After watching tape of Thursday night's 12-7 loss to the Commanders, Bears coach Matt Eberflus discussed three things that stood out to him in the game:
(1) Eberflus lamented the Bears' red-zone woes but didn't see a common thread with the offense's issues inside-the-20 in a 20-12 road loss to the Giants Oct. 2.
In that game, the Bears were forced to settle for field goals on all three of their red-zone possessions, with those drives stalling at the Giants' 11, 4 and 17. The kicks came, respectively, after a Justin Fields incompletion on third-and-7, Khalil Herbert was stopped for a 1-yard gain on third-and-2 from the 5 and Cole Kmet was dropped for a three-yard loss on a third-and-6 completion from the 14.
Thursday night, the Bears failed to produce any points on three drives that reached the Commanders' 5-yard line. On Thursday night, Fields threw an interception, Herbert was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the 1 after Fields had missed a wide open Ryan Griffin in the end zone, and Darnell Mooney was stopped inches short of the goal line on a fourth-and-goal reception from the 4.
"There were different play calls in those situations," Eberflus said. "I don't really see a connection there. It's just individual plays; we've got to execute those."
Fields' interception came when his pass over the middle intended for Kmet caromed off the helmet of one defensive lineman and into the arms of another.
"It's the arm angle, and the lanes are always tough down there when the field shrinks in the red zone," Eberflus said. "It's his instincts. You've got to be able to have the instincts to do that. They made a nice play. There were three guys there to tip it, maybe, I don't know. You've just got to change it around and move your arm angle. That's got to be thrown as a 'one ball' there, though. It's got to be thrown in there tight in that particular case."
(2) Eberflus was pleased that more frequent blitzes by the Bears defense resulted in improved efficiency on third down.
After allowing the Vikings to convert 8-of-12 third-down opportunities last Sunday, the Bears held the Commanders to 2-of-11 on third down due in part to successful blitzes. On each of Washington's first two drives, third-down blitzes resulted in sacks by safety Jaquan Brisker and linebacker Roquan Smith. Blitzing linebacker Nicholas Morrow later pressured quarterback Carson Wentz into a third-down incompletion, forcing another punt.
"We didn't play very good on third down the week before," Eberflus said. "We looked at what we were doing and you put your heads together and you come up with a plan—and whatever plan that we think is best for that particular team. They were, what, 18 percent on third down last night? I thought the guys did a nice job."
One reason the Bears blitzed more Thursday night is that their front four has failed to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback this season. Through six games, defensive linemen have combined to generate just 7.5 sacks: Justin Jones (2.0), Trevis Gipson (2.0), Dominique Robinson (1.5), Robert Quinn (1.0) and Al-Quadin Muhammad (1.0).
"Never satisfied with the pass rush," Eberflus said. "Always got to be better. I thought we did a good job getting some sacks. Some of those were pressures that we called on third down certainly, but we'll just look at it and evaluate that going forward. Sack numbers need to be up a little bit more and the pressure numbers need to be up too."
(3) Eberflus praised rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon's performance.
The Bears' top pick in this year's draft has struggled at times early in his first NFL season, but Gordon showed improvement Thursday night. The second-round selection registered six tackles and one pass breakup, though he also drew a 17-yard pass interference penalty in the game.
"We know it's a learning process with a younger player," Eberflus said. "We know they are going to go through some ups and downs and some ins and outs as you go.
"For example, Kyler Gordon, you look at the way he played last night, well, he played pretty good, didn't he? So he's had a couple ups and downs during the [season], but he has stayed the course with his eyes and vision forward to improve. He made a lot of nice tackles, made a lot of nice plays on the ball, and I thought he played really well."