Bears coach Matt Eberflus faced his first scrutiny on the night when he failed to beat the one team on the schedule they really needed to beat.
In losing 27-10 to the Green Bay Packers, the Bears threw the ball 11 times and took their offense back to the John Fox era or maybe the 1970s. They turned Justin Fields into a goal-line runner on a night when they had David Montgomery tearing up the Green Bay defense.
"I always think that on offense you want to have balance," coach Matt Eberflus said. "So we'll have to look at that. We'll look at that as we assess the game and evaluate the game but the way we were running it, shoot, we were running it really well.
"And we were still in the game at that point. We were going with what was working for us."
The trouble was, when they really needed to run it, they didn't go with what was working.
Instead of giving the ball to Montgomery, who had 122 yards on 15 carries, they tried to make Fields into a goal-line runner between the tackles out of the shotgun and got no points on fourth-and-inches, leaving the rest of the game a matter of Green Bay running out the clock.
From the way the Packers offensive line and running backs tore up the Bears defense, it's possible the touchdown Fields failed to score wouldn't have made a difference anyway.
Here are the Bears grades from a game when there was plenty of blame for all to share, and they did.
Running Game: B-
What Eberflus said about the running game working really well was true, but it didn't work well after the first drive until the second half of the game when they were already down 24-7. It needs to work better when the game is close and when they're at the goal line. When they're down 17 and running it every play, they might get yardage but they're also playing into Green Bay's hands by letting the clock constantly run and accepting the shorter yardage a ground game usually gains over the bigger yardage a passing game should bring.
Passing Game: D-
The only play keeping this from descending into complete failure was a flea-flicker pass Fields completed to Equanimeous St. Brown. He had to take the checkdown because his target was supposed to be Darnell Mooney. Mooney ... remember him? The Bears' top receiver over the last two years, the only player in team history with 142 receptions for his first two years in the league,two catches for 4 yards this year, one reception in each game. Cole Kmet again blended into the background, blocking well on running plays without getting a catch for the second straight week. Fields made a poor decision on his lone interception, although it came at game's end and was an irrelevant play. Three more sacks of Fields on a night when he rarely looked comfortable settling in and firing out of the pocket doesn't bode well for the future on the offensive line.
Run Defense: F
The last time they gave up more than 203 yards rushing was the Cleveland game last season, and everyone remembers what a disaster that one was. Defenders up front were either out of their gaps or had penetrated too deep in the gap, leaving other defenders too far behind to create a bubble for running backs to exploit. The linebackers didn't fill right and take proper angles. Roquan Smith somehow was credited with 11 tackles, as was Nicholas Morrow. They were largely invisible players on the night and the tackles came when Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon had already chewed off big chunks of real estate. You know it's a bad night on run defense when Eddie Jackson's tackling is being praised. He did have a good game tackling, though. He was the only one.
Pass Defense: D
A strong rush early from Trevis Gipson and Robert Quinn kept the pass defense from being a complete loss. Aaron Rodgers knew where Kyler Gordon was all night in the slot and went after the rookie to whatever receiver he wanted, usually either Sammy Watkins or Randall Cobb. About the only thing the pass defense did well was avoid deeper passes with only two going beyond 20 yards, both to Watkins. Jaquan Brisker and Gordon failed to make tackles in the open field repeatedly when this was supposed to be a strength of theirs, and cornerback Kindle Vildor showed up with a target on his back again, as often happened last year.
Special Teams: C-
It's rare when the Packers have enjoyed a decided edge in special teams against the Bears but they had the advantage on this night. Five times the Bears had to start drives from their 20-yard line or worse and they had only nine possessions. Ihmir Smith-Marsette made one halting, poor return attempt of 17 yards. They allowed an Amari Rodgers 20-yard punt return, something that had happened only once before in his career. Even DeAndre-Houston Carson had a bad penalty, which never happens.
From trying to ignore the rivalry early in the week to throwing 11 times to running the quarterback out of the shotgun on fourth-and-inches with the game on the line, the Bears coaching staff failed miserably at its first attempt to beat Aaron Rodgers. Eberflus said he liked the numbers advantage the Bears had in the box on their failed fourth-down run to gain inches because using the quarterback gave them an extra blocker, Montgomery. The trouble was, by the time Fields got to the line from so deep in the backfield, the numbers in the box had changed drastically. And besides that, where was the extra blocker they gained by running Fields instead of Montgomery? He was standing behind Fields, not blocking in front of him. When the play ended, Montgomery was standing behind Fields, behind the line of scrimmage. Luke Getsy needs to lose that page in the playbook. The trouble with their defense is more one of execution and scheme than decision-making. The Packers know how to attack a cover-2 and most zones. Everyone does. You do it by running it well and throwing to backs or throwing slants and they did all of those well. The only way they'll beat Rodgers by using this approach is by dominating the line of scrimmage and this wasn't happening Sunday night.
Almost all of Green Bay's scoring came in the second quarter, so perhaps a three-quarter game would be the way they'll finally beat Rodgers again?