Fans were optimistic that after an offseason full of roster reshaping, the Chicago Bears would be a better team in 2023. And while that is still on the table — only one game has been played, after all — the season opener against the Green Bay Packers was nothing short of a disaster.
Bears fans may have been worried that Jordan Love, who takes over for Aaron Rodgers as the Packers’ starting quarterback, will be the third straight for-sure Hall of Famer in a row for Green Bay.
That obviously still could be the case but while Love had a good day, especially as the game wore on, he wasn’t the key player for the Pack.
It was running back Aaron Jones who shredded the Bears’ defense. And it was the entire Packers’ defensive line that made the Bears’ offensive line look like subway turnstiles.
The 2023 season opener for the Chicago Bears was a complete embarrassment.
Indeed, Bears fans had concerns that quarterback Justin Fields wouldn’t be able to take the next step toward success — and they didn’t get an answer either way.
Fields’ numbers were pedestrian early, though as the game wore on, Green Bay’s pass rush made his life extremely difficult. His game was marred by a fumble and an interception and he was sacked four times.
In other words, the jury is still very much out on Fields. He did fire a nice touchdown strike to Darnell Mooney but he also appeared to be hamstrung by playcalling that didn’t take advantage of his running ability. Most of his yardage on the ground came after scrambles.
And scrambling was necessary. Not only did the offensive line consistently fail to stop, or even slow, the Green Bay pass rush, but receivers also struggled to get open.
If the Bears’ problems were limited to strategy and execution, that would be one thing. Even great teams have bad games. But the Bears also committed too many penalties. There were back-to-back false starts at one point.
The game became less about Jordan Love versus Justin Fields and more about the Bears’ continuing sixty-minute meltdown.
The good news for Bears fans is that while round one of the Fields/Love debate goes to Love, it was less about a dominant performance by Love and more about total team failures. That’s also the bad news for Bears fans.
I do not want to overreact to one out of 17 games, and the Bears could certainly recover from this debacle to have a competitive season.
But it is worrisome to see that some of 2022’s problems have continued, at least for one week. It’s concerning that a defense that is supposed to be improved could not stop the run and hardly touched Love.
It’s troubling that an offensive line that is supposed to be upgraded was unable to protect Fields and establish a consistent running game.
There were, of course, added emotions. There’s the Bears-Packers rivalry and the Packers’ recent dominance.
There’s the fear that Jordan Love will follow in the footsteps of Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre and spend the next 15 years torturing Chicago.
There’s the fear that Fields could be a failure — that would be hard to handle if Love turns out to be bad or merely mediocre, and devasting if he turns out to be a star.
Oh, and the game was a home contest for Chicago, and televised as the Game of the Week in most Fox TV markets. It’s bad enough to get blown out by any team, and worse when much of the blowout is your own fault, but adding in all those additional factors just adds to Chicago fans’ pain.
And it really, truly is embarrassing for a team to come out and play this poorly against its rival in the season opener.
While the coaching staff can legitimately be questioned for some play-calling and decision-making, and Fields clearly still has work to do, it was the performance in the trenches by both the offensive and defensive lines that was truly putrid.
I understand that sometimes players will simply get beat. It happens. But both lines looked like they didn’t belong on the same field.
And while Green Bay certainly has talent, the Packers are not projected to be a Super Bowl contender this year. Yes, perhaps they are better than the Bears.
They almost certainly are. But the ceiling for Green Bay seems to be an early exit from the playoffs. They are not an unbeatable team. Yet, the Bears made them look that way.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the game was the Bears hanging their heads on the sidelines early in the second half — before they mounted a brief comeback that they could not sustain. They looked defeated.
That, along with their overall performance, is unacceptable.
If I were coaching the Bears, I would challenge them by asking them this — do they want this loss to set the tone for another season that will end with fewer than 5 wins?
Or do they want to respond by playing good football, stacking some wins, and taking the next step in their rebuild, even if they fall short of postseason play?
If the answer is the latter, that would be the correct response. But if they want to get to where they’d like to go, they have to show effort and execution which was entirely lacking Sunday.
If they don’t, expect more embarrassments like this — regardless of who the opponent is.