(670 The Score) Question the quarterback if you want.
Call for the head coach's head too, out of habit.
Heck, judge the general manager 21 months into the job as well.
Every criticism about the Bears applies after their 41-10 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday in Kansas City that was even more lopsided than the score. Every arrow has a deserving target.
Should you blame the stunningly bad football at Halas Hall on A) quarterback Justin Fields B) coach Matt Eberflus or C) general manager Ryan Poles?
Trick question: It’s D) All of the above.
As September ends, the Bears do nothing well. Unofficially, they lead the league only in weaknesses and disappointment.
Don’t be fooled by the Bears outscoring the Chiefs 10-7 in the second half, progress that coaches and players might try to claim in explaining how the bottom suddenly fell out. Truthfully, nothing positive happened at Arrowhead Stadium until the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard clock.
The only Bears move worth mentioning was more of a gesture than a play, coming in the fourth quarter when receiver D.J. Moore hastened sideline personnel to get Fields off the field after Fields took a hit to the helmet. It was Moore playing the role of leader and good teammate, the kind of heads-up play the Bears lacked the rest of the game. Except for that example of Moore being aware, the Bears were inept.
This is what it looks like when the NFL’s best team plays its worst, and you didn’t have to compare their 2022 season records to see the disparity between the Chiefs and the Bears. The gap is as wide as one of Taylor Swift’s smiles the Fox cameras captured in Travis Kelce’s suite and as sad as one of her songs, an ode to incompetence that unfortunately everybody in Chicago knows by heart.
For the Bears, this 31-point loss was the kind of humiliation that leaves a mark on a resume and threatens to define a season. This was Marc Trestman-era terrible, alarming enough to mobilize a fan base and roust a McCaskey. This was worse than promised in the second season of Poles and Eberflus, a loss discouraging enough to question everything about everyone.
Are you seeing this, Kevin Warren? And, yes, I’m ready to ask again what your mom thinks, George McCaskey. Is she “pissed off," George?
Virginia McCaskey and every family member paying attention should be. Goodness, this stinks at 1920 Football Drive. The town of Lake Forest really should rename it “1920 (Bad) Football Drive.’’
The embarrassment came at the end of an extraordinary week, even for the Bears, who can’t seem to get out of their own way. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned Wednesday under mysterious circumstances, clarified somewhat Sunday when several outlets reported that inappropriate conduct forced Williams’ resignation – not criminal activity that had been widely speculated. No explanation can change how such a development can rock an organization.
The news broke on the same day Fields included “coaching” in an answer about why he had played robotically through the first two games, a comment that – sorry, apologists – wasn’t out of context and revealed more inexperience than insolence. Sure, Fields meant no disrespect to his coaches, but the episode served as a reminder of the NFL code that veteran quarterbacks accept about always blaming themselves.
Nonetheless, the ensuing controversy compelled Poles to address reporters a day later, his appearance more significant than anything Poles actually said. Poles and Eberflus constantly preach about culture, to the point of using acronyms, but they can’t use such lofty words or ideals as a crutch when an assistant coach leaves the organization for inappropriate behavior and the franchise quarterback blames coaching.
It’s that kind of dysfunction that intensifies hot seats and accelerates timelines. It’s that loss of control over, well, everything on and off the field that cost Trestman his job after his second year, a disastrous 2014 season that set a modern-day franchise standard for absurdity.
Until now? Is it that dysfunctional? Hmmm. That’s a fair question.
On social media, I asked X followers @DavidHaugh if the 34-0 halftime deficit was the worst half of football since … when? The answers ranged from the Bears' debacle against the Packers in 2014 to the night at the Meadowlands in 2010 when the Giants sacked Jay Cutler to the hapless Abe Gibron era to, well, ever. This isn't the debate a passionate football city welcomes in Week 3. Futility has become such a staple of the organization, it should be sponsored.
