Bears opener only provides disappointing answers to preseason questions
The Bears had a long off-season with very strange moves at the start. General Manager Ryan Pace cut all-pro corner Kyle Fuller to free up cap space for new starting quarterback Andy Dalton. This shocked all Bears fans because Fuller was considered such a key part of the Bears’ defense. Now Jaylon Johnson takes on that starting cornerback role, and Pace signed cornerback Desmond Trufant to replace Fuller, but he was cut in early September. The Bears now have five cornerbacks: Johnson, Kindle Vildor, Artie Burns, Duke Shelley, and Xavier Crawford.
In the NFL draft, the Bears traded up for Justin Fields apparently to finally have their franchise quarterback, but Dalton was named the Week 1 starter by head coach Matt Nagy in the preseason, angering many Bears fans. “We need to see him in the regular season,” Nagy said of Dalton.
The Bears offensive line has been concerning as it is ranked in the bottom in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Bears tried to address the tackle issue in the draft by taking Teven Jenkins, a tackle who had injury questions at the time. Jenkins then needed back surgery in mid-August and will miss an undetermined amount of time, if not the entire season. The Bears later signed two-time All-Pro tackle Jason Peters shortly before the start of the regular season, but he is 39 years old.
Week 1 for the Bears did not settle the concerns fans had entering the regular season. A 34-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in prime time seemed to encapsulate the trepidation regarding whether or not this team will contend this season in the NFC North. A Dalton Red Zone interception on the first series set the tone for how the game would go, and the Rams followed shortly after with a touchdown for 67 yards thrown by newly acquired Matthew Stafford to wide receiver Van Jefferson.
Fields was used on a few plays and even rushed for a touchdown, but Dalton was and remains the main pass thrower for now. The lone bright spot may have been the running game, led by David Montgomery, who ran for 108 yards and a score, but the defense struggled to stop former division rival Stafford in his new home stadium, as he threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns, two of them 56- and 67-yard plays that exposed the Bears secondary.
The Bears won the possession clock battle with 35:14 possession time compared to the Rams 24:86, but it is points that matter. The offense failed to score on long drives and the defense let up points quickly.
“We’re disappointed in the loss, we gave up some explosive plays, and we did not execute in the Red Zone,” said Nagy after the game.
Chicago will have their home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2 with Dalton taking on his former team and hoping to quell the quarterback controversy, which does not seem to be going away any time soon. Neither do the defensive issues or the shakiness of the offensive line.