2021 Chicago Bears Win Home Opener

Bears win 20 – 17 over Cincinnati as Justin Fields subs for injured Andy Dalton.

Bears fans who have been clamoring for Fields to see significant playing time got their wish on Sunday when 2021 starter Dalton came up hobbling as he approached the sideline early in the second quarter. Fields then entered for three plays that failed to yield a first down. Dalton would return for one more series before sitting out the remainder of the game, having given his team an early lead with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson.

Andy came out and then I just got thrown in. So I think I was pretty prepared, but they were definitely mistakes made out there.”

-Justin Fields

The Bear defense took a lot of the pressure off Fields with a pick-six by Roquan Smith, who stole a Joe Burrow pass and deftly ran it back 53 yards for the score. The first selection in the 2020 NFL draft was picked off three times in total. Cairo Santos added two field goals, and Chicago hung on for the win.

Roquan Smith

They had good pass rush, so we tried to get it out quick, and they knew that they had a good pass rush and we were going to get it out quick, so they just started sitting on all of our routes.

-Bengals QB Joe Burrow

Bears linebacker Robert Quinn who finally had the kind of defensive game he was brought here for, said, “I think the defense was just trying to play up to our standards and keep points off the board. We tried to make them turn the ball over. Guys were just out there rolling and having fun. We needed this today and we will keep the momentum on our side. At the end of the day, it was a great team win and we did what we had to do. We got more points than the opposing team. We can walk out happy.”

In our first week, we didn’t have the type showing that we wanted. Throughout this week there was an emphasis in order to bring energy, passion, playing hard though the snap. Just before the game, we reminded ourselves that this is what we want our defense to look like, and I think we came out and showed it today.”

-Akiem Hicks

Bears defensive back Jaylon Johnson, who also victimized Burrow for an interception, talked about how keyed up the defense was as a result of the turnovers. “You just have to keep coming,” he stated. “And we knew they were going to keep coming.  Every team in the NFL has the ability to come back and has the ability to make plays.  It was just getting after each and every play, each and every down.  We have to finish a lot better, and that was our mantra, just keep attacking.  We have a lot of making up to do, and we were attacking every play we could.”

“Credit to Coach Desai and the defensive guys who came out and got four straight turnovers.”

-Matt Nagy

Once the coaching staff realized that Dalton wasn’t returning for the second half, they made some adjustment to their strategy. “We had some things on the sheet that we like,” noted Nagy. “And whether it’s type of play calls based off of formations, motions, shifts personnel, stuff like that. When you get out there in this situation and you’re the backup quarterback and you don’t have all those practice reps and you get thrown in the mix, the last thing you want to do to that guy is make him start thinking about how to call formation motion shift. You want to be able to play fast. So we had to adjust a little bit because of the situation of coming in like he did. That’s all part of it.”

After the game, Fields was asked about his comfort level out there. “I just tried to have the mentality of play like practice,” he said. “So when I’m on the practice field with my teammates I try to play every play like a game and I just try to keep that calm mindset and calm mentality to just not make the moment bigger than it is and just go out there and play football because that’s all it is at the end of the day.”

One of the key plays late in the game was a ten yard scramble on third and nine with 2:55 to go, and the Bengals with a single timeout remaining. That first down conversion enabled Chicago to run out the clock and preserve the win. “Nobody was really open, and I saw a big kind of wide hole open,” stated Fields. “And I know of course first down wins the game. I know the left end grabbed me a little bit but I just broke the tackle and tried to stabilize and got down, and of course it was a big play in the game for sure.”

Nagy spoke to Fields Sunday night. “In that moment you get put in the game. It’s different then starting that first play of the game. At the same time, I know what Justin expects of himself. Big picture for him, there are some things that he can learn from, but also did a lot of great things too.”

Justin knows he has some homework to do after he watches film of his performance. “I’m just anxious to see what I messed up on and what I have to do better, really. I think me, personally, I didn’t play well. In my eyes, I played well enough to get the win, of course, but there’s a lot of room for me to improve. So I’m just going to watch the film and see what I need to get better, what I missed, what I could have done better and just work on that.”