Bears’ offense wants wins, not stats, but gets neither in loss to Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — One of the predominant concerns over the Bears’ hiring of Matt Eberflus as coach was whether someone with a lifelong specialization in defense could invigorate the maddeningly listless offense Matt Nagy left behind.

He hasn’t done it yet, and now he’s fending off increasingly sharp questions that he has never faced in 30 years as a defensive coach. He has a nonfunctioning passing attack — Is that the right word? — amid a confluence of poor pass protection, minimal wide receiver separation and rookie-like play from quarterback Justin Fields.

That’s a huge problem, and it tripped up the Bears again Sunday as they fell 20-12 to a Giants team that at one point literally did not have a quarterback. The Bears managed four field goals, punted after four or fewer plays on 6 of 10 possessions and are averaging 16 points per game.

Feels familiar.

Their defense isn’t perfect and still needs substantial personnel upgrades, but there’s no disputing Eberflus has that on the right track. It’s impossible to make that case on offense, though, especially in the passing game.

Well, technically not impossible, apparently.

“I do think that,” Eberflus said when asked if the offense is headed the right direction. “And I see positivity there in the passing game.”

Only with a microscope.

“We ran the ball relatively well, but I do see progression during practice and I saw progress today,” he continued. “That’s a defense that [brings] a lot of pressure, and we still got the ball down the field, which was a positive.”

Almost anything would’ve qualified as improvement after Fields’ career-worst 27.7 passer rating against the Texans, but there isn’t much optimism in him going 11 of 22 for 174 yards and a 76.7 passer rating. He had five completions longer than 15 yards, one of which being a screen to running back Khalil Herbert.

That’s a bright spot only with the lowest of low bars. Backup quarterbacks around the league could give the Bears that game. Mitch Trubisky could do it.

The Bears went into Sunday at the bottom of the NFL in everything passing related, and this game isn’t going to vault them out of the basement.

So why isn’t this working?

“Who said the passing game wasn’t working?” Fields responded.

Oh, everybody.

But mostly, the numbers are doing the talking.

“Numbers don’t matter,” he said. “As long as we win, that’s all I care about.”

They do matter, actually, because numbers typically translate to wins. The Bears got neither Sunday.

Fields is correct that passer ratings and completion percentages don’t decide games outright, but they lead to points — those tend to matter — and they’re indicators of an offense’s trajectory.

At the moment, the stats don’t lie. And truthfully, Fields sees that.

“The run game and the passing game has to be good for us to compete with the good teams,” he said.

Or pretty much any team.

The Bears barely got by the winless Texans, and nobody thinks of the Giants as a contender.

Eberflus has maintained that Fields isn’t exclusively to blame for the passing woes, saying it’s everyone’s fault. But if it really is everyone’s fault, that means it’s his and general manager Ryan Poles’ fault. They pick and develop the players.

The difference between Eberflus’ old job as coordinator and new one as coach is that now he must solve all the problems, not just the ones that fall into his expertise.

“I’ve split my time pretty much equally,” he said, adding that he doesn’t plan to adjust that. “I’m in the quarterback room a lot… I spend a lot of time with each position.”

Now is the time to get more involved with the offense and coordinator Luke Getsy. The Bears can’t say it’s early anymore, and they can’t live in denial about the passing game. And fixing the offense will factor heavily into whetherEberflus ultimately succeeds.

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