Bear Down, Nerd Up: When will Chicago Bears’ historic losing streak end?

Why isn’t Justin Fields running the ball?

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones is held back by Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Cody Mauch (as Jones tries to stop a pass by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield during the first half, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Tampa, Fla.

The Bears last won a football game Oct. 24, 2022. The more they lose, the closer it gets to a full calendar year.

This time it was a disappointing 27-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that essentially ended on a pick-six touchdown thrown by quarterback Justin Fields on a short screen pass intended for his running back.

At what point does all of this losing reflect on head coach Matt Eberflus? What happened to the run game? Where’s the pass rush?

Here’s what the numbers say about all of that.

Lots of L’s: The Bears have lost a franchise-record 12 games in a row, dating to last season. If they lose to the Kansas City Chiefs next week – a loss that feels inevitable against the defending Super Bowl champions – that streak will extend to 13 games.

That would put the Bears into a tie for the 25th longest losing streak in NFL history. With every loss now, the Bears are climbing that list. If the streak were to extend to 17 losses in a row, that would put them into the top 10 among longest NFL losing streaks.

Only two NFL teams have ever lost 20 or more consecutive games. The Jacksonville Jaguars lost 20 in a row during 2020 and 2021. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the record with 26 consecutive losses in 1976 and 1977.

Following the Chiefs in Week 3, the Bears have the currently 0-2 Broncos, followed by the 2-0 (but not exactly dominant-looking) Commanders. Hopefully, this discussion ends one of those weeks.

Head coaching record: Eberflus is 3-16 as an NFL head coach. There’s no way around it: That is a rough start to a head coaching career. It’s probably unfair to pin last year’s losses on the head coach when he was working with a bare-bones roster.

But at a certain point – as NFL coaches love to point out – your record is your record. With his current win percentage, Eberflus’s record would be the worst among all previous Bears head coaches.

This is where the Bears, and particularly general manager Ryan Poles, need to have patience. The longer this losing streak continues, and the longer the Bears struggle, the louder and louder Eberflus’ critics will become.

Throwing downfield: After all the short stuff last week vs. Green Bay, Fields did throw the ball downfield Sunday. He went 3-for-10 passing on throws that went more than 10 yards downfield, totaling 75 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

The Bears are making a clear effort to see if Fields can be a high-level downfield passer. There’s no other possible explanation for why they wouldn’t run the QB more, for why they wouldn’t roll him out of the pocket more or for why he’s lining up in shotgun at such a high clip. They want to see if he can process the field and make good throws.

The early returns suggest he hasn’t done it well enough.

So the question becomes how long does the coaching staff ride out this plan? If the Bears want to win games, they need to mold an offense that plays to Fields’ strengths. They did that in the middle part of last season. Now is when Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will show what they’ve got. Good NFL coaches make adjustments in season. It’s time for the Bears to start tinkering.

Where’d the run go?: Fields had 3 rushing yards in Sunday’s game. Three.

It was his lowest total in all the NFL games he has started over his three-year career. It matched the 3 yards he ran for during his rookie debut at the Rams (a game he did not start) as a career low.

The Bears have called only a handful of designed runs for Fields through two games this season. Per Tru Media, 10 other teams have called more designed runs for their QBs – including for the likes of Trevor Lawrence, Jimmy Garoppolo and Baker Mayfield.

The Bears have said all offseason that they want Fields to be a passer first, but this is taking it to extreme levels. He’s too dangerous a weapon not to include in the run game.

Where’s the rush? The Bears have 21 sacks in their 19 games under Eberflus. They didn’t record a sack Sunday, after totaling one in Week 1.

Bucs QB Baker Mayfield went 14-for-17 passing for 223 yards and a touchdown when he was under pressure, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That’s the most passing yards when under pressure for any QB since 2020.

Mayfield was under pressure 17 times, and yet the Bears didn’t have a sack. Per Next Gen Stats, that’s the sixth-most pressures on a QB without a sack since the start of the 2022 season.

According to Next Gen Stats’ “average separation from the QB” metric, which measures the average physical distance pass rushers were from the QB when he threw the ball, at least four Bears defensive linemen were better than average Sunday.

Justin Jones was, on average, 3.24 yards from Mayfield when he threw the ball, more than a yard better than league average at 4.56 yards. DeMarcus Walker, Yannick Ngakoue and Rasheem Green were all better than league average.

The Bears recorded only one QB hit in the stat book, but Bears pass rushers got a hand on Mayfield several more times. They simply couldn’t finish the job.

Through two games, the Bears are blitzing on only 7.5% of dropbacks, per Pro Football Reference. That’s the fifth-lowest rate in the NFL.

Snap notes: Velus Jones Jr. was active but played only four snaps on offense. He did not return any of the five kickoffs sent his way. Each dropped in for a touchback, although one or two of them were returnable.

Tight end Cole Kmet played 68% of offensive snaps. That was his lowest mark since his rookie season. Fellow tight end Robert Tonyan played on 34% of snaps and Marcedes Lewis on 15% of snaps.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.