrison, Round 3
- 2007: DE Dan Bazuin, Round 2
- 2006: DT Dusty Dvoracek, Round 3
- 2004: DT Tommie Harris, Round 1; DT Tank Johnson, Round 2
That’s a lot of missed picks since the selection of Harris and Johnson, who were formidable together. It’s cliché to say the line is the motor that drives the defense. But as you saw when Lovie Smith was coach, the scheme can work at a high level when the front four can generate consistent pressure on the quarterback and seven can play in coverage.
I could see Poles fortifying this unit with a combination of free agency and a high draft pick. No, I’m not overlooking what the team needs in terms of offensive playmakers and offensive linemen, but if you’re not expecting significant additions up front on defense, you might be missing out on a storyline worth tracking.
7. When a text message came in from Pete Hoener last week, I knew the subject would be worth digging into.
“Bears signed my guy Sammis Reyes,” Hoener wrote. “He has a real chance.”
Hoener, 71, retired during the offseason, ending a long coaching career that began in 1975 at the University of Missouri. You may remember the name, as the Peoria Richwoods and Bradley University graduate was the Bears offensive line coach in 2004. Hoener was one of those old-school coaches and let’s just say he’s not one to dabble much in text messages or hyperbole, so when this came across the screen, he had my attention.
Reyes, 27, whom the Bears signed to the practice squad Oct. 18, has an unbelievable back story. He became the first Chilean-born NFL player last season with Washington, where Hoener worked under Ron Rivera the previous two years.
Reyes stands out as a physical specimen, even in an NFL locker room. He’s 6-foot-5, 260 pounds and cut like a mixed martial arts fighter with muscles stacked on top of muscles.
He didn’t play football in college or high school and didn’t have much of a clue about the sport until the past three years. Reyes is a converted basketball player, and his story is an amazing journey that took him from his home country to the United States as a 14-year-old with the goal of chasing an NBA dream.
Reyes made the Chilean national under-15 team, and after playing in an AAU tournament in Texas, he moved on his own, with almost no understanding of English, to attend Westlake Prep in South Florida. His parents sent him $50 a month for food, all they could afford, and he spent about half on protein power and the rest on instant ramen noodles, beans, peanut butter — whatever was cheap. He got to know the manager of a doughnut shop and would buy boxes of a dozen expiring doughnuts for $1, and that would hold him over for a few days. He relied on the generosity of strangers.
Meanwhile, he was determined to learn English, using movies (“The Matrix” and “Gladiator” were viewed over and over) with subtitles and listening to rap music. But Westlake Prep closed after a few months, and that left Reyes, who was living in the dormitory, with no school. He eventually moved in with the Rifkind family, having befriended fellow basketball player Alex Rifkind. They were a wealthy family that lived in Boca Raton, and they introduced Reyes to a different world. He attended North Broward Preparatory School and earned a scholarship to play basketball at Hawaii.
Reyes left Hawaii after one semester when the coach who recruited him left. He transferred to Palm Beach State Junior College and then landed at Tulane, where he played in 32 games over two seasons beginning in 2016-17. The totals show 247 minutes, 55 personal fouls, 46 rebounds, 12 blocked shots, 11 steals and 24 points.
He did a terrific job teaching himself English and was on the American Athletic Conference’s All-Academic team at Tulane, graduating with a degree in business management in 2018. With one year of eligibility remaining, he transferred a final time to Loyola University, an NAIA school in New Orleans, getting in eight games during the 2018-19 season.
When Reyes was done at Loyola, so too was his dream of playing basketball professionally. About nine months later he decided to do what so many folks along the way had suggested — try football. He had practiced with the North Broward team for one week but couldn’t be encouraged to switch sports, even though he amazed coaches.
“Ever since I got here, I was 14 and coaches were telling me I had to play defensive end, tight end, something,” Reyes said. “I left everything I had to go play basketball. For me to tell my family, ‘Hey, I’m going to a different sport now,’ my dream was to make the NBA and I couldn’t do that to my family or myself. I had to explore how far I could get with basketball.
