Bear Down, Nerd Up: The numbers ... are all bad. But odds of No. 1 overall pick look promising

Justin Fields ranks dead last in ESPN’s QBR

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is wrapped up by Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Mike Danna during the first half, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo.

What more is there to say? Everything that could go wrong did go wrong Sunday for the Bears against the Kansas City Chiefs.

We’re three weeks in, and it feels as if coach Matt Eberflus’ team is on life support.

The Bears rank dead last in the NFL in net points with a minus-59 point differential through three games. The only reason the Bears’ defense isn’t dead last in points against is because the Broncos gave up 70 against Miami on Sunday. The Bears have allowed 106 points, while Denver has allowed 122.

With 13 consecutive losses dating to last year, the Bears are tied for the 25th-longest losing streak since the AFL-NFL merger. It’s now five games longer than any other Bears losing streak in team history.

The numbers are all bad. The raw numbers don’t look good for the Bears. The advanced metrics don’t either.

The QB: The offense looks broken for a variety of reasons. The offensive line is battered and was missing three starters Sunday. The receivers haven’t played great. The running game isn’t providing any help.

But some of the blame has to fall on quarterback Justin Fields.

Fields ranks dead last among 34 qualified NFL quarterbacks in ESPN’s Adjusted Total Quarterback Rating. Fields has a QBR of 21.5. He’s adding minus-14 points per game (also dead last), when compared with the average replacement level QB, according to ESPN’s metrics.

As far as the look of the offense, the Bears still aren’t really doing what they did well last year.

Per Pro Football Reference, Fields has run seven run-pass options so far this season. Off those RPOs, the QB has kept the football only twice. Teams are willing to let running backs beat them if it means keeping the ball out of Fields’ hands. A year ago, the Bears used six RPOs per game with Fields at QB.

Additionally, Fields has attempted only six passes out of play action all season. A year ago, he was averaging 5.5 pass attempts out of play action per game.

Fields is 5-23 as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

What about the O-line? It’s not all on Fields’ shoulders. The offensive line injuries matter, big time. The Bears played Sunday with backups Lucas Patrick, Ja’Tyre Carter and Larry Borom in the starting lineup. The offensive line has yet to feature all five of the expected starters.

Not surprisingly, Fields is being pressured at an above-average rate. Opponents are pressuring Fields on 20.4% of dropbacks, again per Pro Football Reference. That’s tied for the 11th-highest rate among QBs. Fields has faced the 12th-highest number of total blitzes. The only reason he doesn’t lead the league in sacks is because Washington’s Sam Howell took nine of them against Buffalo on Sunday.

No flow: This one comes from Kevin Fishbain over at The Athletic. The Bears ran only 51 offensive plays Sunday. It was the seventh time in 20 games since Eberflus took over that the Bears ran 51 or fewer plays. Since the start of last season, teams that ran 51 or fewer plays in a game are 11-42.

In 65 games under former coach Matt Nagy, that happened only five times.

The Bears achieved only 11 first downs in Sunday’s game (the Chiefs had 31). They’re averaging 15.7 first downs per game, which ranks 28th in the league.

Like receiver Darnell Mooney told Shaw Local after the game Sunday, an offense can’t find a flow or a rhythm if there’s no execution – and the Bears aren’t executing.

No pressure: Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes went 18-for-24 passing from inside the tackle box without pressure. He threw for 212 yards and three touchdowns on such plays.

Only two Bears finished better than league average in Next Gen Stats’ average separation from the QB. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was on average 3.99 yards away from Mahomes when he threw the football. Defensive tackle Andrew Billings was 4.33 yards away. All other Bears pass rushers were worse than league average Sunday.

The Bears had five QB hits but did not record a sack.

Over the 20 games since Eberflus became the head coach, the Bears have 21 sacks. They have one sack in three games this season. They are averaging a sack on 1.01% of opponents’ pass attempts. It’s an extremely small sample size, but that rate is even worse than their 4.16% sack rate last year. That number almost certainly will positively regress toward the mean.

No NFL team has finished with a sack rate below 3% since 2018.

The Bears have allowed opponents to convert on 60% of third-down attempts. Not surprisingly – this is a theme here – that ranks dead last. Sunday marked the fourth time under Eberflus that the Bears allowed 450 yards of offense or more.

Takeaways: The Bears recorded their first two takeaways of the season after Kansas City swapped Mahomes for backup Blaine Gabbert. Linebacker Jack Sanborn and safety Quindell Johnson each picked off Gabbert.

The following might be the most telling number of the day. Can you guess who the Bears’ fastest ball carrier was Sunday? Justin Fields? Nope. DJ Moore? Nope. Mooney? Nope. Roschon Johnson? Nope. Velus Jones Jr.? Nope. It helps if you have the football in your hands, something Mooney and Jones never had Sunday.

The answer is Sanborn.

Sanborn reached 19.68 mph on his interception return.

Is it too early to talk about the draft? Is it? Yes. But also no.

ESPN analytics writer Seth Walder noted that between their own draft pick and the Panthers’ top pick, the Bears have a 38% chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

So how’s that for a positive note to end on?

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.