First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday season. As we enter the last day of 2023, I am thankful to have completed my full year with BearGogglesOn since I began writing for the website last November.
Compared to where the Bears were a year ago, the Bears look to be heading in the right direction. Still, they currently sit at 6-9 and remain in the playoff race despite blowing three games(Denver, Detroit, and Cleveland) with a double-digit lead entering the fourth quarter. Had they not blown those games, the Bears are 9-6 and are definitely in the wild card race.
Hopefully, the last two games can offer more clarity to the questions that the Bears will no doubt face this upcoming offseason. Here are my 4 Bears thoughts entering Week 17.
Thought No. 1: Barely beating the Cardinals does not help Matt Eberflus' cause for staying as the head coach
After blowing another double-digit lead the week before against the Cleveland Browns in a meaningful December game that the Bears played in a while, the fans' interest in the Arizona Cardinals game probably lost so much interest. The Browns' loss killed any momentum the Bears of making the playoffs although it was always a long shot.
It did not help the game was held on late afternoon kickoff on Christmas Eve when people were too busy making last-minute preparations for Christmas. The next day the Dallas Cowboys versus Miami Dolphins game was also played at the same time, which was a far more interesting game.
The good news is the Bears beat the hapless Arizona Cardinals 27-16 and did not ruin our Christmas holiday spirit. The Bears could not have asked for a better start when they jumped out to a 21-0 lead to start the game, scoring three touchdowns on their first four drives.
Quarterback Justin Fields opened the scoring on a 4-yard run on their second possession, thanks largely to tight end Cole Kmet who caught a 53-yard pass as he adjusted to his throw and the Bears the Cardinals' defense committing a defensive holding on 3rd and goal.
Unlike the Browns game, the Bears relied on their run game led by Khalil Herbert, who has been slowed by a high ankle sprain, finally looked healthy and showed a nice burst. He also scored on an 11-yard touchdown run to cap off an 11-play, 90-yard drive on their second possession.
The third touchdown came on the fourth drive, where Fields found veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis back in the end zone. Once again, Fields found Kmet once again, when he caught a 29-yard pass, but it came with a price as he got shaken up badly and did not return to the game in the second half.
But as usual, the Bears make things difficult for them. After taking 21-0 lead, the Bears defense went to sleep as the Cardinals moved down the field, and scored a touchdown. From there, the offense struggled to get back on track as they did not score another touchdown the rest of the game.
The Cardinals cut the lead to 24-16 late in the fourth quarter thanks to a bad interception thrown by Justin Fields inside their red zone. But they failed on a two-point conversion instead of kicking PAT, which the Bears should thank the first-year Arizona Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon for their decision. Rather than blowing another lead, the Bears manage to close out the game this time.
Still, it is very disturbing that the Bears cannot finish games largely due to an offense that keeps sputtering and the defense unable to stop when they go into prevent defense in the second half. Eberflus himself is a liability to what ail the Bears, and he did not help his own cause to be brought back for the 2024 season following the Cardinals game.
When general manager Ryan Poles is asking his head coach to work on those exact things that the Bears have had problems with this season and Eberflus seems to have no answers, his job status remains shaky and the Cardinals game did not help his case for staying in 2024.