First Glimpse of Justin Fields Demands More

The Bears teased with a glimpse of Justin Fields but when it came to the main course they couldn't produce in a 34-14 defeat by the Los Angeles Rams.
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The fact Justin Fields's debut of five plays received so much attention spoke volumes Sunday about the way the Bears performed in a 34-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.  

There wasn't much else to be positive about, from their renovated defense to an offensive line now plagued by injuries.

The Bears came into this game with a defensive-minded offensive game plan, hoping to hold the Rams in check, and it was their own defense that was downright offensive.

This is a weak combination.

Beating big-time teams requires more than small thinking and it was apparent the Bears were thinking only of holding onto the ball and not breaking big plays on offense. 

Rams coach Sean McVay properly assessed the secondary problems the Bears have and had quarterback Matthew Stafford attacking downfield. It worked because Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks couldn't provide enough consistent heat on the Rams quarterback to prevent a faulty secondary from being exposed.

"We've got 17 guaranteed opportunities," David Montgomery reminded everyone.

The thought of this happening 16 more times is what makes Justin Fields playing more going forward a very inviting thought. 

Bears Running Game: B-

David Montgomery's 41-yard run to start the game created a bit of false hope but he continued to enjoy enough success to finish with 108 yards on 16 attempts and a TD, his seventh straight game with a TD. However, at the rate the Rams offense was going it would have taken about 300 yards rushing and another three TDs for Montgomery to have an impact. The offensive line's run blocking could have easily broken down considering how they lost tackles Larry Borom and Jason Peters during the game to injuries but they forged ahead and continued opening holes. Justin Fields' TD run wasn't just a big play on his part, as tight end J.P. Holtz threw blocks on two players to spring him and this wasn't easy in a short-yardage area.

Bears Passing Game: D

Andy Dalton averaged a feeble 5.4 yards per attempt, which is the same kind of problem the Bears had last year with Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. So maybe it's the play calling and design and not the passer? One bright spot was receiver Marquise Goodwin, who showed he could have more value than just as a decoy on deep routes. He had the long pass reception of the night, just 19 yards. For all that speed in their receiver corps, that 19-yarder was the only pass completion the Bears had longer than 11 yards. Again, considering the injuries, their pass blocking held up to Aaron Donald reasonably well until it got out of hand in the fourth quarter.  

Bears Run Defense: C+

Even without injured nose tackle Eddie Goldman, the Bears still limited the Rams to 74 rushing yards. The Rams offense didn't need running considering the chaos going on in the Bears secondary. Late in the game when the Rams wanted to kill clock, they were able to run more effectively as they had 62 of the rushing yards in the second half. So it appeared to be more a case of the Rams choosing not to run rather than the Bears stuffing them. Grade: C+

Bears Pass Defense: F

Letting Kyle Fuller leave and not finding a free agent answer at slot cornerback when Buster Skrine was not brought back seemed like huge issues. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson avoided bigger mistakes but the safeties and their communication with cornerbacks couldn't have been worse as big plays popped up on every big down. One of Duke Shelley's strengths had been tackling but he couldn't cover well. So the Bears started Marqui Christian at slot cornerback and he didn't cover well or tackle. So they'll be trying to rectify this problem. Eddie Jackson spoke all week about the chip on his shoulder over last year and it's good to know his shoulder is good for something because he sure didn't use it to tackle against the Rams. If he doesn't want to tackle, maybe just touching the receiver down to the ground after he falls in the future would suffice.

Special Teams: C+

Khalil Herbert turned a potential disaster into a big play on the opening kickoff when he tried to return it from too deep and busted it for a 50-yarder. It's too difficult to assess punt returner Nsimba Webster when the Rams' offense tore up the Bears defense to the extent that they only had to punt one time. Cairo Santos didn't get a chance to extend his streak of 27 straight field goals but did kick off for three touchbacks.

Coaching: D

Nagy gets some credit for finding a way to get Fields involved but his play calling looked only marginally better than last year and there remains this terrible habit of calling end-arounds and wide receiver screens before they've even been set up by bigger gains or other types of plays. Those are counter plays that break for long yardage, not plays that set up other plays. Nagy has to have more deep plays mixed in that have the potential to break long. They were too bogged down by short passes. Sean Desai might want to go re-read the chapter in the Vic Fangio defensive playbook about basic football because his group failed on the most fundamental level all night. 

Overall: D

The Bears came out of the week still tied for first place in the NFC North, which doesn't mean they can simply throw out the film on this loss. If some of these same mistakes get repeated against Cincinnati and they're 0-2, they need to think seriously about simply starting Fields and taking their potential lumps with a rookie quarterback because they'll be going nowhere with Dalton's short passing anyway. 

If one thing comes from this game it's the memory of Nagy talking at the end of training camp about how they know their first-team offense is ready despite not using them in preseason together. They looked good in practices at getting the ball downfield in the passing game, he reasoned. After Sunday night, it's apparent the reason they looked good was because their defense can't defend the pass.

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