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Bears Breakdown

DJ Moore sees increased workload in Tampa

Bears receiver DJ Moore
Bears receiver DJ Moore

TAMPA – After DJ Moore was only targeted twice in last weekend's season opener against the Packers, the Bears were determined to get their star receiver more involved Sunday versus the Buccaneers.

They accomplished that objective in a 27-17 loss at Raymond James Stadium, as Justin Fields threw seven passes to Moore, completing six for 104 yards.

"My main thought this game was, 'Give him the ball,'" Fields said. "He's probably one of the best playmakers we have on offense. So we just want to get him the ball."

Fields connected with Moore for 33 yards on the Bears' first possession Sunday, and the two hooked up again three plays later for 31 yards. The two big plays set up Fields' 1-yard touchdown run, which gave the Bears a 7-3 lead. 

Discussing the 31-yarder, Fields said: "He just had a choice route and made a good decision, broke out. The line protected on that play, and of course it was a big play. He's smart in those situations. He always makes the right decision. It was a good all-around play."

On the rebound: Moore wasn't the only Bears receiver who was more involved in the offense Sunday. After not making any catches against the Packers, Chase Claypool had three receptions for 36 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown from Fields that drew the Bears to within 20-17 with 6:17 remaining in the fourth quarter.

"It was good," said coach Matt Eberflus. "I thought his effort was good. I thought he did a nice job, obviously catching that skinny post in the end zone there was excellent. I thought it was really good."

Claypool described the time since the Packers game as "a good week, a lot of lessons learned and a lot of progress made, and I'm going to keep that journey going." He called his performance Sunday in Tampa "a step in the right direction, but I feel if we're not winning, it doesn't really matter."

Claypool's touchdown Sunday was his first in nine games with the Bears since being acquired last Nov. 1 in a trade with the Steelers.

"In the moment, it was nice for sure," he said, "finally helping the team the way I wanted to, going back to last season, so it was good."

Deep thoughts: Fields threw the ball downfield more against the Buccaneers than he did versus the Packers, something he had vowed to do after conceding that he was "a little bit too conservative at times" versus Green Bay.

"I felt a little bit better," Fields said. "Definitely threw the ball down the field more. DJ had a few nice catches down there. Chase, of course, had a nice touchdown. So it definitely felt better this week, for sure."

Turning point: After Claypool's TD, the Bears got the ball back again at their own 7 with 2:24 to play, trailing 20-17. But Fields' middle screen in traffic was intercepted by linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who returned it four yards for a game-clinching TD.

"[A middle screen] is great when it works, and when it doesn't everybody's going to criticize, so it is what it is," Eberflus said. "We're going to look at it back there in that part of the field and we'll see where it is."

"We had a screen called and No. 7 (Barrett) made a good play," Fields said. "He picked it one-handed and took it back. He didn't have that far to return it."

Fields was confident when he jogged onto the field with the Bears down 20-17.

"I was ready," he said. "I was ready to go down there and try to score a touchdown, but at least get into field goal range so Cairo [Santos] could tie it up. We practice two-minute a lot during the week, and I was just going to keep that same mindset to try to drive the ball down the field and give our team a chance."

Key absences: The Bears lost both of their starting safeties in a three-play span on Tampa Bay's second drive, with Jaquan Brisker exiting with an illness and Eddie Jackson leaving with a foot injury. They were replaced by Elijah Hicks and Quindell Johnson. Brisker returned in the second half, but Jackson did not.

"Very tough," said cornerback Jaylon Johnson. "They're our starting safeties, they're our playmakers, they're guys that play the game at high levels ... but I think that we had guys that stepped up, that played ball for us the whole game."

Eberflus told reporters that Brisker was suffering from "a little dehydration."

"He had to go in [to the locker room] and get himself right," Eberflus said. "It affects everybody different, and that's what it was. I gave him a big hug after the game. I said, 'Man, I really appreciate you coming back out.' I thought he played well in the second half when he did come back in, made some good tackles and did some good things there and played with a good passion too."

Block party: Sixth-year defensive lineman Rasheem Green produced a key play on special teams, blocking Chase McLaughlin's 40-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter, enabling the Bears to maintain a 7-3 lead.

"The guys to my left and right did a good job of doing what they had to do to set me up for a layup," Green said. "I feel like I just gave the guys on the sideline some juice because that stopped them from getting points on the board."

It was Green's first blocked kick since Nov. 29, 2021, when he was playing for the Seahawks and blocked an extra point against the Commanders, scooped it up and returned it to the end zone for two points. In the process, he became the first NFL player to block, recover and return an extra point for two points since the league introduced the rule in 2015.

On the ground: The Bears rushed for only 67 yards on 16 carries. Khalil Herbert gained 35 yards on seven carries, Roschon Johnson added 32 yards on four attempts—with 29 yards coming on one run—and Fields was held to four yards on three runs while completing 16 of 29 passes for 211 yards.

"You're always searching for balance," Eberflus said. "That's when you play winning football. When you stay ahead of the sticks like that, when you have a good running game, it opens up the play-action. We have to really put the hammer down on that, make sure we do a good job with balance."

Day by day: After the Bears fell to 0-2, Fields was asked how much needs to be fixed.

"I think we have a long way to go," he said. "I just think if we keep working, we'll get there. Everybody has to keep that mindset. In this position, 0-2, you can … lay down and just kind of throw in the towel and just say whatever. But I don't think anybody on the team is like that.

"It's my job, it's the coach's job to keep everybody going, keep everybody's morale up because it is a long season. But, I mean, we definitely have a lot to fix, definitely have a lot to get better at, so we're just going to take it day-by-day."

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