Where to even start fixing it when the entire operation appears broken? What’s wrong with the Bears? Well, if we’re honest, everything. By the time the Chiefs had 21 points, Fields had thrown for 29 yards. How does that even happen?
There are 14 games left?
In the NFL, three straight losses constitute a crisis. Now 0-3, the Bears must view this week as starting over because they have no other choice. Reduce it to a 14-game season, give everyone a fresh start and focus on starting 1-0. Make beating the Broncos all that matters. It’s corny but necessary, required for a team with no identity or direction. Resist peeking ahead at a schedule that looks somewhat forgiving; the Broncos, Commanders, Vikings and Raiders will view the woebegone Bears the same way.
Out of habit, the scrutiny will surround Fields by the growing number of video experts emerging. One of the points of contention remains how long Fields holds onto the ball. He's not improving. He might not have a smart scheme or a talented supporting cast, but he’s not improving.
On third-and-6 from the Chiefs’ 36-yard line in the first quarter, for instance, Fields was sacked for an eight-yard loss by Pro Bowl defensive lineman Chris Jones. The Chiefs had enough awareness to align Jones over Bears rookie right tackle Darnell Wright – an example of the ways Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will seek mismatches. Spagnuolo guessed right, as Wright whiffed trying to slow Jones. Instead of sensing trouble from the get-go, Fields took the sack trying to escape the pocket rather than throw the ball away. The sack prevented the Bears from attempting a long-but-makeable field goal for kicker Cairo Santos and gave critics another example to point to when arguing Fields lacks an innate sense in the pocket.
Fields completed 11 of 22 passes for 99 yards and a 58.7 passer rating while rushing 11 times for 47 yards. He never looked comfortable.
Even when Fields threw the rare accurate pass, the football gods frowned. Fields placed a perfect pass downfield on the right sideline to Moore, who dropped it. It went right through his grasp. When the most dependable player on the roster drops a pass he routinely catches, hope gets even harder to find. Heads dropped. Shoulders slumped. Momentum was nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs kicked up their feet in their kingdom. Every wide receiver was open by at least a step, every running back hit holes, every Patrick Mahomes pass looked like he had enough time to wave to his family in the Arrowhead Stadium crowd before delivering a strike. Without even playing in the fourth quarter, Mahomes completed 24 of 33 passes for 272 yards and three touchdown passes for a 127.3 passer rating. Mahomes wasn’t sacked as the Bears' pass rush remains a rumor. Blaine Gabbert mopped up for Mahomes and threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter that Bears defensive coaches will try to use as evidence of growth.
Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, especially, had to enjoy beating his former employer with such ease. Nagy, as affable as ever, collaborates on game plans with coach Andy Reid, and both were smiling after the Chiefs’ first touchdown. After a fake jet sweep that sucked in the Bears defensive line, including Yannick Ngakoue, Mahomes flipped a forward pass to running back Jerick McKinnon for a six-yard scoring pass. The rout was on. Later, the Chiefs executed a double pass that gained nine in a game lopsided enough for Nagy and Reid to fearlessly finagle with their offense. This wasn’t a challenge to the Chiefs as much as it was calisthenics at game speed, an exercise to stay sharp for the legitimate teams on their schedule. Remember the Lions beat the Chiefs 17 days earlier on the same field the Bears were outclassed.
“Let’s not sugarcoat it, this is a flat-out disaster — the first half couldn’t have gone worse," Fox play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt declared at 31-0.
“Just spiraling out of control," agreed analyst Greg Olsen, a former Bear who knows.
“The Bears are never, ever, ever getting back in this game,’’ Fox host Curt Menefee added at halftime, a nod to a Swift song title.
Now what? Keeping with the “Swiftie” theme, the Bears look like they need to Begin Again, a process they know All Too Well after only one winning season in the past decade.
There are no wrong answers to what happens next, not when it involves finally finding the right direction.
The only thing certain? The Bears have nowhere to go but up.