Chicago Bears see Justin Fields Rebound, Defense Show Cracks in Week 4

bears rebound

The Chicago Bears have to be happy to see their rookie quarterback Justin Fields rebound.  Their 24-14 victory against the Detroit Lions in Week 4 comes a week after being decimated, both literally and figuratively, by the Cleveland Brown in Week 3. That final score of 26-6 looked better than the nine sacks Fields absorbed (on top of many more hits).

However, in Week 4 against the “get right” Lions, the Bears did just that bringing their record to 2-2 on the season.

The Bears Needed a Win and for Justin Fields to Rebound and Got Both

Fields of Dreams

Fields finished the day 11-for-17 for 209 passing yards and an interception. The numbers may seem pedestrian. But he led three touchdown drives that were finished off by running backs David Montgomery (twice) and Damien Williams (once). Nevertheless, the rookie showed poise under duress and much better timing with his pass-catchers.

He showed an affinity for second-year wideout Darnell Mooney. Mooney had five grabs for a career-high 125 yards with a carry for 10 yards to boot.  Their connection on a 32-yarder in the third quarter was a wonderful glimpse into the future for this team.

Not to be left out, Allen Robinson finished with three grabs for 63 yards of his own; 55 of which came on two catches.

In total, Fields had five throws go for more than 20 yards on Sunday.

Those kinds of “explosive” plays are widely accepted as a good indicator of offensive success. As you may have guessed, are an area in which the Bears have struggled for years. 

They also had 187 yards on the ground giving them 372 total yards on the day. That’s the most they’ve had on the young season. This was also a game where Matt Nagy turned over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

Similar to last season, it’s not that Lazor is calling plays in wins. It is that he calls plays that make sense.

The biggest criticism of Nagy in that role is that it often seems haphazard with little being done to set opponents up from one play or series to the next. On Sunday, the Bears ran it early and they ran it often. Even after Montgomery (23-106-2) went down with a knee injury, they continued to lean on the ground game with Damien Williams (8-55-1).

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Line ‘Em Up

Fields did take a sack, which resulted in a fumble. For the second time in as many weeks, though, he fought to get back on top of it. It’s a moral victory, sure. But most will remember how Cam Newton was blasted for not falling on a loose ball in Super Bowl 50.

Against an easier foe than last week, the Bears offensive line held up fine.

First, the rushing yards are nice to see. And the steady attempts are surely appreciated by the guys up front like 39-year-old Jason Peters. It wasn’t a perfect performance. But they came away with just one penalty against them, a false start by James Daniels on Chicago’s third possession.

The best evidence of the line’s improved play remains those splash plays. 

Many teams intend to make the opposing offense dink and dunk their way down the field. Chicago’s five-man group hadn’t shown that they could do that up until Sunday.

Switching to Lazor is every bit as much about the blocking as it is about Fields. After last the loss to Cleveland, he said there were protections in the offense that would have prevented the most important player on the team from getting beat up. That the Bears never went to them might have been the most compelling reason for the change.

Whatever the case, this is sustainable.

The Bears are heading into the most grueling part of their schedule. They need to know what they can do well offensively.

They face three straight offenses ranked in the top 10 entering Week 3, starting with the Raiders in Las Vegas next week. And, in Week 8, they take on a Green Bay Packers team that’s scored 65 points over the last two weeks after a three-point dud in their opener.

Cause for Pause

Montgomery’s knee injury will be something to keep an eye on. He came into Week 4 ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing yards and, after crossing the century-mark yet again, will surely remain close to the top. Let’s just hope it’s not something that takes him out too long. After the game, he sent out a tweet praising God but not much else has come out.

Again, Williams is capable of handling the workload in the meantime. The question will be the depth with Khalil Herbert as the only other back on the active roster and only Ryan Nall on the practice squad.

The bigger concern might be that the defense gave up 348 yards to a Lions team that came in ranked 18th in yards per game. They did get to Jared Goff four times and recover two fumbles. 

We warned about Detroit’s toughness. But breakdowns in the Bears secondary led to two Kahilf Raymond touchdowns and they struggled to contain D’Andre Swift (4-33) catching passes out of the backfield.

They also gave up 82 rushing yards to Jamaal Williams (14-66) and Swift (8-16) with Akiem Hicks going down on the first defensive play.

Even with all of that, and along with the gaffes from defensive backs, defensive penalties continue to be the bane of Chicago’s defensive existence. They once again got called for fouls that extended Detroit drives including Khyiris Tonga’s second roughing call and a ticky-tack roughing call on Khalil Mack.

If there is a nit to pick with the offense, it’s their second-year tight end, Cole Kmet. He was on the field for the majority of the game but only came away with one grab for six yards. His most memorable play was falling on a nice pass from Fields and asking for pass interference.

Bears Rebound, On to Week 5

Nagy confirmed that it was Lazor calling plays in his postgame press conference. But he likely re-gained some of the faith, at least with the walls of Halas Hall, that he can be that “CEO” type of coach. One capable of commanding a room, something even his biggest detractors concede, but also of delegating to his capable staff.

He’s done it with the defense since the beginning with Vic Fangio. But he’d been reluctant to turn over the reigns to what he was brought in to fix. There were even reports that he was unhappy with how they had to operate when he gave up play-calling last season.

Now, at least for the time being, he is showing growth as a coach. And that is allowing the same from his offensive coordinator, who called a solid game, and his rookie quarterback who we didn’t know would even start until late Saturday.

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