The pressure is on, but the Bears could do more to help the offensive line

Before the Bears lost two close games in five days, Film Study issued a warning. Left guard Cody Whitehair on the injured list was going to be a huge problem.

Upon closer examination, the Bears offensive line still has plenty of room to improve, but offensive issues are more of a four-pronged dilemma, all easily identified by Bears fans.

According to pro-football-reference.com, quarterback Justin Fields actually saw the lowest pressure percentage (17.2) against Minnesota among the 15 times he played a full game.

Washington, one of the best passing teams in the league, was a different story, of course. But if the Bears had built a 17-0 lead like they should have, they would have beaten the clock in the fourth quarter instead of facing blitzes in desperation mode.

Most of Thursday’s pass-blocking issues involved left tackle Braxton Jones faring poorly against Montez Sweat, but Lucas Patrick and Sam Mustipher also contributed to late-game failures.

Still, the Bears’ offense worked reasonably well. They rallied from a 21-3 deficit at Minnesota, crossed the 5-yard line on the first two possessions against Washington and were frequent visitors to the red zone against the Giants three weeks ago.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

Stick to the schedule

There have been some creative play calls this season, but it should be obvious by now that Fields’ time in the pocket will be brief. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy could help his QB with shorter passing routes.

An example of Minnesota’s last game drive, Darnell Mooney had inside leverage on his initial break and plenty of room in the middle if he turned around and caught an angled pass. Instead, he ran 15 yards down the field and sat in the middle of the area, which was technically correct, but Fields suffered a backpack before he could deliver the ball. The Bears recovered that fumble, only to drop a two games later to seal the loss.

A nice innovation on Thursday was to have TE Ryan Griffin cut through the formation and protect Fields on a bootleg, allowing Cole Kmet to finish 15 yards. Fields hit another contraband pass, but was buried later in the game when the Bears tried it unprotected.

Another move that doesn’t make sense is the demise of fullback Khari Blasingame, who played 9 snaps offensively against Minnesota and only 6 against Washington. The Bears have an offensive line that blocks the run better than the pass, and they ran the ball very well the first three weeks when loading with a fullback and two tight ends. Maybe some power runs would have helped on those empty runs inside the 10-yard line.

take it easy

Another element of the Bears offense is that Fields is getting into the habit of making the easy throws that are often right in front of him. After Washington’s two red-zone failures to start the game, the next two drives ended in frustrating third-down decisions.

With just 3 and 4 yards to get first down, Fields fired two long misses at Mooney, with little chance of success. Both times there was a wide open receiver in the middle. No QB is going to see it all, and Fields is obviously a work in progress, but he has to spot relatively easy throws in midfield.

It doesn’t break new ground by pointing out that the Bears might have the worst set of receivers in the NFL. But there might be some hope in Dante Pettis’ big game (second most receiving yards of his career) and N’Keal Harry’s improving health.

Defensive designs

Maybe Terry McLaurin or Curtis Samuel ruined your fantasy team this week. At least the Bears showed they could relatively control talented receivers, which they couldn’t do against Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson.

An interesting stat is that CB rookie Kyler Gordon was credited with allowing 10 successful passes on 11 targets against Washington. But, that was for an average of 6.5 yards per catch and a passer rating of 91.3. Gordon has made his best plays in running support this season, so maybe he’s learning to give ground and hit.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports