The Bears’ offense is getting better, but it’s still not winning them games.
In the final two minutes of three of the last four losses, the Bears had the ball with a chance to take the lead. It didn’t go well:
o Against the Vikings, Ihmir Smith-Marsette fumbled at the Vikings’ 39 with 1:01 to play. He was cut nine days later.
o Against the Commanders, receiver Darnell Mooney dropped a touchdown pass on fourth down with 30 seconds to play.
o And against the Dolphins, receiver Equanimeous St. Brown dropped a first down on fourth-and-10 with 1:29 remaining — one play after Chase Claypool didn’t get a pass interference call at the Dolphins’ 23.
For all the buzz around quarterback Justin Fields and the growth of an offense that has scored 94 points over the last three games, the Bears know they need to score when they need it most.
“That’s the next step, right?” tight end Cole Kmet said. “I think we’re putting up points, and the past few weeks we’ve been able to do that. But I think if we want to be a championship team, that’s what the NFL is: two-minute situations, end of half, end of the game, executing in those situations. That’s the next step for the offense.”
The last few steps have been exciting enough for offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to call some of Fields’ plays “miraculous” with a straight face Thursday. But the next one is critical.
This season, Bears have played 14 fourth-quarter drives either tied or trailing by eight points or fewer. They’ve scored one touchdown — to go ahead against the 49ers in the rain-soaked opener — and made two field goals. They’ve averaged only 4.09 yards per play in such situations. They threw one interception, fumbled twice and turned the ball over downs three times.
The latest turnover on downs came after St. Brown’s drop.
“Of course we wanted to go down there and drive,” Fields said. “[St. Brown] just had a tough drop. I mean, it is what it is, you move on, you learn from it and get better. It’s that simple. …
“I think certain plays, people aren’t going to be perfect in all the situations. Of course, we want that back, he wants that back but we’re just going to keep grinding. Of course, we do situational stuff each and every week in practice. So we’re just going to keep grinding at that.”
Bears coaches, in fact, have said that they’ve never seen a head coach stress situational football more than Matt Eberflus. It shows at the end of the first half — but not the second.
In their last three games, the Bears have scored a whopping 27 points in the final two minutes of the first half. They’ve scored in the final two minutes of the first half in all but one of their last seven games.
“I think when you’re in those [first half] situations you can still kind of stick to just running your offense, and knowing they’re going to be in their base stuff … ” Kmet said. “It’s a little different between that and the end of the game when you have a two-minute situation and it’s known passing, or they know that they can allow some yards.”
When it comes to the end of games, the Bears are still “trying to figure those things out,” guard Cody Whitehair said. Doing it Sunday, with the game on the line, would be another sign of growth.
“It’s about executing, like anything else,” Getsy said. “The guys are getting better at executing. And then when it comes down to those moments … it always is about the players, and they gotta make those opportunities and take advantage of them. They’ve been doing a great job of executing and giving us a chance.”