Chicago Bears: What did we learn at QB in 2021?

justin field, bears

Lake Forest, IL.– It’s been just over a week since the 2021 regular season ended for the Chicago Bears and as the 2022 offseason begins, it’s clear that 2021 was filled with ups and downs at the quarterback position. The Bears cycled through three starting quarterbacks–Andy Dalton, Justin Fields, and Nick Foles–in a season where QB play defined the regular season.

As the page turns to 2022, let’s recap what the Bears taught us in 2021 in terms of the QB position.

1) Let’s go all the back to April 29th, the night the Bears drafted Justin Fields. Chicago moved up 11 spots in the first round, sending a 2022 first-rounder to the New York Giants for the opportunity to move up and draft Fields. When Chicago pulled the trigger on Fields, the 2021 season and ensuing three seasons became meaningful all of a sudden. Just four years after missing on Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears had more hope than ever.

2) Ex-HC Matt Nagy wanted to use 2021 as a way to implement the “Mahomes Model,” having veteran Andy Dalton start the entire regular season while Fields watched from the bench. Instead, Dalton was injured in week 2, leading to Fields being thrust into action. Nagy’s plan didn’t succeed and his biggest flaw was shown: While Fields was Nagy’s hand-picked quarterback, Nagy was never ready to be the man in charge of developing Fields.

3) There needs to be some serious credit given to Nick Foles, who started just one game in 2021. Despite being labeled as a third-string quarterback for a majority of the season, Foles’ willingness to be vocal in meetings meant challenging Nagy’s philosophy and approach. This alone showcases why Foles was such a valuable piece for the Bears quarterback room.

4) Chemistry with the wide receiver position is always crucial for the QB position and the Bears did Fields a complete disservice by not giving him extended time to practice with the first team throughout training camp. When looking at the WR position, the goal should’ve been to maximize Fields’ time with Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson. Instead, the trio that could’ve formed the offensive foundation of the future for the Bears was forced to build chemistry on the fly, leading to below-average results.

5) Throughout the season, there were debates regarding whether or not Justin Fields was the answer for the Bears at QB. It’s too early to get a read on whether or not Fields is the Bears’ true answer at quarterback but the 11th overall pick did showcase enough potential to warrant being labeled the answer.

What does 2022 hold for the Bears at QB?

Chicago needs to make 2022 the offseason of Justin Fields. That starts with hiring the right head coach and general manager who can build around Fields. That means getting Fields a starting-caliber Center to anchor the middle of the offensive line while reinvesting in the starting quarterback position.

For the Bears, making a commitment to investing in Fields while continuing his development means being active in free agency and the NFL Draft, prioritizing the offense at the expense of the defense. However, with just five draft picks but ample cap space, the Bears will need to be smart, figuring out a way to maximize the second year of Fields rookie contract.

 

Chicago Bears: Vikings trump Bears in season finale

bears, matt nagy

Minneapolis, MN.– In a meaningless game for both teams, the Chicago Bears would fall to the Minnesota Vikings 31-17 to wrap up the 2021 regular season. The Bears will finish 2021 with a final record of six wins and 11 losses, marking the franchises’ first true losing season since 2017, when the Bears finished with just five wins.

The Bears scoring summary was simple. Kicker Cairo Santos converted three field goals while Andy Dalton connected with running back Damien Williams for a 23-yard touchdown in the first half. The second half was a different story for Chicago. Minnesota scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, including a 66-yard pick-six by cornerback Patrick Peterson and a 45-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson.

In the final game of the Matt Nagy era, the Bears cruised to a 14-0 lead before Minnesota scored 28 total points in the second half to finish off the comeback. The Bears, despite a strong start, did have some struggles in this game. Head coach Matt Nagy, who was coaching in his final game, opted to go for it on fourth down, on six different occasions. The Bears would convert just once.

In what is also his final game as Bears quarterback, Dalton was sacked seven times for 59 yards. The 11-year veteran would finish the afternoon 33-for-48 with 325 passing yards and one touchdown, averaging 6.8 yards per attempt. After signing a one-year deal worth $10M in free agency, Dalton’s 2021 season was mediocre for the Bears, even after being guaranteed the starting job.

The sole positive for the Bears on offense was second-year wide receiver Darnell Mooney who had 12 receptions for 126 yards, averaging 10.5 yards per reception. The 2020 fifth-round pick eclipsed the 1000-yard mark, finishing off his sophomore season with 1,055 receiving yards, 81 receptions, and four touchdowns.

