The Chicago Bears has their worst loss of the season on Sunday when they fell to the New York Jets 31-10, hitting a five-game losing streak for the third year in a row. This loss was different from the previous four, however, as the Bears were without their budding star quarterback Justin Fields due to a left shoulder injury. Without Fields, journeyman Trevor Siemian got the start and failed to do much after a solid couple of drives that resulted in all 10 points to open the game.
The Jets were also onto a new quarterback after they benched former second overall pick Zach Wilson in favor of Mike White. The change paid off as White carved up the Bears with three touchdowns and no turnovers as New York tries to keep pace with the playoff chase. The Bears, meanwhile, are in the driver’s seat for one of the top picks in next year’s draft.
In the grand scheme of things, this game meant very little to the direction of the Bears aside from a couple potentially big injuries sustained during action. Fields didn’t have a role to play so his development wasn’t a factor and the defense was without two of their foundational pieces in Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker. But there were still things to be learned and observed. Here are our takeaway’s from Sunday’s loss.
1. This game went as everyone expected
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 27: Trevor Siemian #15 of the Chicago Bears prepares to take a snap in the first half of a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on November 27, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Aside from a wild pregame frenzy where nobody knew who the starting quarterback would be until the absolute last second, this game essentially went as everyone expected. The Jets were easily the better team on both sides of the ball and got a shot in the arm with their quarterback change. Defensively, they were able to swallow up the Bears offense without Fields and dialed up the pressure to keep them at bay.
Nobody was expecting the offense to look significantly better with Siemian at the helm and it seemed obvious the Bears were in for a long day facing a new quarterback without two of their defensive building blocks and a front seven that is below average. The Bears are a bad football team and played as such. There’s no big revelation here this week.
2. The offense needs Justin Fields to succeed
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Matt Eberflus of the Chicago Bears looks on during the first half of a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on November 27, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Believe it or not, there were individuals saying the Bears offense might actually improve in the passing game with Siemian starting instead of Fields. The holidays really can make say and do crazy things. Siemian is perfectly fine as a backup quarterback. He can step in and do enough to keep teams in games but he isn’t a gamechanger like Fields. Not many quarterbacks in the league are, really. It was painfully obvious that this offense needs Fields to survive and thrive.
Over Fields’ last five games, the Bears averaged just under 30 points per game. This week, they managed just 10 without him. Even though he’s still developing as a passer, it’s clear Fields is the driving force behind their success. It was honestly clear in the weeks prior but hopefully this game drives that fact home for those who still had doubts.
3. Trevor Siemian showed where Fields can improve
With all of that being said about Fields, Sunday’s game with Siemian did offer a bit of insight as to how the second-year quarterback can continue to develop. Early on, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy had Siemian running quick passes and screens that moved the ball downfield. Siemian was accurate with his throws and on time, until the Jets defense adjusted and things began breaking down for him. But it goes to show Fields can still improve with some of his timing throws and getting the ball out of his hand quicker.
Siemian was brought up in a West Coast offense when he was drafted by the Denver Broncos and thrives in that scheme. Fields simply isn’t that type of quarterback, but he can continue to develop to get better in those areas. You don’t want to bottle him up and try and coach his playmaking tendencies out of him. Rather, the Bears need to build on those areas while still embracing his big-play mentality. Hopefully he was able to take some of that in while on the bench this week.
4. Chase Claypool needs to build on this game
Nov 27, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Chase Claypool (10) runs with the ball against the New York Jets during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
It wasn’t exactly a coming out party for Chase Claypool as a Bear, but he did have his best game since he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers a month ago. Claypool caught two passes for 51 yards on the day. He led the team in receiving and finished second in targets with five. His highlight was an underthrown deep ball that he caught while being interfered with by Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. It was encouraging, but this needs to be a building point the rest of the way.
The Bears’ top receiver Darnell Mooney is expected to be out for the year with an ankle injury, meaning someone else on the receiving corps needs to step up. With respect to the other receivers, Claypool needs to be that player. He’s essentially the only other wide receiver besides Mooney who will be counted on in 2023 (sorry Velus Jones Jr.) and a strong finish to the season can do wonders. Claypool might still be learning the offense but there needs to be continued progress from him after this game.
5. Losing Eddie Jackson will hurt in more ways than one
Nov 27, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Elijah Moore (8) gains yards after the catch as Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson (4) pursues during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Speaking of injuries, safety Eddie Jackson might have suffered a significant one as well on Sunday. The veteran safety collapsed to the ground on a Jets scoring play and was immediately ruled out with a leg injury. The severity is still unknown at this time but anytime a player gets ruled out almost immediately, it’s never good.
Jackson had been in the midst of a renaissance season before this injury. Not only did he have four interceptions, he was named a team captain midway through the year. He’s dealt with personal and professional hardships the last year so and seeing him succeed again was one of the bright spots of the season. With Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith both getting traded within the last six weeks, Jackson was the unquestioned leader of the defense. He was the one to speak up when Fields apologized to the team after last week’s loss and has seemingly earned the new coaching staff’s trust after an uncertain offseason. He’s been the constant presence in an ever changing secondary and that’s going to be a big loss should he miss the season.
6. A high draft pick won't fix all of the Bears problems
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 27: David Montgomery #32 of the Chicago Bears runs for yards in the second half of a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on November 27, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
For the last couple of weeks, Bears fans have softened up their stance on losses and have used them as an opportunity to look forward to the 2023 NFL Draft in hopes of landing one of the top picks. It’s understandable considering it looks like the team has the quarterback position figured out with Fields and now needs to build a team around him in order to become competitive. For example, names like Will Anderson from Alabama and Jalen Carter from Georgia, two of the top prospects at this point in time, could be difference makers on defense that is starving for a consistent pass rush.
But it’s going to take more than one player to fix this team and seeing progress at all areas is very important for the final five games of the season. If the Bears can see continued development from players such as Brisker, Gordon, Teven Jenkins, Braxton Jones, Trevis Gipson, etc. it’s going to be extremely beneficial to know who can be counted on to be key contributors moving forward.
The draft and the offseason are always exciting times. Anything can happen and the belief is that the team will improve in almost every area from the previous season. The entire team will not turn over, however, and learning who can be a contributor next year over the next month or so should be as important as where this team will pick next year, if not more.