Bears coordinators Bill Lazor (offense), Sean Desai (defense) and Chris Tabor (special teams) spoke to the media Thursday at Halas Hall. Here are four things we learned from those sessions:
(1) Desai is pleased that the Bears lead the NFL with 18 sacks. But the first-year defensive coordinator is far from satisfied.
After being limited to one sack in a season-opening loss to the Rams, the Bears have compiled 17 sacks in four games, winning three of those contests. Khalil Mack is tied for sixth in the NFL with a team-leading 5.0 sacks, while Robert Quinn is tied for 10th with 4.5.
"We're happy with where we are, [but] we're not content with where we are and we don't think that we've still reached our potential," Desai said. "I think you speak to a lot of guys on this team and the coaches on this team on defense, they know that there are still areas of improvement, and that's the part that really excites us is that we can still continually grow and still improve."
And what's the key to accomplishing that?
"It's in the detail," Desai said. "It's in the techniques and fundamentals, so you kind of want to just keep building. We're trending better there the last couple of weeks, but there's still work that's left to be done."
The pass rush will be critically important Sunday when the Bears host three-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
"The challenge is to try to just get him off a read," Desai said. "He's OK playing off a read because he's OK scrambling and extending plays. But at least you get him to the second or third one and you buy some time for the rush and coverage to work together."
(2) Lazor was pleased with how the running game performed last Sunday in Las Vegas, generating 143 yards and one touchdown on 37 carries in a 20-9 win over the Raiders.
With starter David Montgomery sidelined due to a knee injury, veteran Damien Williams and rookie sixth-round pick Khalil Herbert more than picked up the slack, combining for 139 yards and one TD on 34 attempts.
"We were all excited, [but] I don't think we were surprised," Lazor said. "Someone like David Montgomery, who means so much to you both as a player and what his presence is, when he's missing for a game, obviously there's a big void. You'd like to think that when one of your starters is out, not only are the guys who play his position going to make up for it, but you'd like to put the onus on everyone to give a little bit more and think about it."
Herbert rushed for 75 yards on 18 carries, while Williams added 64 yards and one TD on 16 attempts. It was the first time that two Bears players had at least 16 rushes in a game since Matt Forte and Chester Taylor did so Oct. 10, 2010 in a road victory over the Panthers.
"Damien and Khalil both did a great job," Lazor said. "They both ran tough; they both ran smart. They both were good in pass protection. They did a great job. Again, we weren't surprised; that's what they do in practice. But we're pleased."
With Montgomery out at least two more games, the Bears backfield took another hit Thursday when Williams was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
(3) Lazor wants rookie quarterback Justin Fields to continue to strike a balance between taking shots downfield and not forcing throws.
After completing passes of 64, 32, 28 and 27 yards a week earlier in a win over the Lions, Fields' longest pass play in Las Vegas was 18 yards. But that was just fine with Lazor, given the circumstances of the game.
"What you don't want is a cautious quarterback," Lazor said. "You want a guy who's aggressive, but who's smart. The balance of that is the key to growth, and I think he's done a good job with that. He's taken some throws down the field. We didn't get nearly as many this last game, but he's taken some and there have been some where he's decided to bring it down, so it's just a constant balance.
"Obviously, the turnover battle is huge. Everyone understands what the statistics with winning and losing are. I think he's right on track. You have to take some shots to get some big plays. We came out of the game with the win, [so] we're all happy. At the same time, a lot of us, myself included, look back and say, 'OK, what could I have done to get a little more explosion out of the game?' That's the balance."
(4) Tabor didn't exactly endorse Jakeem Grant Sr. bringing a punt out from three yards deep in the end zone as he did early in the second half against the Raiders, but Tabor didn't denounce it either.
Las Vegas punter A.J. Cole, who leads the NFL with a 52.3-yard gross average, boomed a 70-yard punt from his own 33. A retreating Grant caught the ball in the end zone and returned it 21 yards to the Bears' 18.
"When he went out there to field the punt, he doesn't expect the ball to go 70-something yards in the air," Tabor said. "He lost track of where he was at. Do we want to bring it out? No, typically not. In a case like that, to be honest with you, I didn't have a problem with it.
"When he caught the ball, I think [Raiders players] were still 30 yards away from him. People just say, 'He caught the ball in the end zone; he should stay right there.' I think there's other circumstances. If it's in the pooch area, it's a different deal. Punting from the 30-yard line, you haven't seen a lot of those."
The Bears acquired Grant Oct. 5 in a trade with the Dolphins in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick. In 70 career games with Miami over six seasons, he averaged 9.7 yards with three touchdowns on 101 punt returns and 24.8 yards with two TDs on 89 kickoff returns.
"I'm glad he's on our team," Tabor said. "He gives us a spark there. He's a dynamic player. Hopefully, that can continue and grow on it."
The Bears headed inside the Walter Payton Center Wednesday as they continue to get ready for Sunday's matchup with the Packers at Soldier Field.