As Chicago now looks towards the offseason, 2021 is solely in the rearview mirror, and 2022 will bring winds of change to the Bears franchise, which now moves forward with quarterback Justin Fields as the face of the franchise.

Chicago Bears: Week 13 takeaways, tidbits, and more

bears, matt nagy

After losing to the Arizona Cardinals at home, the Chicago Bears have dropped six of the last seven games, and continue to be on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Let’s recap week 13 for the Bears.

1) Running back David Montgomery was the Bears’ best playmaker on Sunday. The third-year pro had 21 carries for 90 rushing yards and one touchdown. Montgomery was also involved in the passing game with eight receptions for 51 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per reception. The weather certainly factored into the Bears using Montgomery heavily but Sunday also proved that for the final five games of the season, the offense needs to revolve around Montgomery, which means shifting to a pass-first philosophy.

2) The Bears led the Cardinals in four key categories: Time of possession, first downs, total yards, and turnovers. Arizona averaged just five yards per play but having a short field on the first two possessions as a result of Andy Dalton’s interceptions is what led to an earlier-than-expected Arizona lead. The Bears’ defense isn’t good enough to overcome mistakes made by the offense, which means both sides of the football need to play a near-perfect game to have a chance at winning.

3) Jakeem Grant being the Bears leading receiver on Sunday shows how much the WR room needs to be overhauled during the 2022 offseason. Arizona locked up Darnell Mooney all afternoon and without Allen Robinson or Marquise Goodwin, the Dalton was forced to throw to the likes of Grant and Damiere Byrd. Chicago traded for Grant to be an impact player on special teams, not in the passing game, despite having some speed.

4) Center Sam Mustipher had two fumbles on Sunday. In other words, the Mustipher experiment needs to end for the Bears. With rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins officially active, the Bears can reshuffle the offensive line, inserting Jenkins into the starting lineup while moving James Daniels or Cody Whitehair to center. The Bears need to see what they have in Jenkins during the final five games of the season as Chicago believes it finally got an OT with the potential to develop into a franchise cornerstone on the OL.

5) Montgomery’s postgame presser was one of the best I’ve ever heard since I started covering the Bears in 2017. “I’m a fighter, I’m never going to stop fighting,” said Montgomery. “I’m never going to stop giving it everything I got.”

Talk about someone who’s a leader of men and is intrinsically motivated. With the chance of making the playoffs bleak, Montgomery’s positive energy should radiate throughout the locker room.

6) For the second straight game, cornerback Artie Burns posted some solid numbers with six tackles, one tackle for loss, and one pass breakup. Burns may not be a long-term solution but he’s a good enough security blanket to finish out 2021 before the Bears have to make a decision on his future with the team during the 2022 offseason.

7) The Cardinals’ offense is everything Matt Nagy hopes his offense can be someday. Arizona had the ball for just over 25 minutes but averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray carved up the Bears’ secondary all afternoon with explosive plays in the passing game to keep the Bears defense on its toes. Kliff Kingsbury has emerged as one of the smartest offensive minds in football and the Cardinals are finding their groove with the postseason right around the corner.

8) The Bears were 3-for-3 in the redzone and 4-for-4 on fourth down yesterday. Rarely does that ever happen but Matt Nagy found a way to get it done yesterday. Nagy is on his way out but at least converting in the redzone and on fourth down mattered in a game that Chicago tried to keep competitive.

9) One way to slow the Cardinals down is creating turnovers. And the Bears’ defense had none on Sunday. While Roquan Smith was hampered due to a hamstring injury, the Bears need to be better in this category to have a chance at being able to play complementary football and give the offense a chance at scoring more points.

10) The Bears had two drives on Sunday that lasted more than seven minutes. While this may not seem noteworthy to some, it is progress for an offense that’s been through growing pains over the last four seasons. Long drives aren’t the issue now but execution is still lacking as the Bears are unable to cap off these drives with touchdowns, instead of field goals.

 

Chicago Bears: Mistakes early derail any chance of a win

andy dalton, bears

Sunday afternoon was equivalent to a rollercoaster ride for the Chicago Bears. After snapping a five-game losing streak in week 12, the Bears got back to work against the Arizona Cardinals in week 13, only to lose by 11 points at home. The lone bright spot of the afternoon for the Bears on offense was running back David Montgomery, who had 21 carries for 90 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per attempt.

Despite Montgomery’s strong showing, veteran quarterback Andy Dalton threw four interceptions, including two on the Bears’ first two possessions to give Arizona a short field to work with. From there, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray connected with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a 20-yard score to get the Cardinals on the board first.

