What progress will the Chicago Bears see from Justin Fields in week 3?

When the Chicago Bears take the field against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon, the Justin Fields era will officially be underway. The Fields era beginning also means an evaluation period for the rookie quarterback, who hopes to finally be the answer for the Bears quarterback woes.

During training camp, Bears head coach Matt Nagy discussed the progress Fields made since being drafted back in April. After mastering how to call plays into the huddle, Fields’ next step was learning to read defenses both in pre-snap and post-snap situations. When the Bears offense takes the field, Fields every rep will be under the microscope both in the moment and afterwards as Nagy and the Bears franchise hope to develop a quarterback the right way.

“Since we’ve drafted him you kind of start understanding okay big picture of where you’re at with him, things that he does well and then you just kind of see it in training camp and we were able to really get a feel for the things that we like or don’t like with him in in in training camp,” Nagy said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “And then in the preseason so now we get together as a staff and we just talk through the things that we think he does well for us.”

The Bears will see progress from Fields when the coaching staff is willing to cater gameplans to Fields strengths. That means using play-action while getting the vertical passing game going. Expect to see wide receivers Darnell Mooney, Allen Robinson, and Marquise Goodwin, with a dose of tight end Cole Kmet to allow Chicago to continue developing the vertical passing game with Fields.

“Getting reps with the offense instead of just working with the scout offense so it’s definitely gonna have me more prepared this week and I’m excited,” Fields said via the Bears official YouTube channel.

Excitement surrounds Fields, who will return to the state of Ohio to play a meaningful football game for the first time since the 2020 season. The progress Fields makes this Sunday will be an indicator of what’s to come for the Bears franchise, with every game being a true test.

 

NFC North Recap: What did we takeaway from week two?

With week two of the 2021 NFL season officially in the books, how did the NFC North, the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, and Minnesota Vikings perform? For the first time all season, the NFC North finished with two wins and two losses, as Chicago and Green Bay secured their first wins of the new year while Minnesota and Detroit lost for a second straight week.

1) Chicago Bears

What more could you ask for if you’re a Chicago Bears fan? Sunday saw the Bears get their first win of the season with rookie quarterback Justin Fields getting extended playing time after veteran quarterback Andy Dalton left the game with an apparent knee injury. Fields was explosive as a runner but also showcased the ability to throw wide receivers open, as evidenced by dropped passes that should’ve been touchdowns to Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson.

The Bears’ defense was also fired up, after sacking Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow four times, forcing a fumble and three interceptions. Sitting down with Maxx Smith, my co-host for the Fireside Bears YouTube channel, I mentioned how Cincinnati was the perfect opponent for the Bears defense to turn everything around.

What’s next for the Bears? Well with Dalton’s future uncertain, the Fields show has officially arrived and a new energy has descended upon the Bears locker room as the team looks to stack wins between September and October, laying the foundation for a potential playoff run over the final two months of the season.

2) Minnesota Vikings

Someone needs to figure out what’s wrong with the Minnesota Vikings and quickly if possible. Kirk Cousins tossed three touchdowns but it wasn’t enough to beat the Arizona Cardinals, who scored 34 points, including 17 points in the second quarter. For the entire afternoon, outside of one sack, the Vikings’ offensive line did keep Cousins upright but when the game mattered the most, the Vikings failed to capitalize.

Switch over to the defensive side of the ball, traditionally a strength of the Vikings under Zimmer and there are mixed reactions. Two interceptions and three sacks weren’t enough to propel the Vikings past the Cardinals either, despite one interception being returned for a touchdown. Minnesota lost this game because Kicker Greg Joseph failed to missed a 37-yard field goal as time expired after Cousins and the offense marched down the field on a nine-play, 58-yard drive that took 2:09 off the clock.

What’s next for the Vikings? Three straight home games against the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, and Detroit Lions gives the entire team an opportunity to get some wins at home. Zimmer knows the Vikings need to win at least two of these three games, maybe even all three to stave off the hot seat, which could get hot quickly.

3) Green Bay Packers

Well, the Packers are officially back. If you watched Green Bay on Monday night, Aaron Rodgers and the offense started slow but picked up steam as the game progressed. Major credit goes to running back Aaron Jones, who scored four touchdowns while Rodgers connected with wide receiver Devante Adams eight times for 121 yards, averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

One name that stuck out on the Packers’ defense was rookie cornerback Eric Stokes. The 29th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft had two pass breakups and one tackle, shutting down Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus on a key play to force a Lions punt. Green Bay’s defense as a unit did improve as the game progressed with defensive coordinator Joe Barry proving he can get the whole unit playing at a high level.

Up next for Green Bay is a primetime matchup in the Bay Area against the San Francisco 49ers, who’ve won two straight road games. With the 49ers’ defense playing at a high level, San Francisco’s defense will present Green Bay’s offense with another great test to see if Rodgers can get Green Bay clicking even more.

4) Detroit Lions

The Lions haven’t looked as bad as many expected and while flaws do exist, Detroit’s offensive line has looked more than solid so far. Penei Sewell, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Matt Nelson gave quarterback Jared Goff more than enough time to throw. With wide receiver Tyrell Williams out, Quintez Cephus stepped up, catching four passes for 63 yards, including one touchdown. Cephus averaged15.8 yards per reception, proving he could be a big-play threat in Detroit’s offense.

The Lions’ defense did do enough to remain in the first half of the game but big plays throughout the second half helped break the game wide open in Green Bay’s favor. Having a banged up secondary, with Jeffery Okudah, the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft sidelined for the year doesn’t help Detroit’s case but the defensive line did look solid, sacking Aaron Rodgers on three occasions.

What’s next for Detroit? The Baltimore Ravens will come to town with a road trip to Chicago in week 4. It’s very much possible that the Lions start the 2021 season winless through the first quarter of the season but credit head coach Dan Campbell for continuing to have his team fight on every play, even when the game seems out of reach.

 

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.

 

 

Assessing the Chicago Bears offense in week two

Sunday afternoon proved to be fruitful for Chicago Bears fans. Not only did the Bears come away with a victory but Chicago also got an extended look at rookie quarterback Justin Fields for the first time in the regular season with veteran Andy Dalton leaving the game due to a knee injury.

Fields playing a majority of the game doesn’t mean he’ll be the starter moving forward but the Bears coaching staff now has to make a decision to make: Should the Bears continue to roll with Dalton if healthy or start Fields and bring the future to the present? The final call with be made by head coach Matt Nagy but Fields performance on Sunday while leading the offense could be enough to name the 11th overall pick the starter.

Chicago’s offense showed plenty of positives on Sunday, including the ability to consistently move the ball through the air with a vertical passing game but for every positive, there seemed to be a negative. Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney each dropped two touchdown passes that would’ve iced the game by at least two possessions.

Fields’ mobility was apparent throughout the afternoon, as the rookie rushed 10 times for 31 yards, including a 10-yard rush with 2:55 remaining in the fourth quarter to set the Bears up with a first-down to end the game. Chicago did run some RPO looks, ensuring that Cincinnati’s defense would need to account for running back David Montgomery on every play. Montgomery, who rushed 20 times for 61 yards had three receptions for 18 yards, impacting Chicago’s passing attack during a busy afternoon for the third-year running back.

Overall, Chicago’s offense put together a solid enough performance to warrant being able to compete with any opponent. The Bears may not be explosive as Nagy wants to be just yet, something that will come with time but week 2 was encouraging for both the present and future.

 

Chicago Bears finish off Bengals, Justin Fields get some action

bears, matt nagy

Sunday afternoon saw the Chicago Bears welcome fans back to Soldier Field for the first time since the 2019 season and everyone got exactly what they wanted: An extended opportunity to watch rookie quarterback Justin Fields. After veteran Andy Dalton injured his knee midway through the second quarter, the Bears were forced to play Fields in a game where the 11th overall pick did just enough to lead Chicago to a victory.

The story of the afternoon revolved around Chicago’s defense, which forced Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow into throwing three interceptions during the second half, breaking the game wide open. The Bears also took advantage of a weak Cincinnati offensive line, sacking Burrow on five different occasions.

Chicago set the tone early, marching down the field on the opening drive, where Dalton connected with wide receiver Allen Robinson for an 11-yard touchdown, putting the Bears on the board first. Running back David Montgomery played an integral role in Chicago moving the chains with 20 carries for 61 yards, including an 11-yard run. Despite a victory, the Bears still dropped three potential touchdown passes with Fields in the game. Drops by Robinson and wide receiver Darnell Mooney led to Bears kicker Cairo Santos kicking two fields.

Fields didn’t exactly light up the Bengals’ defense but throughout the afternoon, the 11th overall pick did display poise, accuracy, mobility, and pocket presence, averaging 4.6 yards per pass attempt. Going 6-for-13, Fields had just 60 yards but tacked on 31 rushing yards, scrambling for 10 yards in a third-and-nine situation, giving the Bears a fresh set of downs to set up a Bears victory.

What’s next for the Bears? Chicago will return to practice early this week to prepare for a road matchup against the Cleveland Browns. The biggest question of the week will revolve around the quarterback position for Chicago. If Dalton is healthy, will the Bears coaching staff stick with Fields or go back to the 11-year veteran? Or will head coach Matt Nagy opt to stick with his handpicked quarterback in Fields? We’ll know next week.

Chicago Bears: Limiting Joe Burrow a goal for Bilal Nichols

joe burrow, bengals

When the Chicago Bears welcome the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field, the Bears front seven will be tasked with stopping Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Less than a year after tearing his ACL, Burrow has rebounded, including a solid showing against the Minnesota Vikings in week 1, where the 24-year old quarterback tossed two touchdowns, 261 passing yards while posting a completion percentage of 74.1 percent.

“Yeah I feel like he’s a lot more athletic than he may look,” Nichols said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “You know he has the ability to you know make great throws, smart guy, and he also has the ability to get out the pocket if you let him so you know we just gotta contain him and keep him in there and do everything we can to affect him.”

Cincinnati’s offense starts and ends with Burrow. Containing an ascending quarterback who’s playing with confidence will be key for Sean Desai and the rest of the defense, which struggled to get after the quarterback in week 1, a game that included multiple miscommunications within the Bears secondary, which led to big plays.

Burrow was also the driving force behind the Bengals explosive plays in week 1, hitting wider receiver Ja’Marr Chase in stride for a 50-yard touchdown pass. Showing some single-high safety looks that eventually translate into two-deep safety looks can also benefit the Bears defense, as Desai will look to continue sending exotic blitzes in Burrow’s direction, hoping to cause some confusion.

“That’s why you have 17 opportunities, just to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” Nichols said. “And you just keep getting better and better as a group.”

For a Bears defense that’s hoping for a major bounceback, limiting Burrow starts with guys like Nichols but continues with players like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Eddie Goldman, and many more.

 

Chicago Bears: What does week 2 hold for WR Darnell Mooney?

darnell mooney, bears

When the Chicago Bears host the Cincinnati Bengals in week 2, wide receiver Darnell Mooney will be a name to watch as a player who can be a reason the Bears finally get in the win column. Mooney, who totaled five receptions for 26 yards, averaging 5.20 yards per reception. Labeled as a breakout candidate heading into 2021, the Bengals provide Mooney with the perfect opportunity to have a big game, further cementing his status as the Bears WR2.

“They play in your face, man-to-man, a little zone here and there but I mean, they’re not going to hide anything,” Mooney said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “There’s some opportunities out there, for sure, this week.”

