What a roller coaster ride the 2023 season has been for the Chicago Bears. There were high hopes (perhaps too high) for the team during the offseason. After a horrible fourth-quarter collapse in Week 4, the Bears were 0-4 and had a franchise-high 14-game losing streak. To add insult to injury, the defensive coordinator, Alan Williams, and running backs coach, David Walker, each had to leave for misconduct.
The following week, Chicago had an incredible effort against the Washington Commanders. They came away with an impressive 20-point win. However, they lost three running backs in the process.
After the Washington win, the Bears faced the Minnesota Vikings. They lost again, and they also lost quarterback Justin Fields. Undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent, from Division II Shephard, took over. He led the team to a 2-2 record in four games. Suddenly, some people were talking about Bagent taking over permanently for Fields.
The Chicago Bears looked like a team that was about to change its head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback. However, they got up and showed some resiliency. Is it enough to save Eberflus' job?
Many people speculated how long Matt Eberflus and/or offensive coordinator Luke Getsy would last. Could they make it the rest of the season?
Then, on Week 11, the Bears suffered another late-game collapse. They dominated the Lions for 55 minutes. The problem was that a game is 60 minutes long. They did come back to beat the Vikings the next week, but they did so without scoring a touchdown in the game.
The Bears came out of the bye week with something to prove. They had a rematch with the Lions. This time, they dominated Detroit for 60 minutes. They looked like a different team, taking chances and not always settling for punts or field goals. They even kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
After facing questions about his job status for the last couple of months, has Eberflus improved the team enough to earn another season? What was once a solid "NO" has become a "Maybe." People wanted to see improvements after general manager Ryan Poles spent the offseason using the nearly $100 million in salary cap space and owning the #1 pick in the draft.
After the horrible start, fans were ready to get rid of everyone. The frustration was high and the fans let their feelings be known. Seeing other teams around the NFL fire their coaches just added more frustration in Chicago.
While the fans were moaning and groaning, however, the team was hard at work, improving. After the four-game losing streak to start the season, the defense gave up an average of 34.2 points per game. However, in their last nine games, that total is an excellent 19.1 points per game.
Additionally, the yardage given up has fallen drastically. In the first four games, they gave up 383.3 yards per game. Over the last nine games, that total has gone down by almost 100 yards to 284 yards per game.
The most impressive improvement has been against the run. Last season, the Bears ranked 31st in rushing yards allowed and dead last in rushing touchdowns allowed. This season, with the additions of Andrew Billings, Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens, and others, the run defense now ranks second in rushing yards allowed and fourth in rushing touchdowns allowed.
We are seeing a return of the Monsters of the Midway defense in Chicago.
Eberflus deserves some of the credit for that improvement. He took over early in the season when Williams resigned. Yes, they also hired Phil Snow to help craft the defensive gameplan. However, the calls on the field are all on Eberflus. Despite some hiccups (that platoon system is ridiculous), the defensive results speak for themselves.
Eberflus also gets credit for keeping the team focused. He did that well last season in the midst of all that losing. Despite losing 14 games in 2022, the Bears were competitive in many of their games. They had eight games decided by one score (they lost seven of them).
With the improvements on defense and having the players continue to buy in the philosophy, the Bears are winning games. They are 5-4 in their last nine games. In their last four, they are 3-1. Eberflus stayed steady in the middle of the storm and now he may be coming out of that storm with some bumps and bruises but still standing.
Eberflus' calmness is similar to what Poles went through this offseason. He had a vision of how he wanted to build this roster. With all that salary cap space, fans wanted him to go on a big spending spree. However, Poles stuck to the plan. Yes, he spent big bucks on acquiring Tremaine Edmunds (four years, $72 million).
That signing, until he re-signed defensive end Montez Sweat to a four-year, $98 million extension, was the biggest deal handed out. He signed linebacker TJ Edwards to a three-year, $19.5 million deal. Edwards currently ranks sixth in the league with 131 total tackles.
It appears that Poles dodged some bullets. Some of the big-name free agents are struggling this season. The players Poles signed are having good to very good seasons. Additionally, the draft picks he made are making big contributions on the field. Poles, like Eberflus, stuck to the plan until he had a breakthrough.
Eberflus felt the breakthrough was coming.
"We could feel this coming. The improvement was happening over time. I just kept telling them if you keep doing right, it’s going to be right. Good things are going to happen. The guys always stayed together...It’s coming in the right direction, and you can certainly feel that on the field."- Matt Eberflus
The offense's improvement is a little more complicated. Fields has shown flashes of what he could become but more consistency is needed. Unlike Eberflus, though, Getsy's job does not seem secure. It seems that the relationship between Fields and Getsy is not very good. Fields complained earlier in the season that too much noise was given to him and it made him think too much instead of playing naturally. It is almost a guarantee that Getsy loses his job at the end of the season.
While everyone was speculating on Eberflus' job status, it could be that he and Poles were just waiting and hoping for the breakthrough. Now that the breakthrough is happening, Eberflus could be back. Poles will again have nearly $100 million in salary cap space and could have two top-five or top-ten picks. With fewer holes to fill than he had last season, this time he could go out and go big-name hunting. That could result in something special taking place next season.