As different as the Chicago Bears offense looked on Sunday night, familiar mistakes and a suddenly leaky defense opened the question on if we should even want Justin Fields to deal with this mess.
The Bears did a lot of things differently and were even good in some aspects. This wasn’t the same as the group that struggled to get past midfield against the Rams a year ago. They actually moved the ball well until it was a two-score game late in the fourth quarter. The running game was exceptional and Andy Dalton was able to find open receivers underneath to keep the chains moving. The veteran quarterback even showed some mobility, running on one first down and scrambling before throwing for another.
The Bears gained 40 more yards than the Rams allowed on a per game basis last year.
Matt Nagy has, in the past, been killed for his unwillingness to be aggressive on fourth downs, but we saw four attempts during this game. Had any of them been successful, the stat nerds would’ve rejoiced.
But they weren’t.
And the same flaws that have killed the offense for four years were still there.
A false start on a third-and-one led to a timeout, which, somehow, led to an interception.
The interception seemed to have numerous mistakes.
Nate Tice pointed out on Twitter it appeared Cole Kmet — the same player who had the false start and dropped a pass later in the game — was running his route too deep, which helped the defender stay back and tip the pass. Nagy referred to the play as a mistake on Dalton’s part, noting that the intended target — Darnell Mooney — had an option route and Dalton threw toward the route Mooney didn’t run.
Why mess up only one aspect of the play, when you can screw the whole thing up?
In any case, a drive that should’ve ended with a touchdown instead did so with an interception. We’ve seen that happen too many times before.
The Bears have survived the offense’s inability to nail the details simply because their defense has been a top-10 unit the last three years. Week One showed us clearly, they aren’t that this year.
During the broadcast, Cris Collinsworth pointed out that a bad situation can lead to quarterbacks developing bad habits. The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen wrote that was already happening to Fields in the preseason, specifically noting plays in which Fields was caught staring at the pass rush.
At this point, Nagy doesn’t even appear to be hiding the fact that he’s getting Fields ready to play, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to think the rookie quarterback can save them from themselves. Playing Fields just to play him may do more harm than good.
As ready as fans think Fields is, Week One showed us that preseason isn’t a good indicator of that. The New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars both thought their quarterbacks were ready. Then a real NFL game began and neither did much of anything until their teams were already blown out. Mac Jones was efficient, but his team still only scored 16 points.
Fields can probably use his 4.4 speed and ability to extend plays and and create some magical moments. But until the mistakes stop, there won’t be a coherent offense. Is that worth the risk?
Fans seem to have the idea that the Bears can’t ruin Fields, but the last 50 years have told us not to sell them short when it comes to screwing up at quarterback. At some point, we’re going to get to see if Fields can save the team — specifically if he can save Nagy. We just have to hope it doesn’t hurt him in the long run.