We called out the Chicago Bears defense ahead of their Week 2 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. They delivered in convincing fashion. In a truly vintage performance, they got to Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow four times and picked him off three drives in a row en route to a 20-17 victory.
Don’t be fooled either. The final score belies what was an impressive bounce-back showing from both the pass rush and secondary.
Bears Defense Picks, Sacks Their Way to Team’s First Win
Chicago’s once-vaunted defense looked very pedestrian in Week 1. One might even go as far as to say they were bad, thanks largely to two big plays that resulted in touchdowns for the Rams including one where both Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson opted not to tackle the wide receiver.
They held Burrow to 207 yards, most of which came in comeback mode.
Cincy did manage to score 14 fourth-quarter points to make it interesting but the Bears also went conservative even in the passes they called once Dalton left the game.
Robert Quinn made plays from the first frame and ended the day with two tackles for loss and a sack. He’s already tied his sack total from last season. On the other side, Khalil Mack was disruptive as well, notching a sack of his own.
The star of the day for the defense was Roquan Smith. He had a sack, a pick-six, and was around the ball all day.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 19, 2021
Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor also had good showings as the former snagged his first career interception and the latter a big fourth-down pass break-up. Unfortunately, nickel back continues to be an issue as Duke Shelley took his turn getting eaten up in coverage. Neither he nor Marqui Christian has shown that well so far.
Eddie Jackson caught a lot of flack for the breakdown on the touchdown against the Rams. He reminded everyone how much of a ballhawk he is in this one as he forced a fumble that fellow safety Tashaun Gipson recovered.
The two late Bengals scores were primarily functions of quick turnarounds and short fields. This was a good game plan by Sean Desai.
Offense Still Ho-Humming
Things started off well, with the Bears marching 43 yards in nine plays for a touchdown; an 11-yard hookup between Andy Dalton and Allen Robinson. Dalton would finish the game on the sideline thanks to a leg injury suffered while scrambling. He completed 81.8 percent of his passes for 56 yards and that score.
Justin Fields completed 6-of-13 passes (46.1 percent) for 60 yards and an interception.
It was a mixed bag from the rookie. But it was also about what you would expect from a first-year player who didn’t receive any first-team reps in practice.
That being said, unless Dalton’s injury is significant, nothing Fields did today will likely sway Matt Nagy’s decision-making on who will start next week versus the Cleveland Browns. The NFL has been a place where coaches are reluctant to take starting gigs away due to injury.
For the second straight week, the offense looked like a serviceable if not uninspiring unit. But a pair of drops by wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney had a hand in that with drops, one of which was for a touchdown. David Montgomery was also mostly bottled up and Damien Williams continues to be used more than his production has warranted.
The offensive line also held up relatively well though there were lowlight moments for almost everyone. Sam Mustipher, Cody Whitehair, and James Daniels all had plays where they got blown off of the ball, which is becoming a theme for the former. Germain Ifedi also had a bad false start.
On the plus side, Jason Peters made it through the entire game and looked good doing it, even demolishing a defender on an early pass play.
It happened, though probably not how any sane fan wanted. Fields got extended playing time but only because Dalton injured himself. It remains to be seen the severity of Dalton’s leg, but Fields, who said he wasn’t satisfied with his individual performance, also said he would be ready with a week’s worth of preparation.
As blah as his final line is, there were still things to like about the rookie’s performance. He didn’t hold onto the ball too long for the most part and was working through his progressions. Fields also used his legs to buy time rather than simply scramble; at least to begin.
The bad showed its head, but nothing that isn’t correctable.
He has been hesitant at times to step up in the pocket going back to the pre-season. But some of that could be because there wasn’t a pocket most of the time he was in the game. His interception came on a play where he drifted back into pressure he didn’t see. He tried to make something happen and instead wound throwing up a prayer to Logan Wilson.
As the line has gotten healthy, the pass protection has been better than expected. Look for it to continue that trend as it also benefits from a renewed focus on the ground attack.
Despite only having 60 yards, Montgomery still got 20 carries.
We’d also like to think Nagy won’t go into a shell if he has a full week to install a game plan specifically for Fields. He said after the game that he thought his rookie quarterback, “did a heck of a job”, and that there was “a lot of stuff he will learn from watching the tape.”
Bears Defense Still Vital
Through two weeks the Bears are .500 and there is a strong case to be made that the defense is at least largely responsible for both the loss and the win. Regardless of whether Fields is indeed under center when they kick off against Cleveland or Dalton returns to the lineup, this defense has to be a constant, not a variable.
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