The Bears managed to get Justin Fields into the season opener Sunday, they just couldn't get the ball into the end zone enough or keep the Los Angles Rams from getting it in there.
Matthew Stafford big-played the Bears defense to death while the Bears offense fought and scrapped for small gains in a ball-control attack that yielded insufficient scoring in a 34-14 loss.
Simply put, neither the Bears defense nor their offense could keep up with Stafford and the explosive Rams.
"That's what you're dealing with when you play this team," Bears coach Matt Nagy said.
Stafford went 20 of 26 for 321 yards and three TDs. He threw a 67-yard TD to Van Jefferson in the first half and a 56-yard TD to Cooper Kupp in the third quarter, both times taking advantage of major gaffes in pass coverage. Stafford finished off the game with a 2-yard TD to Robert Woods in the fourth quarter.
Fields got into the game at several points, completed 2 of 2 for 10 yards and scored his first NFL TD on a 3-yard zone-read run around the right side in the third quarter. It might have been the Bears' highlight of the night as it pulled them back within 20-14.
"We had the plan and we stuck to our plan," Nagy said. "We knew when and where we were going to use him and we stuck to that."
On the next series after Fields got the Bears within a score, the Rams merely went right back to their big-play attack and tight end Tyler Higbee got behind Roquan Smith for a 37-yard completion. Then Kupp caught a short pass and turned it into an 18-yard play to set up Darrell Henderson's 1-yard TD.
The Bears never got back into it after that point. Their short-passing offense and running attack was ill-equipped to keep up with the high-powered Rams.
Dalton finished 27 of 38 for 206 yards with no gains more than 19 yards.
"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. "You're not going to get very many explosives against this team."
The loss failed to hurt the Bears in terms of the NFC North, where every team disappointed Sunday, especially the Green Bay Packers.
"It's a long season," Dalton said. "I think everybody understands that. And I think if you look at the way the division shook out today we're still in the same position."
From the way the Rams charged out to a 13-0 lead, it looked like they would deliver a drubbing similar to the 38-3 loss the Packers absorbed Sunday against New Orleans.
Jefferson caught a long pass behind the secondary, went to the ground and Eddie Jackson failed to touch him down. Jefferson got up and ran for a 67-yard TD play in the first quarter.
Drives of 24 and 54 yards resulted in Matt Gay field goals of 53 and 22 yards in the first half and it looked like the Bears would be routed.
The Bears kept running and throwing short and Montgomery drove forward for a 3-yard TD on third-and-1 with 4:08 left in the second quarter to get them back within six at the half.
"I thought we got the run game going pretty good which is good but we've got to use this to grow which is positive," Nagy said.
Montgomery's play proved a highlight of the night, as he gained 108 yards on 16 carries against a defense that allowed no 100-yard rushers last year. His game started with an explosive run of 41 yards to get the Bears in scoring position but Dalton threw his one interception of the game in the end zone on third down after a false start on Cole Kmet.
"I was going to (Darnell) Mooney on that one and unfortunately it got tipped and when balls get tipped in this league they more times than not end up in the other team's hands," Dalton said. "And so unfortunate that it happened and it's tough because it was a really good drive for us. We kind of set the tone early with how we wanted to play but unfortunately we weren't able to finish that one."
The offense failed to covert four fourth-down plays but the defense's inability to limit big plays proved even bigger.
"It's frustrating," Smith said. "It's just that we've got to honestly come out and get better. We know what hurt us and it's about addressing it this week in practice because we know it will come again next week."
Nor were the top two Bears left tackles able finish. They lost 39-year-old Jason Peters to a quad injury and backup Larry Borom to an ankle injury, leaving backup right tackle Elijah Wilkinson playing on a side he had trouble with at camp.
It's possibly the biggest problem they'll have going forward as they prepare next week to host the Cincinnati Bengals.