Darnell Mooney trusting 'process' as Bears' offense searches for answers




 

'Trust the process:' Mooney not losing faith in Bears' offense originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Darnell Mooney finally broke out during the Bears' 20-12 Week 4 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. But Mooney's four-catch, 94-yard performance didn't help the Bears' anemic passing attack find the end zone.

Replacement kicker Michael Badgley's four field goals were the only points the Bears' offense put on the board in the Meadowlands. A shot to the gut of an offense still searching for answers.

"It's kind of hard to go to the positives when you don't score points," Mooney said Wednesday.

While clearly frustrated, Mooney and the Bears' receivers see their issues as "fixable" and remain confident the passing game will get on track.

It's all about believing in their system and knowing the production will come once they perfect the execution.

"I understand the process we have to go through with our offense, with everything being new and everybody still learning and trying to believe in the offense itself," Mooney said. "It's a process. It's a journey that you just have to stay into it, and just believe and trust the process."

Having and maintaining that belief is easier said than done when your position group has produced as little as the Bears' 2022 receivers.

Through four games, Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, and Byron Pringle have combined for 15 catches. Mooney has eight of those. For comparison, Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp leads the NFL with 42 catches through four weeks.

Per Pro Football Focus, Bears receivers rank last in percentage of dropbacks in which they are deemed "open" or "wide open."

Still, the Bears expect more of Mooney and Co.

"I would just say continued improvement on the rhythm and timing of it," head coach Matt Eberflus said Wednesday. "We got Mooney going last week. St. Brown's done a good job to this point. We've just got to continue to the whole group, really just the rhythm and timing of the passing game, and I think it's improving. I see it in practice and we saw glimpses of it last week. So it's a work in progress, but it's improving."

There are many reasons the Bears' passing attack has struggled this season. Honestly, struggled is being kind.

The Bears rank last in completions, completion percentage, passing yards, first downs, and quarterback rating.

Quarterback Justin Fields has been pressured in 49 percent of his dropbacks this season. When he's had a clean pocket and let it rip, he has been good. The issue is he now seems hesitant to pull the trigger even when he does have time to deal.

Take the Week 4 loss to the Giants, for example.

Facing a third-and-10 late in the second quarter, the Bears called an elementary four verticals play. Anyone who has played Madden, NFL Blitz, or any football game knows the four verts play.

Mooney lined up as the inside slot to the left. He broke open once he got past the linebacker and the deep safety started to drift toward the right sideline where St. Brown was streaking deep.

Fields had a clean pocket and should have planted and delivered a strike to Mooney for what likely would have been a 35-yard touchdown. Instead, Fields tucked it and scrambled for 12 yards and a first down.

Mooney explained that he ran the wrong route. He was supposed to bend the route to the right instead of straight up the left seam. Eberflus also said the Bears coach Fields to either hit his checkdown or take off and run if he sees Cover 2 on that play.

Fields did what he is coached to do. That's good. But quarterback is an instinctual position. With a passing offense that is scuffling as the Bears' is, Fields has to see Mooney break open and deliver a strike.

RELATED: Bears Overreactions: Are Eberflus, Poles in over their head?

There is plenty of blame to go around at the moment.

Fields needs to elevate his game and bring the rest of the offense with him.

He needs Mooney and the receivers to do their part too. Perhaps the eventual return of N'Keal Harry, who was designated to return from injured reserve Wednesday, will help.

They are doing their best to trust the process and stay patient, believing the results will come. That all the sweat they have poured into this offense won't be in vain.

But they need to find a spark fast. Unfettered belief only lasts so long before doubt extinguishes its light.

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