Bears @ Chargers
Final Score: Chargers 30, Bears 13
Writer: Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)
In a Sunday Night showdown between two teams who have come up short of the high expectations many had for them before the season, the Chargers had no problem moving the ball through the air while Tyson Bagent struggled in his second career start. Austin Ekeler set the tone once he took a short screen pass to the house for a 39 yard score, and the Chargers did not face much resistance in the first half on offense. They struggled a bit in the second half, but the game was already out of reach by that point as Chicago’s offensive playcalling was lackluster at best.
- Austin Ekeler – The main beneficiary of a Chicago defense that didn’t challenge any thing thrown within five yards of the line of scrimmage
- Justin Herbert – Didn’t force anything on the night and took what was given to him
- Cole Kmet – Looked to be fully in sync with Tyson Bagent, hauling in all ten of his targets
- Quentin Johnston – Had his most active night of his career and flashed the skillset that draft evaluators loved
- Tyson Bagent – Still has a lot to learn if he wants to be successful long term at the NFL level
- Joshua Palmer – Was nursing a knee injury coming into the game, reinjured it at one point but didn’t let him knock it out. Had a quiet game
- Bears RBs – None of them did much of anything against a tough rushing defense
Tyson Bagent: 25/37, 232 yards, 2 INT, Sack, Fumble | 4 carries, -1 yard, TD
With Justin Fields standing on the sideline looking cool as a cucumber in his sunglasses while still nursing a dislocated thumb, Tyson Bagent stepped in and made his second career start. It did not exactly go as well as everyone in Bears Nation (is that a thing?) had hoped. Look, Bagent throws a nice, tight ball. He’s got plenty of zip on the ball, and as a Patriots fan I wish our own QB had that skillset. At one point, Cris Collinsworth spoke on how many yards Bagent throw in High School and College combined (weird flex) and brought up Malcom Gladwell’s 10.000 hours and how Bagent had mastered the art of throwing the football. Which, mechanically, sure. He showed off that talent midway through the first quarter on a throw to Cole Kmet on the sideline that he placed perfectly as he rolled out to his left and threw across his body on the run. It was an NFL level throw. But he certainly has not mastered the art of leading an NFL offense down the field to score a touchdown, because he was unable to keep up with a Chargers offense that was rolling in the first half.
It is premature to say that Bagent should overtake Fields as the starter in Chicago. Bagent made mistakes. He forced a few throws he probably knows he shouldn’t have. Down 14 early in the 2nd quarter, Bagent made a throw off his back foot while falling away and he airmailed it over the head of the RB, right into the hands of a Chargers defender for an easy interception. He held the ball too long on a few occasions. He did throw an absolute dime to a wide open Velus Jones Jr. in the end zone, but Jones tripped and wasn’t able to bring it in. He’s nowhere near a polished quarterback. He also threw a perfect ball to D.J. Moore over the outstretched arms of a defender, dropping it right in the bread basket on a short crosser. For a moment, after the Bears opened the game with a deep ball down the right sideline to Darnell Mooney, it looked like Bagent may be Brett Favre reincarnated. Alas, that is not the case, and Bagent has plenty of work to do if he wants to hang around in this league long term.
D’Onta Foreman: 9 carries, 34 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 2 yards
Roschon Johnson: 6 carries, 21 yards | 4 targets, 3 receptions, 10 yards
Darrynton Evans: 4 carries, 18 yards, TD | 4 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards
I’m going to group these three together because they were all so lackluster I don’t feel as if I need to spend time writing about all three individually. The Chargers’ run defense has been above average this season, especially compared to last year’s sieve of a defense, and they did a good job of holding all three of these guys in check. In my opinion, Evans was the only one who brought any juice. He looked quick and shifty, while both Foreman and Johnson looked like the couldn’t be bothered to put it into second gear. Johnson especially was a disappointment – there was hype in the preseason, especially about his receiving prowess, but as the year has gone on that seems to have died away. And he looked slow and overmatched in this one. Evans nearly scored a second TD late in the game on a reception out of the backfield but he was tackled a few yards short of the goal line.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Cole Kmet: 10 targets, 10 receptions, 79 yards
Kmet caught everything thrown his way, and he was Bagent’s safety valve on a night where Bagent needed that in order to keep the offense on the field and move the ball. Kmet made a nice toe tap catch on the sideline but that was the most notable of his catches on the night.
DJ Moore: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 55 yards
There wasn’t much creativity in this offense on Sunday, and that is probably why Moore had a down day by his standards. Having Bagent under center certainly limited the playbook, and Moore was treated as just another WR as a result instead of the crazy talented gadget player we know him to be. He’s still a swiss army knife player, except in this game they used only the knife tool and only to open their mail. There was nothing exciting about Moore in this game and that seriously limited his impact on the game.
Darnell Mooney: 4 targets, 1 reception, 41 yards
Caught a 41 yard bomb down the right sideline on Chicago’s first play from scrimmage, but was unable to bring in anything after that.
