It became pretty clear, pretty early last Sunday, that whatever the Bears’ offensive plan was against the Browns, it wasn’t going to work. By now we’ve all seen the stats which highlight the historic ineptitude, so there’s no need to rehash the poor performance. But as the week went on the Bears continued their search for the “whys.”
On Thursday, Bill Lazor revealed a little bit of what he thought went wrong, and what didn’t go wrong. And in his opinion, he thought the Bears were actually well-equipped to do a better job of limiting Cleveland’s pass rush.
“I didn’t feel like we were ill-prepared as far as the amount of stuff, because usually you have enough in if they decide to play more one-high defense, or more press-man,” Lazor said. “You usually have enough in, unless they do something totally out of this world.
“Obviously we have mechanisms to help the protection, whether it be to throw the ball faster, to move the pocket more, to help on the edges, to turn the line and help with more guys, to use tight ends more in protection, all of the different answers that we have, and they’re all in the offense.
“You have enough in to react.”
The problem was, they didn’t react.
“It’s easy to sit here and say it, but I’ll say it anyway: when you have those type of protection issues, if I could go back a week一 I can’t, but if I could一 I’d have a different protection plan. We had some things in there, some of it just didn’t work the way we thought it would, but we thought it was a good answer. It just didn’t work.
“As it was going一 obviously at a certain point in the game you’re in two-minute mode一 but as it was going, could we have reacted better and moved to some of those things differently? Again, today, I’d say yes.”
The team has already acknowledged they probably should’ve gotten Justin Fields out of the pocket more, whether it be on play actions or designed runs, and they could’ve called more screens to slow down the Browns pass rush. Another thing the Bears could have done differently was to bring in an extra tight end to help chip opposing pass rushers. Out of 42 offensive plays, the Bears brought in an extra blocker 17 times, by my count. That 40% help rate might be higher than what it seemed when watching the game in real time, but if the offensive line needs even more help moving forward, the skill players seem happy to oblige.
“We're totally capable of doing that stuff,” said Cole Kmet. “And we're more than willing to do that stuff, especially when you're going against pass rushes like we did last week. At the end of the day, we're doing what we gotta do and we're doing what we're told, but we're more than willing to do those things. Anyway we can help the team move the ball, start scoring touchdowns, we're willing to do.”
Bringing in a tight end or running back to bolster the line wasn’t always enough, however. On at least four of the Browns’ sacks, the Bears had brought in at least one extra blocker. On one of those sacks, they actually had two extra blockers.
When it comes to a lack of execution, Germain Ifedi has been the one man to draw the most pointed criticism from Bears fans after the big loss. He’s been highlighted on missed blocks and has now committed a false start on a 3rd-and-1 play in two-straight weeks. When speaking to the media on Thursday, he echoed Lazor’s sentiment about needing to adjust, but from the players’ perspective.
“Just speaking for the O-line, I think we could have adjusted quicker,” Ifedi said. “Some of the stunts they were showing us. Some of the looks they were showing us. Some of the things they were even doing when we were able to run the ball. They were slanting a little bit there, for sure on my side and on Jason’s side, they were kind of slanting us. So just things we can adjust on.
“Me, myself, I have to adjust too. So just continue to adjust and continue to adapt when you see what they’re throwing at you. Because every defense has a game plan they’re going to throw at you. And once they hit you in the mouth, you can’t keep getting it in the mouth. You’ve got to eventually adjust, duck and move, and make your adjustment. Because that’s what we’re paid to do. We’re paid to adjust to their adjustment. And they’re paid to adjust to our adjustment. It’s just a give and take.”
In the end, the truth of what happened on Sunday lies somewhere in the middle. The blame deserves to be shared. Could the coaching staff have made more adjustments, and made those adjustments sooner? Yes. Did players make mistakes even when they were put in better positions to succeed? Also yes. Even Justin Fields shares some blame, as there were times he could’ve had a completion, but he waited a moment too long before throwing the ball.
Bears players have said all week that nothing the Browns showed them was a surprise. They’d seen it before and knew what to expect, they just didn’t execute.
“Do we have enough tools and answers for our guys?” Lazor said. “When you have that many (sacks), it’s一 I’m not trying to give like a canned answer, but it is pretty shared. Like scheme, throwing the ball on time, technique, do we have more answers and different things we could do. It’s hard to have that many pass protection issues and not honestly say it was shared.”
The blame was shared, and now input for the offense will be shared more, as well. Nagy has made it clear he’s opened his door for input on how to correct things, from either players or coaches. They’ll work on implementing as much as they can to get things back on track. The only question is if they can do it, and how long it will take.