The Bears’ trick play on their first possession Sunday was a liar. What felt like the start of a memorable game against their dominant rival, instead, served as a prelude to a forgettable offensive performance by quarterback Justin Fields.
An offense that was stuck in the Soldier Field mud last week played like that on the much-drier Lambeau Field turf during Sunday night’s 27-10 loss to the rival Packers. The well-scripted first drive of the game turned into an ugly reality show in which what was planned quickly devolved into something ugly. When it did, it reminded the Bears what they must have known entering the season — if they’re going to win games, they can’t do it by hoping Fields can race Aaron Rodgers to 30 points. Or even 20.
The Bears need to run the ball efficiently and put their second-year quarterback in position to not only make amazing plays, but easy, on-time ones. Through two games — the Week 1 victory in standing water was hardly predictive — it’s unclear if he can.
At least the first drive was smooth.The Bears had leaned on running back David Montgomery for 16 yards on two carries when, after Fields muffed a snap and recovered it, the Bears lined up in the shotgun. Fields handed off to Montgomery, who was on his left, only for the running back to turn and flip the ball back to the quarterback.
Fields looked left and found former Packers receiver Equanimeous St. Brown on a curl route. By the time he was tackled, the Bears had gained 30 yards. Three plays later, Fields dove across the front right pylon for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead.
The drive answered some of the Bears’ biggest questions from the week before. The 71-yard scoring drive was three yards longer than the 68 yards the Bears totaled in the first half of Week 1. Montgomery, in three runs, eclipsed his 26 rushing yards from the week before. And Fields’ 30-yard completion to St. Brown was one more completion to a wide receiver than the team could claim in the first half last week.
The answers, though, were fleeting. For the rest of the half, the Bears looked just as inept as they had in the first half of Week 1– only without the driving rain to blame.
The Bears gained three yards the rest of the half — the exact length of the screen pass thrown to Khalil Herbert when the Bears wanted the clock to expire in the first half. The team’s three other possessions ended with three-and-out punts. Those nine plays produced zero yards; the Bears’ third-down distances were 19 yards, 10 yards and 15 yards.
The second drive of the game was ugly. Fields was sacked on first down and Darnell Mooney was taken down on a screen pass to force third-and-19. The Bears dumped a give-up screen to Montgomery, and punted.
The third possession was embarrassing. On third down, Fields scrambled and threw a completion to St. Brown — only the quarterback was three yards past the line of scrimmage. The flag turned into a loss of downs, a five-yard penalty and a punt.
Trailing by 10 on their next drive, the Bears’ drive went like this: a dropped pass by tight end Cole Kmet, a loss of five yards on a Montgomery run and a Fields slant pass to St. Brown that fell six yards short of the sticks.
Fields had 30 passing yards on the first drive — all on the flea-flicker — and 15 the rest of the half. It’s not exactly the first half in a rainstorm — the Bears’ first five drives of the 49ers game totaled 36 yards over 20 plays –but it wasn’t the leap the Bears so desperately needed. They entered Sunday’s game curious if they could operate an offense in good conditions. They still don’t have an answer.
The Bears wouldn’t gain another first down until the second drive of the second half — and by then they were down 17. A Cairo Santos field goal in the third quarter cut the lead to 14.
The Bears’ best drive of the night had little to do with their passing game. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Bears had the ball at their own 10. They didn’t complete a single pass as they drove 89 yards, leaning on Montgomery, who had six carries for 61 yards on that possession alone, and Herbert, who had two for 33.
Fields ran twice for 10 yards — but needed 11. On third-and-goal from the 6, Fields ran right and dove for the front right pylon with the ball in his hand. He was ruled down at the 1, though, setting up fourth-and-goal. With 8:13 to play and down by 14, Fields took a shotgun snap and plunged forward — only to be stuffed.
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