The Bears held Jalen Hurts to a season-worst 64.9 passer rating.
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There was no legitimate thought of the Bears upending the Eagles, a team that is fully stocked for a Super Bowl run.
They have everything. The Bears need almost everything.
Yet, the Bears delivered another tantalizing rendition of what has become their signature song. They played better than expected but not good enough. They had a chance in the fourth quarter but fell short. They lost, this time 25-20, but there were signs of progress amid the rubble of their seventh consecutive defeat.
The question isn’t whether the Bears are good. They aren’t. The more crucial concern is whether general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus have them on the path to being good. There’s nothing convincing about doing some things right in yet another loss, but the potential is visible.
“I know what we can be,” said rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon, who had an interception and a fumble recovery. “It’s really about doing it all at the same time in one big, cohesive group with all [units] going crazy and doing their thing. It’s just a matter of time before we put it all together.”
Rebuilding takes time. Fully assembled teams such as the Eagles are evaluated straightforwardly by their results, but it doesn’t make sense to apply that standard to a Bears team that’s still cleaning up the mess left by Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.
That starts next season. In the meantime, it’s necessary to do some sifting.
The Eagles might be the most fearsome opponent Eberflus faces this season, though the Bears host the equally daunting Bills on Saturday, and there were times when it looked — especially on defense, which is his specialty — that they were up for the fight. The Bears had the ball, down 17-13, with 8:25 left.
They held the Eagles to 25 points, below their season average and far less than the 40, 35 and 48 they fired off the last three weeks.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts racked up 315 yards passing, and the Bears were the first team to intercept him twice in a game. They held him to a season-worst 64.6 passer rating. He also ran for 61 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bears limited running back Miles Sanders, who reached the 1,000-yard mark last week, to just 42 on 11 carries. But receivers A.J. Brown (nine catches, 181 yards) and DeVonta Smith (five catches, 126 yards) scorched their patchy secondary.
An uneven performance isn’t surprising from a defense that was already stripped of most of its top players, then lost cornerback Jaylon Johnson late to a rib injury and linebacker Jack Sanborn to a left ankle injury.
Sanborn was on crutches and wore a walking boot after the game. Johnson didn’t know if he’d miss time.
Eberflus offered a sober view of the loss, saying, “We’ve just got to be better in crucial moments,” and noting brutal individual errors, as well as various missed opportunities, such as scoring no points when DeAndre Houston-Carson picked off Hurts at the Eagles’ 25-yard line in the second quarter.
The Bears got to the 14-yard line before a fumble, sack and penalty left them to punt from the Eagles’ 30-yard line because that was beyond field-goal range for kicker Cairo Santos based on what they established for the south end zone in warmups.
Eberflus makes sense of this puzzle by scrutinizing whether the Bears are implementing “championship work habits” that will help them down the road. This team can’t hide from being 3-11, but it doesn’t feel aimless like the last two seasons did.
“Sometimes the results aren’t there,” Eberflus said. “But I see what I see in practice and in the games: We’re heading the right direction.”
He can make that promise in the early stage of the rebuild. Once real standards are applied next season, a loss like this won’t be anything other than just another loss.