General manager Ryan Pace spoke with Jeff Joniak Sunday on the Bears pregame radio show on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM. The following is a transcript of Pace's comments:
On last Sunday's loss to the Packers:
"When you look back on it, we had opportunities, but we didn't make the necessary big plays really in all three phases. We know that scoring 14 points isn't going to be enough. We didn't get the stops or takeaways on defense we needed. And we didn't make the game-shifting plays on special teams. I look back, and it was 17-14, with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. We had some momentum, but we didn't take advantage of that moment. The good thing is, is it's still early in the season. We have a tough-minded resilient team, and we've got a great opportunity today against a really good Tampa team."
On whether it's challenging for the defense to perform with several key members of the unit being unable to practice during the week:
"This time of year you know every team's going through injuries, you're dealing with COVID; it's just part of the season. Some teams handle it better than others. We believe in a no-excuses mindset; a tough, resilient mindset. I thought that Thursday night game with Cleveland was a good example of that. They were down running backs, down a starting quarterback, down offensive linemen, down defensive starters, and they [found] a way. Good teams find a way to push through any adversity they're dealt."
On tight end Jimmy Graham becoming the third Bears player to be placed the reserve/COVID-19 list:
"We believe they're all separate. I just think it's the times we're in right now. It's society in general right now. All of us have to be safe and be careful and take the proper precautions, which we are. Our staff does a great job with it and I think it's just the times we're in."
On whether tackling is becoming more of a problematic issue as the season progresses:
"Our defense has stepped up in a lot of big-time moments and they've really played well this season. But there are always things that we can continue to refine and work on, and coming out of last game, I think we'd all say, our guys would say we want to put a lot of focus on tackling and generating takeaways, and we have. And I think that will come with the type of guys that we have."
On rookie quarterback Justin Fields showing encouraging signs against the Packers:
"For sure, we say that every week, continued growth and learning moments. What's good from these experiences is you see improvement through knowledge gained, that he has. I think with Justin, along with our offensive coaches, after each game we can really zero in specifically on what he needs to continue to work on and what we can fine tune. We do that each week in practice, and what's been really cool to see is to see that progress each game as we fine tune these things."
On Fields understanding that he has to get rid of the ball quickly to reduce big yardage sacks:
"I think there's a fine line in working to attempt to generate a big play, but also knowing when to fight for another down. You see a lot of huge plays in our league off these scramble type plays. Coverage breaks down and receivers come alive. That's a component that Justin has, that ability to make plays off scramble plays is a big threat to opposing defenses. We've just got to continue to fine tune that."
On not producing enough explosive pass plays:
"I think it's coming. Our run game's been very good this season. That's a credit to our O-line, our tight ends and receivers all blocking their tails off, and you saw Khalil Herbert last week step up. And obviously that run game's important with a rookie quarterback. We see progress in the pass game as we gain experience and we make adjustments each week."
On Herbert's recent emergence:
"We said it last week. Internally, we aren't surprised. We felt it from Day 1. He's in a great room with David Montgomery, Damien Williams, Ryan Nall, and [Herbert] is just a stud; he's just got a professional mindset that we all love, in addition to his ability. I also think that Michael Pitre has been an outstanding addition as our new running backs coach. He's done a really job good in that room."
On heading to Tampa as a big underdog and the dividends an upset win would pay:
"We just see it as a great opportunity. We've got a lot of respect for the Tampa Bay organization, starting with coach [Bruce] Arians, Jason Licht their GM. They've got a Super Bowl championship roster, a Hall of Fame quarterback leading it. But to come on the road and play them at this point in the season, it's a big-time challenge. And if you're a competitor, which we all are, you appreciate these moments."