The Chicago Bears regrouped Wednesday at Halas Hall from their Week 2 loss to the Green Bay Packers and began preparing for Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.
Along with quarterback Justin Fields’ comments about jump-starting the offense and a social media controversy, here are four things we learned from Bears coach Matt Eberflus and his players.
1. Lucas Patrick practiced without the cast he wore in the first two games.
Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) heads to the locker room after a 27-10 loss to the Packers on Sept. 18, 2022, at Lambeau Field. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
As he continued his recovery from surgery on his right hand, Patrick — whom the Bears signed in the offseason to be their center — wore a club on his hand in Weeks 1 and 2 that prevented him from snapping.
So the Bears started Sam Mustipher at center and put Patrick in a right guard rotation with Teven Jenkins. But Patrick was spotted without the cast during the portion of practice open to the media, and he snapped a couple of times.
If Patrick can snap the ball consistently, it raises the question of how the Bears will handle those two positions. Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy have avoided forecasting the offensive line starters the last two weeks, so that might not be revealed until Sunday.
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Eberflus said he thought Patrick and Jenkins each had a “solid performance” against the Packers.
“I’m going to have to talk to (offensive line coach Chris Morgan) about that,” Eberflus said Monday when asked about right guard. “I know both of them rotated in there. I saw Lucas play well at times and I saw Teven play well.
“But we’ll see where it is in terms of the center position, where (Patrick) is at handling the ball. So it will clarify itself more Wednesday and Thursday.”
2. Linebacker Roquan Smith sat out practice with a hip injury.
Smith played every defensive snap Sunday and tied linebacker Nicholas Morrow for the team lead with 11 tackles, but he didn’t have any other game-changing stats. Eberflus classified the performance as “solid.”
Even if Smith wasn’t at his best, his status this week will be big as the Bears try to recover from allowing the Packers 414 yards of offense.
Eberflus said Monday of where Smith needs to improve: “We’re working with those linebackers right now, working downhill and playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage. And that’s really twofold — that’s for both the linebackers. Because what that does, it helps our defense align, take off the double teams. We have to do a better job with that.”
Wide receiver Velus Jones Jr., who missed the first two games with a hamstring injury, was in uniform stretching with the team during the period open to the media, but the Bears listed him as not practicing.
Tight end Ryan Griffin (Achilles) and safety Dane Cruikshank (hamstring) also sat out.
3. As former Bears coach Lovie Smith returns to town as the Texans coach, he has the respect of Eberflus.
Eberflus and Smith share an acquaintance in Rod Marinelli, who worked under Smith in Chicago and mentored Eberflus with the Dallas Cowboys. Smith and Eberflus share some defensive principles, and the current Bears coach appreciates how Smith’s units operate.
In Smith’s nine years in Chicago, the Bears were 81-63 and 3-3 in the playoffs.
“I have appreciation for what he has done for the game of football,” Eberflus said. “He’s had his units playing the right way, has respected the game that way. And the accomplishments he’s had — he’s been a head coach for a long time and he’s been steady that way and really good.
“I just appreciate that from him and what kind of man he is, too, just from hearing from Coach Rod and everybody else, Coach (Tony) Dungy.”
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In Smith’s first season as head coach in Houston after one year as defensive coordinator, the Texans rank near the bottom of the league in run and pass defense but are tied for eighth in third-down defense (33.3%) and tied for fourth in the red zone (28.6%).
“Their defense and our defense kind of come from the same family branch. A lot of the same stuff,” Fields said. “They play hard. I don’t think they have one (of) what everybody would call a star player on that team. But I’ll give them credit, they play hard, they play fast, they play similar to us. So it’s going to be a hard fight all day.”
4. Bears defenders worked on tackling in individual periods as they try to recover from a poor performance.
Safety Eddie Jackson, who will be the Bears’ honorary captain this week, said they spent a few extra minutes during the individual period going over tackling fundamentals after missed tackles contributed to some of the Packers’ biggest plays.
“That’s where it starts,” Jackson said. “We were giving up a lot off missed tackles. We stop the run, contain the run first and then we control the pass, the game will look different. So we just have to emphasize that and fundamentals.”
Jackson said the mood among the Bears has picked up after a tough Monday going over Packers game film.
“A football team in general, you don’t want to linger on a loss too long, even though it’s a tough one, especially against Green Bay,” Jackson said. “But you’ve just got to move on. We’ll see (those) guys down the road again.
“We know what we need to correct. A lot of that stuff we did was self-inflicted, so we just learn from that. It started with the fundamentals today.”