Matt Eberflus swears the Bears were ready to play despite preseason limits

When Eberflus chose to sit his healthy players in the preseason, he sent a message that they were ready to go. The Packers proved they were anything but.

SHARE Matt Eberflus swears the Bears were ready to play despite preseason limits
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus watches quarterback Justin Fields warm up Sunday.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus watches quarterback Justin Fields warm up Sunday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The reigning NFC champion Eagles were flat Sunday, and coach Nick Sirianni had a theory about why: He didn’t play his best players in the preseason.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts, receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith and linemen Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson were among the offensive players who didn’t take the field for a single snap in the preseason.

‘‘If I had to do it over again right now,’’ Sirianni said Sunday, ‘‘I would say, ‘Yeah, I would have played starters one or two drives in the preseason.’ ’’

Sirianni said that after a victory in Week 1 — on the road, no less — against the Patriots. His offense sputtered, however. Hurts finished with an 89.2 passer rating and 170 passing yards.

If Sirianni can show such self-reflection, why can’t Bears coach Matt Eberflus? Despite his claims otherwise, the Bears weren’t ready to play in their 38-20 loss Sunday to the Packers at Soldier Field. The result was the Bears’ fourth-worst season-opening defeat since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

Still, Eberflus — whose Bears now have lost 11 consecutive games dating to last season — swore his team was prepared. He pointed to a first half in which the Bears merely were outscored by four points, an odd thing to be proud of.

‘‘I thought it was solid football up to that point,’’ Eberflus said Monday. ‘‘I thought the defense made some good plays. I thought the offense made some good plays. To answer your question, I would say yes, they were ready.’’

If that’s the look of a team that was ready to play, the Bears might end up being the worst team in the NFL again this season.

Eberflus had better hope quarterback Justin Fields was merely rusty, even if that turns out to be a problem of his own creation. Eberflus played Fields for only 20 of the Bears’ 181 offensive snaps in the preseason — about 11% of their plays. The Bears sat him for their second preseason game, content with the work he got in two joint practices against the Colts.

On Sunday, Fields pushed back on the notion that he was unprepared for Week 1 because he didn’t play much in the previous month.

‘‘That has no correlation,’’ Fields said.

Packers quarterback Jordan Love played 57 of his team’s 196 offensive snaps — or 29% — in the preseason. His 123.2 passer rating Sunday was the best in the NFL entering ‘‘Monday Night Football.’’

Coincidence?

‘‘You’ve gotta find a formula that works for you,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘Each individual team’s different because you’ve got experience and you’ve got youth on all different teams. And it’s all varied by the positions.’’

Cornerback Jaylon Johnson said preseason inactivity wasn’t a ‘‘big deal’’ for the defense, which didn’t commit a penalty and had only nine missed tackles. Rusty teams typically have more.

Eberflus was intentional about the amount of work he gave his players in the preseason, consulting with his medical staff and crafting three different speeds of practice — red, yellow and green, like a stoplight — that dictated snap counts.

The Bears were struck by injuries nonetheless. Center Lucas Patrick, guard Nate Davis and receiver Chase Claypool, all of whom started Sunday, didn’t play in a preseason game. Guard Teven Jenkins did, but he landed on injured reserve and won’t play until Week 5 at the earliest.

Eberflus said he has noticed in recent years that some offenses around the league start slowly because of a lack of preseason work. He bemoaned the lack of two-a-days during camp — where coaches, he said, can ‘‘put a little grind on ’em’’ — to get teams ready.

Those aren’t ever coming back. Eberflus has to adjust.

When Eberflus chose to sit his healthy players in the preseason, he sent a message that they were ready to go. The Packers proved they were anything but.

The Latest
After the wild weather early last week, summer and summer fishing patterns settle in for this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report; plus a reminder to be alert for pink salmon.
The Bears wrapped their first four-day stretch of camp Tuesday, and it’s been a mixed bag for their prized rookie.
The Bears’ decision to sign a lead running back this offseason didn’t necessarily surprise Herbert. In fact, it motivates him.
It’s the most tornadoes recorded in the Chicago area in a single storm, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologists blame conditions they call a “ring of fire” — a combination of warm, humid area near the ground and cooler air higher in the atmosphere.
Left-hander Smith, the No. 5 pick in the Draft, signs for $8 million