“Now that I closed that door, I am very happy that I did because I have no regrets. I can look back and say, ‘I did everything I could.’”
What did Reyes know about football as a teenager?
“I thought we were just supposed to kick the ball through the uprights, you know?” he said.
Reyes wound up at the Sport and Speed Institute in Chantilly, Va., not far from where his girlfriend Nicole Kotler’s family lived, and was working with trainer Justin Kavanaugh, who counted a few NFL players as clients. It was early 2020 and Reyes had a lot to learn, and the draft and player procurement period came and went with nothing happening for him.
He hooked up with agent Tabetha Plummer and joined the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, training at IMG Academy for 10 weeks in early 2021 and continuing a crash course in football. Then Reyes opened eyes — lots of them — at the Florida Gators pro day when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds and had a 40-inch vertical jump with 31 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds.
NFL teams were buzzing and Washington rushed to sign Reyes instead of waiting for him to be allocated to a training camp roster. Washington guaranteed him $392,600 and Hoener had a new player who never had played a down of football in a game, wondering if he had the next Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham or an addition to the much longer list of basketball players who fizzled quickly on the gridiron.
“The basketball players that moved to tight end, the guys that haven’t played a lot of football or maybe just played in high school and not in college, you can tell pretty fast,” Hoener said. “After I watched him go through the workouts, I said, ‘This guy is different.’ Then when I talked to him, I knew he was different.
“‘Yes, sir,’ ‘no, sir,’ the look in his eyes. That is all sincere (stuff) now. It’s not, ‘Well, I’m going to try to impress this guy with how I act.’ That’s who Sammis is.”
Hoener assumed Reyes knew nothing — which was just about right — and started with the basics during the offseason program.
“I used up a lot of his time,” Hoener said. “When I ask you a question, you tell the answer back to me and the next step is you draw it up on the board. But now you get your ass in a three-point stance and there is some killer across from you, now all of that footwork, hand placement, releases, whatever job you’re tasked with becomes, ‘Oh, my God!’ It was amazing how fast Sammis picked that up.”
Reyes made Washington’s opening 53-man roster and got into his first game in Week 5. He was playing special teams, where the team measured him running faster than 20 mph in game action, a remarkable feat for a man his size. Hoener figured there was a chance Reyes would be ready for some bona fide action on offense before the end of the season. He played four snaps on offense in Week 10 and 17 plays the following week, but some soft-tissue injuries complicated things.
“He was coming along,” Hoener said. “He busted his ass and learned. He could take hard coaching and didn’t flinch. He was on a mission. He had — not great — but good ball skills, and I think after a while he would get a better feeling for that once he got a little more experience. He missed some time there at the end of the year … that is when he was going to play.”
Reyes suffered a hamstring injury in training camp on Aug. 5, and Washington wound up placing him on injured reserve and then reaching an injury settlement with him.
“I was shocked,” said Hoener, who retired in February. “I couldn’t imagine cutting that guy after all we put into him, and he was coming along. To me, supplements, food, diet, something where he’s not pulling a muscle all the time. Identify the problem.”
Reyes did just that after leaving Washington. He had 3% body fat as a rookie, lower than the team wanted. He went to train in Florida at Bommarito Sports Performance and said he fixed all of the little issues that were holding him back, learning how to care for his body and increasing his fat to 6%.
“I played basketball my entire life,” Reyes said. “Football was new to me. In basketball, you don’t really run full speed or 100%. It’s more of a continuous flow. So adjusting to short bursts at full speed, that was an adjustment for my body. We got every little thing solved. I feel faster than ever. Stronger than ever. Body fat up to 6%. I feel great.”
Once Reyes was healthy, he hit the tryout circuit, visiting Halas Hall and also working out for the Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. Plummer was in talks with a handful of teams and they deemed the Bears the best fit.
It remains to be seen if an opportunity with the Bears will materialize, but the journey is ready to be told by Hollywood.
“It’s been a crazy story,” Reyes said. “I am excited. It’s just a matter of getting an opportunity.”
Bears special teams coach Jim Dray said he has seen evidence of the work Reyes put in last season.
