Despite losing five of their last six games, Chicago Bears fans are actually feeling pretty good about the team right now. A lot of their cap is tied up in dead money, they’ve traded away some of their best, veteran players, and they’ve tallied more defensive rookie snaps than any other team in the NFL. That is not the recipe for immediate success, and they know it.
But signs of future success are there, and it starts with quarterback Justin Fields, who is finally coming into his own after around 20 NFL starts. With some draft resources in the future and an extremely clean salary cap beyond 2022, there is a path to a somewhat quick turnaround in Chicago—if new general manager Ryan Poles uses those resources well.
However, this week we wanted to hear about all the Chicago Bears’ insecurities as it pertains to this week’s matchup with the Detroit Lions. Where can the Lions exploit them? Who is struggling for the Bears? In short, why will the Detroit Lions win on Sunday?
So we asked Josh Sunderbruch of Windy City Gridiron to give us three reasons the Lions will defeat the Bears on Sunday.
Note: He is not necessarily picking the Lions to win this game, but rather giving us three reasons why they could. Here are his answers:
Reason #1: The Chicago defense has no identity
If I just mentioned “Morrow, Sanborn, and Gipson” to you without any context, you might think I was mentioning a legal firm–probably one working in patent law or something equally boring. Instead, those were the three linebackers who took the most snaps for the Bears against Miami. The secondary is the “bright spot” of the team, but there is only one real corner to worry about in Jaylon Johnson and the best pass-rusher on the team is Dominique Robinson, a fifth-round draft pick who didn’t even play defense until his senior year of college.
The defense is vulnerable to an offense that is able to spread the ball around, and right now it just can’t stop a drive. It really feels like “we held them to field goals some of the time” is the moral victory for this crew, at least until they get some more seasoning.
Reason #2: Justin Fields has no reliable weapons
The trade for Chase Claypool will probably pay dividends soon enough, but on Sunday the wide receiver that the Steelers felt was disposable will be in only his second game in this offense. Darnell Mooney and David Montgomery are great complementary pieces, but Mooney is not a true WR1 and Montgomery is a volume back–not an efficient mover of the chains. Cole Kmet came up with two touchdowns against Miami, but he has yet to pick up 50 yards in a single game this year and there have been questions all season about whether or not Chicago needed to move on from him.
In short, there is no one guy on this team that a defense needs to worry about. There’s nobody who is going to help Justin Fields break a game open, and there’s a reason he’s been making so many plays with his legs–because he hasn’t really had a lot of other options. Slow him down, and the whole offense stagnates.
Reason #3: Sam Mustipher
Prior to this last week, the Bears had allowed the worst sack rate in the NFL. Admittedly the Colts’ Sam Ehlinger did a lot to rescue them from that ignominy. However, Fields has still been sacked 33 times this season, and 69 times in his 21-game career. That’s an amazing ratio any way you look at it. I would be justified in simply saying “pass protection” as a reason the Bears could lose this game. However, I need to single out Sam Mustipher, the man who actually snaps the ball, for the special brand of awful he brings to the football field on his bad days.
Mustipher was so bad at one point this season that ESPN’s Next Gen Stats actually assigned him a perfect pass-blocking rate because it took defenders so little time to blow past him that they counted his man as a free rusher. The microchips that track every movement these players make? They couldn’t even figure out that Mustipher was even trying to stop his man. Mustipher has gotten marginally better as the season has gone on, but there was so much room for improvement that any team (or even a single player) who can manage an interior push can give this offense problems.