Chicago’s second drive of the game wasn’t bad. The offense was moving the ball efficiently, taking whatever little yards the Cardinals defense was willing to give up. What appeared to be a drive that would end up in a touchdown was halted when Dalton tried to connect with tight end Cole Kmet at the Cardinals eight-yard line, only to be picked off by Cardinals safety Budda Baker, who returned it to the Bears 15-yard line for a 77-yard return.

The Bears’ defense struggled throughout the game. Despite a goal line stop in the fourth quarter which forced Arizona to kick a field goal, Chicago failed to generate any turnovers. A short-handed defense allowed just 257 total yards and 14 first downs but Arizona’s big-play offense proved to be too much for the Bears defense, which saw another big game from linebackers Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn.

With just five games left in the season, the Bears showed us that the talent gap between Chicago and some of the top teams in the NFL is still massive and that the Bears may have moved the ball well today but a lot of work remains to be done if Chicago is to have a chance at being able to seriously compete soon.

Chicago Bears: Week 12 takeaways, quick tidbits, and more

Trevis Gipson, bears

After a Turkey Day snoozefest that resulted in a win for the Chicago Bears, it’s time to recap week 12 for the Bears.

1) A win is a win, no matter what circumstances surround a team in the NFL. The Bears got the job done against the worst team in the NFL, which is clearly positive, and at the end of the day, the Bears snapped a five-game losing streak. After the game, head coach Matt Nagy did sound relieved but also thanked players and coaches for what was a tumultuous week at Halas Hall. The Bears battled hard for Nagy in this game, despite what you believe.

2) Darnell Mooney continues to emerge as a big playmaker for the Bears’ offense. The second-year wide receiver had five receptions for 123 yards, averaging 24.6 yards per reception. During Allen Robinson’s absence, Mooney’s emergence is a positive for the Bears, who will revamp the wide receiver in 2022 with Mooney being the face of the position.

3) Staying with Mooney, the Bears 2020 draft class made an impact in this game. Tight end Cole Kmet and cornerback Jaylon Johnson both had big games, while pass rusher Trevis Gipson had two tackles, and a forced fumble. This draft class is quietly forming the foundation for the Bears roster for years to come, which is big for the Bears, who had no first-round picks in 2020.

4) The Lions have little to no pass rush but the Bears did a good job of keeping Andy Dalton upright all afternoon. Dalton was sacked just once and while Chicago’s offensive line did just enough to give Dalton time to make something happen. Overall, this was a game where the Bears OL made some progress, especially rookie fifth-round pick Larry Borom, who’s solidified his job as the starting right tackle.

5) The Bears running game wasn’t successful. Chicago averaged just 2.3 yards per attempt while David Montgomery had just 46 rushing yards. Overall, this wasn’t an encouraging performance for the Bears, with rookie Khalil Herbert falling to make any sort of significant impact for the second straight game. For the rest of the season, Nagy has one job: Figure out how to utilize Montgomery and Herbert to keep defenses guessing.

6) Give the Lions some credit. Sure Dan Campbell’s squad is winless but on the field, the Lions played and battled till the very end, something you always appreciate about any NFL team. It may not be pretty right now but Campbell’s passion and competitive spirit is prevalent every single game. Not saying the Lions are about to be an immediate threat anytime soon but a head coach always needs to sell his vision and get the players buy-in to begin building a successful program.

7) Let’s talk about injuries for the Bears. The Bears walked away from what you could consider a meaningless game banged up. Linebacker Roquan Smith (hamstring) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (foot) left the game and did not return. While the Bears have not yet released any information about Smith or Goodwin, linebacker and wide receiver are incredibly thin when it comes to depth. Chicago will need to rely on players like Christian Jones and Isaiah Coulter to pick up the slack.

8) Quarterback Andy Dalton wasn’t bad but wasn’t great either. Dalton was about as middle-of-the-pack as it could get but throwing for 317 yards should be considered a positive. With Justin Fields’ status for week 13 uncertain, Dalton will need to prepare to face a tough Arizona Cardinals team that’s looking to rebound big that’s gone .500 over the last four weeks.

9) Veteran Jimmy Graham played 20 percent of the Bears snaps on offense. Graham has been an afterthought for the Bears this season but considering how involved he was against the Lions, it’s clear the Bears are using the veteran tight end at will. Graham won’t be on the Bears roster in 2022, his days are numbered despite his usage being wildly inconsistent.

