There were no heroes in Tampa for the Bears regardless of how they wanted to make one out of Khalil Herbert for gaining 100 yards, or their defense for making a goal-line stand or the entire team for withstanding another COVID-19 scare.
Losing 38-3 says it all. Any losing team can find a few positives to be happy about.
They had Bilal Nichols fighting and ejected on a day when they needed as many bodies as possible in the Florida heat with four players on the COVID-19 list and defensive starters like Akiem Hicks, Tashaun Gipson and Robert Quinn sidelined with injuries.
“Those guys know that we can’t do that,” coach Matt Nagy said, although they apparently don’t. “We’ve discussed a similar situation like last year with a player that they had with a player who was out there today.
“You know, it was loud and clear of that. But our guys understand, they know that every action has a reaction. What we need to do is continue to keep emphasizing it like we are, and guys gotta follow up by not falling into that trap.”
The Bears had Anthony Miller and Javon Wims get ejected last year for fighting and both are gone. Nichols is a free agent after this year but has been a solid performer before this.
The Bears have other problems besides fighting with people.
They need to reassess their COVID-19 situation because it’s obvious they have had some kind of an outbreak when five players and a coach go on the list in a few weeks.
They also need to get healthy.
Whatever their problems on Sunday, the worst defeat in Matt Nagy’s time as a coach made for a situation they can’t repeat. Last year, they let consecutive losses and one-sided defeats fester into a six-game losing streak.
“It’s definitely embarrassing,” Smith said. “You never want to go out and play like that because that’s not our standard, but it is what it is and we’ve just gotta grow and get better from it because that’s all we can do and just can’t let this game beat us twice.”
It’s unclear what their standard actually is because three of their four losses came in this fashion.
Here are the grades from Sunday’s 38-3 loss to Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.
Running Game: B
A 100-yard game from Khalil Herbert was entirely wasted. They ran for more yards (143) than Tampa Bay has given up in its last 13 games, including last year’s playoffs and Super Bowl. Jason Peters, especially, deserves accolades for blocking the run and Alex Bars did an effective job as a run blocker at right tackle when pressed into service after Lachavious Simmons struggled and Elijah Wilkinson was sidelined by the COVID protocol.
Passing Game: F
The offensive line didn’t adjust to the blitzing well by Tampa Bay, Herbert missed a key blocking assignment on a blitz, and Justin Fields had another issue with a so-called “free play.” Fields committed five turnovers and there’s no other way to spin that one even if the Bears want to do this.
Run Defense: D-
They didn’t handle losing Akiem Hicks due to a groin injury well, and Nichols’ ejection made it worse. Eddie Goldman has not been the effective run stuffer he had been before opting out last year and they allowed 182 rushing yards to a team that has been struggling to run the ball. They were 28th in rushing coming into the game. Only the goal-line stand prevented this from being worse.
Pass Defense: D-
Eddie Jackson’s play was the shining light on the day. He stepped up after being challenged and was physical against the pass and run. But Jaylon Johnson gave up too many big plays and the Bears pass rush was what one could predict with Robert Quinn sidelined due to COVID-19, leaving Khalil Mack to fend for himself against double teams and triple teams.
Special Teams: F
Allowing a 43-yard return to Jaelon Darden to start the game was about the worst possible start other than a turnover, and those were coming. The punt coverage team also botched up another situation when they could have down the ball inside the 5 easily but ran into the end zone first. Pat O’Donnell also struggled with a 40-yard average for the day.
Play calling by Bill Lazor seemed to be reactionary and not ahead of the game. With Herbert doing good damage on the ground, they should have been more patient with him and given him more carries in the second quarter even when they were falling behind. The pass rush needed to be more aggressive with blitzes once they fell behind because what difference did it make losing to Tampa Bay 38-3 or 52-3, really? They should have sold out and brought the house in a parade of blitzes after falling behind just to inflict damage on a team that obviously was trying to embarrass them.
This was worse than Cleveland. At least against the Browns it was easier to maintain hope in Fields’ abilities because the game plan was utterly horrible. In this one the game plan might not have been the best but Fields was the main reason they were turning over the ball.