Chicago Bears Sneak by in Sin City
In what panned out to be a pretty chalky slate of games prior to Sunday Night Football, this contest between the Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders ended up being one of the few upsets of the weekend. Yet this ended up being less of a win for the Bears and more of a moral loss for the Raiders (which was followed by an even bigger moral loss the next day).
There is no subjectivity in wins and losses. They exist in a binary scale. Either a tally gets filed into the win column or the loss column with no in-between (just forget ties exist for a second, no one likes ties anyway). As well as a team plays, if it ends up with fewer points than the other team when the clock flashes all zeroes, that effort was for naught. This isn't college football. Committees don't decide playoff positioning, considering strength of schedule or the human element in games. The Las Vegas Raiders had opportunities to win, but mistakes made in every phase of the game placed this win squarely in Chicago's arms.
The Raiders' own mistakes cost them this game, but credit to the Bears for capitalizing on said mistakes. These usually came in the form of Raiders offensive miscues followed by stout Bears defensive play. Take the Raiders' first scoring drive of the game, for example. With 4:22 remaining in the first quarter, Las Vegas had second-and-goal from Chicago's 2-yard-line. Josh Jacobs punched it in with ease, but a holding call on Foster Moreau pushed the offense back to second-and-12. Tight coverage in the secondary forced Derek Carr to check down, and the Bears were able to pounce quickly enough to break it up.
That set up third-and-long, and great play by the secondary forced Carr to throw it away. That resulted in a Daniel Carlson field goal, turning seven points into three.
Or take the Raiders' drive just before halftime. Las Vegas had barely begun driving when Chicago was called for illegal hands to the face. However, what would have been a gimme penalty to aid in the Raiders' two-minute drill gets offset by a Las Vegas holding call after Derek Carr had already turned the corner on his scramble. On the replay of the down, Chicago sacks Carr for an 8-yard loss.
The Bears defense is beginning to get into a consistent groove. This is now the fourth game where Chicago has held a team to two touchdowns or less this season, going 3-1 in such games. Their lone loss was the Week 3 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, where Matt Nagy had seemingly zero offensive game plan for Justin Fields. Usually, when the defense holds up its end of the bargain, the Bears win games as long as the offense isn't tripping over itself.
But this is the whole reason we argued for Justin Fields to start for the Bears, right? Had Andy Dalton played in this game, who knows if Chicago walks away with this win. We love Justin Fields for his athletic prowess and highlight-worthy plays, but Fields showed in this game that he's not all flashy traits of a raw rookie prospect. Fields also has the poise and mental fortitude necessary to just get by. When the Bears couldn't get anything going offensively, Fields did just enough keep things moving. In this game, "just enough" was enough to walk away with a win.
Where the Game Swung
|4||7:26||3||12||CHI 27||+8.7%||Justin Fields converts third-and-long to Darnell Mooney|
|2||10:21||4||1||CHI 27||+7.4%||Josh Jacobs stuffed for turnover on downs|
|1||7:58||3||9||LV 32||-6.0%||Derek Carr connects with Darren Waller for 29 yards on third-and-long|
|4||2:50||4||4||LV 28||+5.9%||Cairo Santos first field goal|
|3||11:12||3||4||LV 27||+5.7%||DeAndre Houston-Carson interception|
No earth-shattering decision-making in this one. Las Vegas converted just one of their three fourth-down attempts, which came on a Nathan Peterman sneak. The play kept the Raiders' drive alive and set up their lone touchdown of the game, but EdjSports valued the decision at a WP% of 4.4.
It's telling just how even (and bland) this game was that two of the biggest WP% plays came on the what would be the Bears' game-sealing offensive drive. Fields converting the third-and-long backed up in Chicago's end of the field jumped the Bears' win probability from 70.1% to 78.8%. That number slowly climbed to 84.4% as they marched down the field, and Cairo Santos' 46-yarder pushed it across the 90.0% threshold.
By the DVOA
The Bears defense is starting to find its stride, putting together back-to-back performances with a negative defensive DVOA for the first time this season. This is also the second time this year that Chicago's defense has outperformed their offense to generate a positive total DVOA, but at least it's not as egregious as their Week 2 performance. Against Cincinnati, Chicago's -65.3% defensive DVOA dragged a -52.4% offensive DVOA all the way up to a 17.7% total.
Las Vegas has now had a negative offensive DVOA in four of their first five games. The Raiders now fall to 27th in offensive DVOA through five weeks. Defensively, Vegas' performance on Sunday actually bumps them up from 15th to 14th in DVOA.
What's Happened in Vegas
I can't write this column without touching on what transpired between Sunday's game and the time of publishing. Good riddance, Jon Gruden.
With that out of the way, this team is left in a state of flux. Las Vegas joins the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers as the three teams who started 3-0 but have now lost two straight games. The Raiders currently look the most uninspired of the three. The offense has had its ups and downs this year, but it looked considerably worse over the last two weeks. This is now the second consecutive week Las Vegas has posted a negative offensive passing DVOA. While this was the Raiders' "best" game on the ground in terms of offensive rushing DVOA, a -16.8% is nothing to write home about.
Specific components of this offense aren't clicking either. Their offensive line is also not holding up as well at did earlier in the season. Carr took three sacks for a loss of 18 yards this afternoon, and Josh Jacobs was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-1. Darren Waller has also seen a steady decline in production each week since his explosive performance against the Baltimore Ravens. Waller's total receiving yards have declined each game. This past Sunday, 29 of those yards came off one catch in busted coverage.
Maybe you should chalk this loss up to a team playing lifelessly after being hit with the first wave of the Gruden email scandal just 48 hours before kickoff. If things don't improve against the Denver Broncos next weekend, chalk that up to the much larger and more jarring wave of Gruden news that broke Monday. Whether interim head coach Rich Bisaccia can right this ship remains in question, but things certainly won't get any easier for Las Vegas. The Raiders' past schedule ranks 25th per our DVOA rankings, while their future schedule ranks sixth.