Bears need a better protection plan vs. Lions

Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor acknowledged the “shared” responsibility for the meltdown vs. the Browns — the scheme, the offensive line, the quarterback and the coaching staff’s failure to respond to the onslaught. “Let’s learn from it and not have it happen again.”

SHARE Bears need a better protection plan vs. Lions
Bears quarterback Justin Fields was sacked nine times 67 yards in losses in a 26-6 loss to the Browns last season at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1, being sacked by Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah) was sacked nine times 67 yards in losses in a 26-6 loss to the Browns last week at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

David Richard/AP

For years, Bears coaches have tortured fans with one offensive implosion after another, then turned the knife by doubling down on the plan that failed: “I’d do the same thing again, just with better results,” or some form of that lament. 

Like a breath of fresh air, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor thankfully did not go there Thursday. Instead, he expressed regret about the game plan that ended with rookie Justin Fields getting sacked nine times in a 26-6 loss to the Browns last week. 

“When you have those types of protection issues, if I could go back a week . . . I’d have a different protection plan,” Lazor said. “We had some things in there — some of it just didn’t work the way we thought it would. We thought it was a good answer, but it just didn’t work. 

“Some of it, obviously the mechanisms to help the protection — whether it be to throw the ball faster, to move the pocket more, to help on the edges, to turn the line and help with more guys, to use tight ends more in protection — they’re all in the offense. It’s easy to say I would go back and do things differently because of what the results are. So let’s learn from it and not have it happen again.

‘‘And I do think also — [evaluating] ourselves as coaches — [that] as it was going, could we have reacted better and moved to some of those things differently? Again, today, I’d say yes.”

The blame game after the quarterback is sacked so many times always starts with the offensive line. Most pointedly, the matchup against expert pass rushers Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney exposed the Bears’ makeshift tackle duo of Jason Peters, 39, and Germain Ifedi as a critical weakness against elite competition.

“The hard thing with Germain, just like Jason, Germain missed a lot of time [in the offseason],” offensive line coach Juan Castillo said. “Jason has been here only a month. So the thing that I’m pushing is, ‘Hey, we have to be more consistent with fundamentals, and it takes time.’ 

“It takes time against good players. Those are elite players [Garrett and Clowney], so your technique has to be on point, and you have to be consistent with your fundamentals, and we’re not there yet. You can get away with that against lesser players — those guys were athletes. And it was a challenge.” 

Guards James Daniels and Cody Whitehair and center Sam Mustipher didn’t fare much better as the entire line was overwhelmed. 

“Fundamentals — just being consistent with our technique,” Castillo said. “That’s the thing we can correct and work on.”

If only it were as simple as that.

“It’s hard to have that many pass-protection issues and not honestly say it was shared,” Lazor said. “Scheme, throwing the ball on time, technique, do we have more answers and different things we could do?”

And Lazor knows that when a collapse is that complete, even teams that don’t have a Garrett and Clowney — like the Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field — will be trying to exploit the Bears’ protection vulnerability.

‘‘The players have to look in the mirror — ‘OK, this is what I put on film. So be ready,’ ’’ Lazor said. ‘‘And then as an offense, we have to make sure, ‘OK, this is what they’re going to see. . . . So we better solve it.’ ’’

What next? The protection issues were so pervasive and embarrassing that the Bears figure to go all out to avoid a repeat. When Mitch Trubisky was sacked five times in the 2019 opener against the Packers, he was not sacked at all the next week against the Broncos. 

“What we need to do,” coach Matt Nagy said, “is make sure that, ‘Hey, on your end, on certain plays, you can be a little better. But on our end, too, we can help you.’ And that’s gonna be what we need to do.”

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