It’s been two weeks into the 2022 NFL regular season and the Chicago Bears are tied 1-1 with every other team in the NFC North.
The Bears have two potentially winnable games ahead of them in the next few weeks: at home to a winless Houston Texans (0-1-1) in Week 3 and on the road to a surprising 2-0 win by the New York Giants in Week 4. While Chicago clinched a hard-fought win over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, the team’s luck ran out the following Sunday night in Green Bay.
The Bears fell to the Packers, 27-10, and there were two glaring problems for Chicago as the final seconds ticked off the clock: a leaky run defense and an anemic pass attack.
Green Bay running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon grounded the Bears defense for 191 yards, but arguably a bigger problem was the absence of two of Chicago’s supposedly best players on offense: wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet .
Fields completed seven passes from 11 attempts for 70 yards (6.4 ypa) and one interception, finishing with a 43.8 rating against the Packers (Stats from Pro Football Reference).
Mooney caught a pass on two targets for a total of -4 yards while Kmet dropped the only pass thrown his way:
So far, Fields has attempted 28 passes in two games, while Mooney has two catches for four yards and Kmet is yet to catch a reception. The Bears average just 76.5 yards per game, easily the worst in the NFL.
Speaking to the media on September 19, Bears head coach Matt Eberflus was asked about the team’s lack of an airstrike, and the freshman coach was blunt.
“Yes, we’ll look at that,” said Eberflus. “I think that’s worrying. We want to get better at that. We want to improve. No question. We want to improve in many parts of our football team, aspects of our football team, but this is one of them. The touches, who we pay attention to, early touches, the involvement of the boys, all of these things are looked at as we review the course of our entire football team.
The Bears coach also noted that he expects both goals and production to increase for Mooney and Kmet. Considering Mooney is the team’s WR1 and Kmet was targeted 93 times last year, it should happen sooner rather than later.
“We have to highlight our skills,” added Eberflus. “We know that. We know that. So we’re going to try to do better – we’re going to do better. We have great coaches. These guys are smart. They know how to do it and we’re going to do it.”
One aspect of Chicago’s offense that has worked is the running game. The Bears ended up with 180 grounded yards on 27 rushing attempts against a solid Packers defense, and Eberflus says the team is looking for a better balance.
“I think you have to have the balance on offense. We’ll look at that as we review and rate the game, but man,” Eberflus said, “we did really well and were still in the game at that point. We went with what worked for us.”
It’s worth leaning on one aspect of the game if and when it works, but in today’s NFL, a passing attack is a necessary element of any of the league’s best offenses, and Eberflus knows it.
We’ll see how Fields, Mooney and Kmet react against Houston.