McGraw: Bears had 8 months to fix last year's problems. It looks like they didn't.
The incompetent juggernaut known as the NFL returned this weekend.
Besides staging 16 games, the league also renewed Game Pass subscriptions, then told customers the coaches film feature was "under development" and would be available later this season.
What part of internet video technology have you not figured out yet, NFL? What are the barriers that made it available in previous years, but not this year?
Well, the league can try to silence Bears Film Study, but it's back for 2021 and quickly discovered not much has changed with the Monsters.
Same old, same old:
At the end of last year, the Bears suffered from poor run support by their safeties, a lack of depth in the secondary, slow linebackers that were getting picked on in pass coverage and questionable performances from the offensive line.
Sunday's 34-14 loss to the Rams included all of the above. Having played the Bears four years in a row, Rams coach Sean McVay probably didn't even check his notes before writing the game plan. He knew what would work.
One question from this game: Would it have made a difference if the Bears didn't give up those two ridiculous long touchdowns? The two plays were essentially the same. A Rams receiver was covered by a Bears corner and as he went deep, the corner -- Jaylon Johnson the first time, Marqui Christian the second time -- pulled up, seemingly content to pass the receiver onto the safeties. Of course, the safeties had no interest in this strategy and basically watched Van Jefferson and Cooper Kupp run past them.
Nothing happened in this game to suggest the Bears defense was ever going to stop the Rams. Those big plays just hastened the inevitable.
Would it have made a difference if the Bears scored a touchdown on their opening drive? It would have helped. An argument can be made that Matt Nagy should have challenged the obvious pass interference against Allen Robinson that wasn't called on a third-and-2 play in the second quarter. Another chance to score squandered.
Too many problems:
The Bears having so many unaddressed issues emphasizes the draft-night argument that trading up for a quarterback was a terrible idea. Nothing against Justin Fields, but by ignoring their greatest needs with this year's first-round pick, then trading next year's first-rounder to move up in the draft, the Bears are doing everything they can to make Fields the Quarterback of a Bleak Future.
The move doesn't even make sense from a "Ryan Pace trying to save his job" perspective. He won't salvage anything if the Bears win four games this fall.
It would have made more sense to draft a defensive back or offensive lineman or anyone who could make an impact, play this season with Andy Dalton and Nick Foles behind center, then draft a quarterback next year when he'd have a better supporting cast around him. Again, nothing against Fields, but if he was a can't-miss, surefire future superstar, Urban Meyer would have taken him.
Let's go with the first-quarter interception and talk about what it revealed. The Bears did a poor job in the red zone last year and ran the same ineffective play where five receivers ran straight lines into the end zone and Mitch Trubisky lobbed it up, hoping Robinson could come down with the jump ball. It rarely worked, but Green Bay always scored against the Bears simply by having two receivers cross paths in the end zone, creating some separation.
So as the Bears faced a third down at the 8-yard line, we wondered if the offseason brought better red-zone play. The answer was no. It was tough to tell where Dalton was even throwing the ball, since he had Cole Kmet short, Darnell Mooney long and the pass was tipped by the defense.
Almost as bad was the play that followed David Montgomery's 41-yard run. The Bears handed it to Damien Williams for no gain. On the broadcast, they talked about how the Rams often lined up without any linebackers behind the line. On this play, left guard Cody Whitehair ran out to the second level and there was no one there. He ended up blocking a safety, while tackle Jason Peters was left to block two guys and one of them was Aaron Donald.
The third-down pass where Jimmy Graham lined up wide, shoved Jalen Ramsey out of the way and set up a TD. A coach scheming based on personnel just warms the heart.
Right guard James Daniels had a nice game and was by far the Bears' best blocker. He was a candidate for most improved player last year, but only played in five games due to injury. Center Sam Mustipher did OK, Whitehair had to deal with Donald a lot.
Before leaving with an injury, Peters really struggled. Can the 39-year-old be better once he gets in football shape? Good question. Also of note, the play before leaving with an injury, rookie Larry Borom made a nice kick out block on Rams DL A'Shawn Robinson while Williams ran for a first down.
Short on coverage:
This game was a lot like last year, where the Bears cornerbacks saw very few passes come their way. The Rams added a twist to the usual "pick on Danny Trevathan" scheme by targeting Roquan Smith the most on Sunday. He couldn't keep up with TE Tyler Higbee on a key 19-yard completion in the third quarter when the score was 20-14.
According to pro-football-reference.com, Matthew Stafford targeted Smith five times and Christian four times. Last year it would have been Trevathan and nickel back Buster Skrine, but this was another example of new year, same problems.