Tyler Scott: 3 targets, 1 reception, 11 yards
Velus Jones Jr.: 2 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards
Dropped a touchdown in the end zone after beating his defender. Bagent threw him a perfect ball but he tripped, fell, and couldn’t corral it for the score. That is Jones’ career summed up in one play.
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert: 31/40, 298 yards, 3 TD | 1 carry, 1 yard
Chicago played a lot of zone in this game, a perfect recipe for Herbert and the Chargers who were willing to dump it off underneath to Austin Ekeler and Donald Parham Jr. And he did plenty of that. 33 of his 40 throws came to targets within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, and he only attempted one pass longer than 25 yards downfield. He did a great job of getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers and letting them do their thing. Really, it’s as simple as that. He did nearly throw an interception early in the 2nd quarter, throwing a ball right into the hands of a linebacker dropping into coverage but the defender couldn’t reel it in. Herbert was most effective throwing within five yards of the line of scrimmage, completing 18/20 passes in that area. When the defense simply gives up on that area of the field and lets you throw it there at will, you have to take it and the Chargers exploited that all night long.
Austin Ekeler: 15 carries, 29 yards | 8 targets, 7 receptions, 94 yards, TD
Ekeler excelled in his best role, catching passes out of the backfield and letting his wheels rack up the YAC. He turned a short gain into a 39 yard catch and run for the score thanks to some great blocking downfield from his linemen and even his receivers (notably Joshua Palmer). Near the end of the first half, Ekeler turned what easily could have been a sack of Herbert after Chicago brought pressure into a big gain down the sideline on a dump off. Coming into this game, the Bears had allowed the third fewest yards on the ground in the league but also the second most passing yards in the league. This was a case of the Chargers running the ball through the air, per say, as you can see from the sheer amount of throws Herbert made to receivers within five yards of the line of scrimmage. That is exactly where Ekeler excels, and he made the most of his opportunities in this game.
Joshua Kelley: 6 carries, 21 yards
Isaiah Spiller: 3 carries, 3 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Keenan Allen: 10 targets, 8 receptions, 69 yards
With Chicago playing such a soft zone defense and showing a complete inability to stop Herbert from dumping it off, Keenan Allen was not needed to be the downfield target machine that he has been at times in his career. He had a good game, really, but when Chicago is dropping back into zone coverage and giving you anything you want under 10 yards you absolutely have to take it. And Los Angeles was happy to keep doing it.
Herbert probably could have targeted Allen another five times and the end result of the game wouldn’t have changed. Instead, he distributed the ball more evenly to the likes of Johnston, Parham, and Palmer. It was a game where the yards simply came too easy, and Allen wasn’t needed to put up monster numbers in order to win this football game.
Donald Parham Jr.: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 43 yards, TD
Two of Parham’s four receptions were of the dump off variety, but his touchdown catch was a great play. With 11 seconds left in the half, Parham ran a short curl route against a soft zone defense (in the red zone, no less), caught the ball, spun toward the sideline and fought his way through a missed tackle and two more defenders to punch the ball into the end zone. It was honestly a really poor defensive effort. Early in the 3rd quarter, Parham caught a bullet of a throw near the right sideline for a 17 yard gain and that was essentially the end of his night. The Chargers were up by 17 at that point and easily had the game in hand.
Quentin Johnston: 6 targets, 5 receptions, 50 yards
I’ll admit I’m not someone who believes in Johnston for fantasy purposes. His draft profile has always screamed bust to me, but I’m just an armchair analyst and not one of the “experts”. With that said, I think we’ve all been expecting him to step up in Mike Williams‘ absence and start making an impact in these games, and while it wasn’t a huge leap forward he did take a good step in the right direction. He saw his most targets of the year and nearly matched his entire season output for catches and yards. He also made one catch, made a defender miss with a nice move, then ran another defender over and kept his legs chugging to earn more yards as he fell forward. It was a flash of the type of physicality that draft experts had said he’d bring to the table. It was impressive. Johnston ran a lot of motion and looked to be the third or fourth option on those plays. He did it on a play that resulted in a touchdown for Semi Fehoko.
Joshua Palmer: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 24 yards
Palmer was battling a knee injury coming into this game and he didn’t quite look like his usual self. He was not quick out of his breaks and it was clearly having an effect on him. After a catch late in the 1st quarter he stayed down on the ground for a while holding that knee and looked to be in pain. He did return, however. He missed out on one wide open catch over the middle of the field when Herbert threw the ball off a defender’s helmet (a state that he surprisingly leads, according to the broadcast), and it likely would have been another ~10 yard chunk gain. Outside of that, I think the Chargers realized early on that they’d be just fine without heavy involvement from Palmer in this game and decided to let him take it easy for most of it to help save the knee. He did, however, throw a great block that helped spring Austin Ekeler for his 39 yard touchdown reception.
Simi Fehoko: 2 targets, 1 reception, 9 yards, TD