Assessing the Cincinnati defense, Mooney will likely be matched up against Chidobe Awuzie throughout the game. Assisting Awuzie will be Safeties Jesse Bates III and Vonn Bell, both of whom will provide extra assistance whenever Mooney is asked to run deep. To fully utilize Mooney’s talent, Bears head coach Matt Nagy also needs to give Mooney the opportunity to make plays by calling plays that will require quarterback Andy Dalton to throw the ball beyond 15 yards, dialing up deep shots to keep Cincinnati’s defense guessing on every single play.

“No pressure at all, I mean I’m just going out there, trying to play my game and win the game,” Mooney said. “Regardless of what numbers are there are expected out of me, I mean, I’m trying to get, I’m trying to get dominant.”

Mooney’s rookie season showed promise to warrant a major breakout season in year two. While his production in week 1 wasn’t necessarily the best, as the Bears prepare for the Bengals, Mooney will have a major opportunity to flip the script, especially with more consistent play from the quarterback position, something that was showcased at times in week 1 for the Bears.

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: NFC North Week One Recap

bears, matt nagy

With week one of the 2021 NFL regular season officially in the books, it’s time to recap how the Chicago Bears and their NFC North counterparts performed.

 

1) Chicago Bears

Well, the Bears lost to the Los Angeles Rams and are now 1-3 in season openers under head coach Matt Nagy. The Bears did too little too late and struggled to limit big plays, allowing Matthew Stafford and the Rams offense to score points. Chicago did look solid in the running game, where David Montgomery had a 41-yard run on the first possession of the game.

Bears QB Andy Dalton was efficient throughout the evening and while Justin Fields did see some action, Chicago’s first drive ended in a redzone interception. The Bears also failed to convert on fourth down, going 0-for-4, a stat that Nagy will likely want to forget. Chicago ran 69 plays and had the ball for nearly 35 minutes but still failed to score in both the first and fourth quarter.

It’s a long season and with 16 more games to go, the Bears have an opportunity to turn this ship around. Nobody in Chicago is panicking just yet but the Bears did flash some positives in week 1.

2) Green Bay Packers

Um, what just happened. The Packers playing the New Orleans Saints was America’s Game of the Week but it looked more like a Super Bowl contender (New Orleans) playing against a team that’s heading towards a full-scale rebuild Green Bay struggled all afternoon. The offense couldn’t move the ball and the defense couldn’t come up with any stops.

The bigger issue here is the play of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who tossed two interceptions, zero touchdowns, and had just 15 completions. This could be rust that Rodgers is shaking off after being absent from the Packers offseason programs but reporting to training camp on time. Or it could be that Rodgers’ absence has led to trust issues among players, the coaching staff, and front office.

It’s only week 1 but the Packers’ performance isn’t encouraging. Time for head coach Matt LaFleur and the coaching staff to reflect hard about what just happened.

3) Minnesota Vikings

One minute it seems like the Vikings are ready to win, the next minute, Mike Zimmer’s squad looks like a young team that’s learning how to play football. The Vikings are all over the place, it’s that simple. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow sliced up the Vikings defense all afternoon, winning by three scores at one point.

Minnesota also had 12 penalties on the afternoon. Wide receiver Adam Thielen had two touchdowns but the quarterback Kirk Cousins was unable to capitalize in key situations, once again proving that the Vikings need to get better at the quarterback position if a deep run in the playoffs is to be made.

4) Detroit Lions

Despite being down by 21 points at halftime, give the Lions credit. Head coach Dan Campbell, who’s been made fun of by NFC North fans this offseason for his passion and enthusiasm coached hard on Sunday afternoon. Detroit battled back in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points, losing by eight just points.

Running backs Jamal Williams and D’Andre Swift combined for 16 receptions, averaging 7.5 yards per reception. Up next for the Lions is the division rival Green Bay Packers, meaning that some NFC North team will be in the win column next week. By the way, credit to quarterback Jared Goff, who was traded to the Lions this offseason for tossing three touchdowns in his Lions debut while posting a passer rating of 92.6.

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.