10) Final point here but it’s clear the Bears are who they are at this point. This team doesn’t have the makings of being able to make a run in December, nor at least continue to remain competitive. Hopefully, the Bears do have some December magic in them but it may be time to start looking ahead to 2022 and this game was a major indication of that.

Chicago Bears: Losing streak ends in Turkey Day snoozefest

andy dalton, bears

Detroit, MI– For the first time since October 10th, the Chicago Bears have won a football game. In what was a Thanksgiving Day snoozefest in Detroit, the Bears defeated the Detroit Lions 16-14 on the heels of an 18-play, 69-yard drive that lasted 8:30. The Bears are ready to head home and enjoy Thanksgiving after a tumultuous week that included reports saying week 12 would be head coach Matt Nagy’s final game with the Bears.

Key contributors throughout the afternoon included veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, wide receiver Darnell Mooney, tight end Cole Kmet, cornerback Jaylon Johnson, and pass rusher Robert Quinn, all of whom made an impact at various points in the game.

Lions QB Jared Goff, who made his first start since week 10 went 21-for-25, throwing two passing touchdowns to wide receiver Josh Reynolds and tight end T.J. Hockenson. Despite the Lions striking first, the Bears would score 13 unanswered points in the second quarter, taking a six-point lead at halftime.

From there, the third quarter would be all about the Lions, who rattled off a seven-play, 79-yard drive in just over three minutes as Goff connected with Hockenson for the score. But the Bears would remain in the game, fighting, with the defense continuing to give the offense a chance.

The key moments that defined the Bears’ victory on Thursday afternoon all came on the game’s final possession. Back-to-back timeouts at 1:54 by the Lions have the Bears free yards, and then just two plays later, the Lions would burn their final timeout, giving the Bears an opportunity to run the clock down to just one second remaining in the fourth quarter before Kicker Cairo Santos would hit a game-winning 28-yard field goal.

For the Bears, snapping a five-game losing streak is a positive as are Dalton’s 317 passing yards and one touchdown. Chicago now has just about 10 days to prepare for the Arizona Cardinals, who will be visiting Soldier Field on Sunday, December 5th.

Chicago Bears: Losing streak now at five games after latest loss

bears, matt nagy

What seemed to be a relatively competitive game for the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon got away very quickly in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Soldier Field. After failing to score on the first six possessions, the Bears finally managed to get on the board after wide receiver Darnell Mooney scored a 60-yard touchdown with just 8:12 remaining in the third quarter.

With rookie quarterback Justin Fields leaving the game due to an injury and then being ruled out, the Bears were forced to turn to veteran Andy Dalton, who tossed two second-half touchdowns, including a 49-yard pass touchdown to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin on 4th-and-11.

Veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn, who is in the second year of a five-year $70M contract signed in 2020 made an impact all afternoon. With Khalil Mack sidelined for the remainder of the year due to a foot injury, Quinn totaled five tackles, 3.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, and four quarterback hits, making his presence felt from the beginning.

Currently, in the middle of a five-game losing streak, the Bears’ final seven opponents will be against NFC teams. However, this latest loss to the Ravens stings merely because Chicago seemed to be in the game until the very final possession when Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley connected with wide receiver Sammy Watkins for a 29-yard gain with just 33 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. From there, running back Devonta Freeman scored a three-yard rushing touchdown to give Baltimore the lead.

Despite being shorthanded with no Allen Robinson, Eddie Jackson, or Akiem Hicks, the Bears did all a three-win team could to try and stay competitive but ultimately, a missed field goal in the first half by kicker Cairo Santos and an inability to execute in key situations made the difference in the Bears latest loss. With the Bears scheduled to play in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, the opportunity to snap a five-game losing streak presents itself.

Chicago Bears: What message is Matt Nagy trying to send?

bears, matt nagy

On Monday morning, following a Chicago Bears victory in week 2 that saw rookie quarterback Justin Fields get extended playing time, questions arose regarding the state of the quarterback position. After veteran Andy Dalton left the game due to a knee injury, Fields entered, leading the Bears to a 20-17 win.

With Dalton out for the next several weeks, the opportunity to move forward with Fields as the starter presents itself. Head coach Matt Nagy doubled down on Dalton being the starter under one condition: Only when healthy. The Bears did send a representative from the public relations department to convey a message directly to Chicago media: Dalton would be the starter when healthy.

On the surface, Nagy is merely saying that once Dalton is healthy, the 11-year veteran will once again be named the starter but until then, it’ll be the Justin Fields show. Dive deeper into the entire situation and it’s clear that even Nagy seems to know that Fields will play at some point in 2021.