“He’s not that raw,” Dray said. “He’s not a fish out of water.”
That’s a good sign as the Bears try to figure out what Reyes is and how he might be able to help them.
“The good thing for him is we’re showing up and playing football (at practice), so he’s able to get exposure right away for the look teams,” Dray said. “And then you see what he can do from there. For him to come in now as opposed to the offseason, when we’re not really doing anything, we’re just kind of running around on air, it’s a much quicker evaluation. He’s looked pretty good so far.”
Hoener is keeping tabs on his former player.
“Guys like that are so hard to find,” he said. “I’ll be shocked if Sammis doesn’t latch on somewhere.”
8. The New England Patriots’ 22-17 victory over the New York Jets moved Bill Belichick past George Halas for second place in NFL coaching wins.
It was the 325th victory for Belichick (regular season and postseason), leaving him 22 behind leader Don Shula (347).
One neat thing about Belichick is he has such a keen understanding and appreciation for the sport and those who came before him.
“George Halas, Paul Brown, I probably shouldn’t make that list,” Belichick said earlier this month. “They were my idols. Coach Halas was a friend of my dad’s. My dad knew people on the staff that coached for Coach Halas. He coached Bill Wade at Vanderbilt, so they had a lot of Chicago-Halas connections. When they came to Baltimore, we would go to the locker room after the game. They were always very gracious and generous.
“A ton of respect for Coach Halas and the McCaskey family and what he did for professional football and the way that he and Paul Brown and others like that paved the way for us as coaches and paved the way for the National Football League to grow into what it is today. They laid a lot of the building blocks.”
I touched base with Rosevelt Colvin and Jim Miller, two former Bears who spent time in New England later in their careers. The question was simple: What sets Belichick apart?
“Bill gives off a really, really hard, gray, stoic kind of feel, so not a lot of people that don’t know him actually like him outside of New England,” Colvin said. “Bill knows what he wants and knows there’s a specific way, and he plays the odds of this being better or worse and that is why you see it’s been the same way for years in New England.
“You don’t see him adapting to a mobile quarterback versus a pocket passer. Defensively, traditionally he wants a good corps of linebackers and a good D-line and he’s never sold on high-profile corners and safeties. That dates back to his Giants (days). He has a blueprint of what he feels success is when it comes to football, and he just follows that every year and tries to adjust it as he needs to. He’s dedicated his life to being the best at what he is, and I think he is.
“If you sat down and had a conversation and didn’t tell him, ‘Hey, Bill, I am interviewing you about the Bears-Patriots game,’ and you just want to talk about football, it will be one of the most enjoyable conversations you will have. Go look at the piece NFL Films put together when they did the 100th anniversary team. That is the Bill you would get.
“When it’s football season, it’s gray sweatshirt, yes, no, maybe, we’ll see you tomorrow. He’s deflecting and he’s not trying to draw attention, and that is Bill trying to be the best at all times. You catch him outside of that and the dude is laid-back and he enjoys life. I hate that a lot of people don’t get to see that.”
Said Miller: “Bill can coach every position and he’s detailed. What he wants. How he wants it executed. There’s not any piece of information that he doesn’t enjoy doing. When he says, ‘We’re starting over,’ every year is its own entity. He truly does that. He starts with the basics. He lays it out from practices. Ballhandling drills. That’s the only team I’ve ever been on that did the gauntlet drill where everyone is ripping at the ball so you secure it and don’t fumble. Every practice, that gauntlet drill was run because he knew turnovers were such a key component to every game.
“From every aspect of running a team from the offseason to acquiring players, he does his research, he studies the players, he calls them, he personally wants to know who they are. Is this is a player I want to coach? Is he a good fit for my team? He can almost predict the outcome of a game — ‘Hey, the first half is going to be this type of battle’ — and he can foreshadow what is going to unfold in a game and almost dictate how the ending is going to be.
“Extremely intelligent. Extremely engaging. Extremely funny. He’s much broader than just football. He’s very tuned in to what’s going on outside the building in addition to what’s going on inside.”
