After watching tape of Sunday's 28-19 loss to the Packers, Bears coach Matt Eberflus discussed three things that stood out to him in the game:
(1) Eberflus was generally pleased with how the Bears offense performed.
Before two late interceptions, Justin Fields was having arguably the best game as a passer of his two-year NFL career. Through the first three and a half quarters, he completed 14 of 16 passes for 206 yards and a 118.8 passer rating. Fields showed his deep ball accuracy, completing long passes of 56 yards to Equanimeous St. Brown in the second quarter and 49 yards to N'Keal Harry in the fourth period.
"Really good connection I thought with the passing game, with a lot of different parts to our passing game," Eberflus said. "The big passes, we were excited about that. The throw to 'EQ' was beautiful. It was a really nice throw; really appreciate the height and accuracy of that pass. That was really good. And the one to Harry, I appreciate the catch. The catch was really remarkable, to be able to hang onto that."
Eberflus was pleased with the pass protection afforded Fields, who was not sacked for the first time in 12 starts this season.
"Really the most important thing I thought for us was the protection," Eberflus said. "What gave Justin Fields a clean pocket and to be able to operate the offense correctly was probably the most impressive thing that we had. We saw progress from that. That was really good."
Eberflus also lauded a running game that produced 155 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. It was led by Fields, who rushed for 71 yards on six attempts, highlighted by a sensational 55-yard touchdown scramble. David Montgomery added 61 yards on 14 carries and Darrynton Evans had 21 yards on three runs.
As a team, the Bears generated a season high 409 total yards.
(2) Eberflus was impressed with how an injury-depleted defense played.
Despite missing four of their top defensive backs due to injuries—safeties Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker and cornerbacks Kyler Gordon and Kindle Vildor—the Bears defense limited future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers to 182 yards passing and an 85.7 passer rating.
Replacements who stepped up included safeties DeAndre Houston-Carson and Elijah Hicks and cornerbacks Josh Blackwell and Jaylon Jones. Blackwell forced punts on back-to-back possessions to open the second half with tight coverage on Allen Lazard on a third-and-1 incompletion and by tackling tight end Robert Tonyan five yards short of a first down on a third-and-15 completion.
"Four of the five guys in the secondary were backup guys," Eberflus said. "Really appreciate those guys. All the guys that were in there did a really nice job. Did our game plan the way we wanted it to be done, focused and did a really good job of tackling in the secondary."
After several missed tackles a week earlier in a loss to the Jets, the Bears worked on lowering their pad level when tackling during the week in practice.
"I thought tackling was better from the previous game," Eberflus said. "You could see that with [middle linebacker] Jack Sanborn. We wanted to lower his target level. Tackling two really good backs (A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones), I thought we did a really good job for the most part."
While the tackling improved, Eberflus lamented the defense's failure to produce a takeaway for the fourth time in the last five games.
"We lost the takeaway battle 3-0," he said. "Hard to win a football game when you lose that battle, for sure. But overall, the defense played good for three quarters and a half. I was pleased with that."
(3) The Bears once again failed to rally from a late deficit.
Since beating the Texans 23-20 on Cairo Santos' 30-yard field goal as time expired in Week 3, the Bears have failed to score the tying or go-ahead points on late fourth-quarter drives when trailing by one score seven straight times.
On Sunday, they took over at their own 31 with 4:41 to play after Mason Crosby's 32-yard field goal had given the Packers their first lead of the game at 20-19. Fields' 13-yard completion to Cole Kmet gave the Bears a first down at the Green Bay 43 with 2:57 remaining. But on the next play, Fields' pass intended for St. Brown was intercepted by cornerback Jaire Alexander.
Three plays later, the Packers increased their lead to 28-19 on receiver Christian Watson's 46-yard TD run on a jet sweep coupled with Rodgers' two-point conversion pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis.
Trailing by two scores, the Bears reached the Green Bay 28. But Fields' pass intended for Dante Pettis was intercepted by cornerback Keisean Nixon to seal the game with :44 to play.
"We've got to learn how to finish," Eberflus said. "We've got to learn how to finish better. There's execution, taking care of the football, finishing drives."
While all 11 players and not just the quarterback are responsible for end-of-game drives, Eberflus is confident that Fields is more than capable of raising the level of his teammates.
"I believe that to be true," Eberflus said. "I know the man inside after being with him for a year and the grit he has and the talent he has. No question he's going to get it done."