Let’s be honest, situations and circumstances can change and the Bears are no exception. Fields is expected to start in week 3 when the Bears face the Cleveland Browns. With no set timeline for Dalton’s return, week 4 will see the Bears host the Detroit Lions, followed by week 5, a road showdown against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Fields statistics may not reflect a player who’s ready to be a fulltime starter and averaging 4.6 yards per pass attempt won’t get the job done in the NFL but dropped passes that should’ve been touchdowns by wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson didn’t do the former Ohio State standout favors either.

If Fields lights it up over the next three games, Nagy will have no choice but to keep Fields as the starter when the Green Bay Packers come to town in week 6. As much as Nagy would like to see his plan to develop Fields and keep Dalton as the starter throughout the 2021 season, Nagy’s message on Monday sent mixed results, implying that there isn’t necessarily a surefire commitment to Dalton, despite what words have indicated.

 

 

Chicago Bears: Why didn’t the Bears gameplan on offense work?

andy dalton, bears

Just over 48 hours have passed since the Chicago Bears‘ week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Rams and with the Bears now looking ahead to week 2, Chicago must figure out what went wrong against the Rams. On the surface, the Bears’ offensive gameplan included short, quick passes designed to get the ball out of quarterback Andy Dalton’s hands in just under 2.5 seconds.

Throughout the evening, the Bears’ offensive line did create solid running lanes for running back David Montgomery. The real reason the Bears left Los Angeles winless is due to the passing attack. Despite throwing 38 times, Dalton completed just 27 passes, with only one pass of 10+ yards being completed.

“I think just the kind of way this defense plays, they limit the big play and they make you just kind of move the ball down the field,” Dalton said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “I mean you see the drives that we scored on, I mean I don’t know how many plays they were but you had to keep finding ways to get first downs and keep moving the ball all the way down the field. You’re not going to get very many explosives against this team.”

Further dissecting the Rams gameplan, limiting big plays means that wide receiver Darnell Mooney’s speed was accounted for by the Rams defense on every play. Wide receiver Allen Robinson was followed by Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey on multiple plays, limiting Robinson’s impact.

Essentially, as a result of the Rams deciding to defend the deep passing game, Los Angeles was content with giving the Bears quick, underneath throws because Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris knew that players like cornerback Jalen Ramsey were instinctive enough to breakdown what the Bears would be running.

Moving forward, for Chicago’s gameplans to work, the Bears will need to ensure that playcalls don’t look very predictable. Furthermore, allowing Dalton to hit deep passes via play-action could also go a long way towards opening up the Bears’ offense and maximizing talents fo players such as Mooney and Robinson.

Chicago Bears lose to Los Angeles Rams, time for week 2

bears, matt nagy

In a season full of anticipation, the Chicago Bears put together an inconsistent performance against the Los Angeles Rams in week 1, proving that the Bears have a long way to go before truly competing in 2021. Throughout the evening, the Bears did have some bright moments, including a three-yard touchdown run by rookie Justin Fields.

Nearly every bright moment was overshadowed by a bad moment. Chicago’s defense, which many consider the strength of the team, gave up two big passing touchdowns, including a 67-yard touchdown to Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson. The Bears did start out fast, with a 41-yard run by running back David Montgomery in a drive that ended with quarterback Andy Dalton throwing an interception in the redzone.

Chicago’s inability to establish rhythm should be concerning for head coach Matt Nagy, who heads into his fourth season as Bears head coach. Nagy’s offense limped to the finish line in both 2019 and 2020 and while week 1 provided us with the opportunity to see flashes of what the offense can do under Dalton, Chicago wasn’t consistent enough.

Moving forward, the Bears defense needs to limit big plays to have a chance against explosive offenses. For a defense that features a revamped secondary, Chicago needs more consistent play from safeties, along with a front seven that get after the quarterback consistently.

Dalton did have a solid outing, going 27-for-38 with 206 yards, and one interception. Dalton took what the Rams defense gave him, completing multiple throws underneath. Chicago does need Dalton to hit plays downfield to have a chance at really staying in games.

Another silver lining is that the Bears’ offensive line did look solid throughout the night. Rams star pass rusher Aaron Donald was neutralized on most plays and had just one sack and one tackle for loss. For a unit that played together just once throughout preseason, the Bears have to be feeling good about the offensive line moving forward.

What’s next for the Bears? Chicago will host the Cincinnati Bengals at home in week 2. Labeled by fans as the Andy Dalton revenge game, the Bears will have an opportunity to build on any momentum established in week 1.