9. I need to go back and watch the game, but veteran right tackle Riley Reiff looked OK from my press-box angle.
He stepped into the lineup for the first time this season as Larry Borom, who had a tough go of it the week before at New England, was sidelined with a concussion.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Reiff said. “But it’s fun to be out there with the guys. I love playing football. This is one hell of a group of guys. They fight, they scratch, they claw. That is the type of people I want to be associated with. I am proud of these guys.”
The Bears signed Reiff just before training camp, and at the time all signs pointed toward the 33-year-old being a starter, likely at left tackle. Reiff was hobbled a bit during camp, barely played in the preseason and showed better movement skills Sunday.
Is he in the mix to remain in the lineup even when Borom is cleared to return? I don’t have any idea and it’s possible the coaching staff hasn’t even considered it. What I do know is a little more football in the remaining nine games would mean a bunch of money for Reiff.
The Bears signed him to a one-year contract with a $3 million base salary. The deal included incentives, and the most basic one is worth $4.5 million. It requires Reiff to be on the field for 10% of the offensive plays and the offense to improve in one of six categories from 2021. I think at the time the contract was executed, the Bears figured they would be paying it. I don’t know the six categories, but if rushing offense is one of them, that’s a shoo-in. If Reiff, who played two offensive snaps in the previous seven games, starts one more game, he probably would reach the 10% threshold.
“I’m just here to help the team, man,” Reiff said when I asked him about the incentive. “Whatever helps the team win.”
The line could look different this week. Left guard Cody Whitehair worked out at AT&T Stadium several hours before the game and was moving pretty well. He had a brace on his right knee to protect the MCL sprain but is eligible to return this week after missing four games. If the Bears designate him to return to practice before Wednesday, he might have a chance of being in the lineup Sunday at Soldier Field against the Miami Dolphins.
I thought the line as a whole was OK on Sunday. Micah Parsons had four tackles and no hits on Justin Fields. DeMarcus Lawrence had three tackles and one sack. I think if you asked most folks before the game how they would feel about those numbers, they would have taken it with a smile.
It was the fifth lineup on the O-line this season. If Whitehair returns and Reiff stays at right tackle, the Bears would be up to their sixth combination in nine games. We’ll see what shakes out in the days ahead.
10. A 100-yard game should be just around the corner for wide receiver Darnell Mooney.
He was targeted five times and made five catches for 70 yards. The more the Bears feed him the ball, the more he’s going to produce. After inexplicably being targeted only five times through the first two games, Mooney has averaged 6.5 targets over the last six games.
The more offensive coordinator Luke Getsy leans on the passing game, the bigger numbers you will see from Mooney. Getsy is doing a nice job of scheming up some stuff for Mooney and it needs to expand from there.
10a. Per @NFLResearch, the Bears have gone over 200 rushing yards in three straight games for the first time since Weeks 7-9 of the 1968 season.
10b. Cole Kmet’s 10-yard touchdown was his first since Dec. 6, 2020, against the Detroit Lions. He caught only one other pass Sunday, and the lack of volume for tight ends is something the Bears need to continue to work on.
10c. With nine interceptions, the Bears are tied with the New York Jets for second in the NFL. Free safety Eddie Jackson has four of those picks, tying him with Buffalo’s Jordan Poyer and Seattle’s Tariq Woolen for the most in the league.
10d. Linebacker Matt Adams has to miss at least one more game while on injured reserve, but he could be looking at a minimum-length stay. Adams, who was placed on IR on Oct. 11 with a calf injury, worked out in the end zone more than three hours before kickoff with strength and conditioning coaches looking on. This was the third game Adams has missed, and players must miss a minimum of four when placed on IR. Adams has appeared in only three games (Weeks 1, 2 and 5) as a hamstring injury cost him two weeks. Coach Matt Eberflus has praised Adams for what he brings as a strong-side linebacker and core special teams player. He could be back in the mix as soon as Nov. 13 against the Detroit Lions.
10e. The CBS crew of Kevin Harlan, Trent Green and Melanie Collins will call the Dolphins-Bears game Sunday at Soldier Field.
10f. The Dolphins opened as 4½-point favorites over the Bears at Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.