After watching tape of Saturday's loss to the Bills, coach Matt Eberflus discussed three things that stood out to him, including the Bears' lack of success running the ball and stopping the run.
(1) The Bears struggled on the ground on both sides of the ball.
The offense was held to 80 yards rushing on 29 carries, an average of 2.8 yards per attempt. It was the second fewest yards and second lowest yards-per-carry average of the season for the Bears, who entered Week 16 leading the NFL in rushing at 186.9 yards per game.
The defense allowed the Bills to run for 254 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries, an average of 8.2 yards per attempt. It was the second most yards and the highest yards-per-carry average the Bears have permitted this season.
"I told the guys after the game a couple things about how we need to do a better job running the ball and stopping the run," Eberflus said.
The key on offense was that Justin Fields was held to 11 yards on seven rushes, his lowest output of the year. A week earlier, the second-year pro became the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He entered Week 16 averaging 100.8 yards since Week 6, second most in the NFL.
Eberflus said that the Bills didn't do anything to stop Fields that previous opponents have not attempted; they just did it better.
"They did a couple good things," Eberflus said. "They had a couple spies on him in the passing game, for sure. It could have been where the defensive lineman was popping out of there, or it was one of the linebackers did a couple of nice things there. Dropped a couple safeties in also to spy on him that way. It was overall a good plan, nothing out of the ordinary. I thought that [Bills defensive coordinator] Leslie [Frazier] did what he normally does: played good, sound, fundamental fast football. That's what I saw."
(2) Eberflus was impressed with how rookie Kyler Gordon performed outside at cornerback.
The second-round pick has played nickel back in passing situations most of the season, but with cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor being placed on injured reserve last week, Gordon remained outside at cornerback Saturday with Josh Blackwell lining up at nickel.
Gordon intercepted a pass for the second straight game and recorded five solo tackles.
"I think it's great experience for him now that we've put a couple corners on IR," Eberflus said. "For me, it's really good. It's going to expand him a little bit more. You saw the outstanding interception he had. He's going to have to use a different skillset out there, so I think to me it's just going to help him grow.
"He's got high energy. He's really good at his fundamentals, his techniques, he's getting better there, and he's a ballhawk guy. That's why we brought him here. He's proven that, and he's exciting to watch and I'm excited about the last two games for him."
(3) Eberflus lauded the performance of the Bears' special-teams unit.
Cairo Santos made all three of his kicks—field goals of 37 and 35 yards and an extra point—Velus Jones Jr. recorded kickoff returns of 43 and 40 yards—and punter Trenton Gill averaged 49.3 yards per punt in cold and windy conditions, including a career-long 63-yarder that was downed at the Bills' 2.
"I thought the special teams in that weather really operated well," Eberflus said. "Velus did a nice job on the kick returns. The operation for the punts—the snaps and the punts—were good. It's not easy because the ball is going sideways at times. You can certainly see that on the first kick we made. The ball was going sideways, floated up in the air and Trenton did a nice job of putting it down. Nice, clean operation there, and Cairo did a good job with his kicks as well."
Eberflus felt that the Bears handled the strong winds well, but it wasn't exactly what they were anticipating.
"The wind was really more of a swirling wind," he said. "It wasn't one direction or the other as much as we thought it was going to be for that type of factor. It was more of a swirling, sideways type of wind that affected the game pretty dramatically."
With a game-time temperature of nine degrees, coupled with the wind at 26 miles per hour, the wind chill at Soldier Field Saturday was minus-12.
On Monday, Eberflus thanked the loyal fans who braved the frigid conditions.
"I didn't get a chance to say it the other day, but just a thank you to the fans," Eberflus said. "Coming out there in that weather and supporting the Bears, supporting us, was really outstanding. They've been great all year, and I certainly appreciate those guys doing that during those conditions, for sure."