Today marked the return of Chicago Bears football after seven long months. The Bears finally took to the field donning their navy blue jerseys and white pants and what sight it was. It was a beautiful day for football at Soldier Field with clear blue skies and temperatures in the upper 70s.
Bears fans packed Soldier Field for the first time in 601 days, and those in attendance were in store for a treat. Despite being a preseason game, excitement was through the roof. After three hours of football, the Bears came away with a 20-13 victory. In a game that saw a highly anticipated debut and hard-fought football for 60 minutes, there were a few observations to draw from it.
So, in a tradition like any other, here are the takeaways from the Bears’ preseason debut.
The Return (To Normalcy)
Having fans back in the stands and making noise at Soldier Field was an extremely welcome sight. Unlike last year, it wasn’t any of that synthetic crowd noise either. This is how football should be. Not having fans in attendance made for a downright weird football experience last year. Now that they’re back, it just feels right. It was an energetic crowd for good reason, as there is plenty to be excited about with the Bears in 2021. This rejuvenated enthusiasm is driven by the fact that the Bears may finally have a franchise quarterback, and he just happened to make his debut today.
Talk about an introduction. Justin Fields’ highly anticipated debut as a Bears went off without a hitch. Well, not entirely. It was a bit of a slow start to the day for Fields but he rebounded nicely.
On his first drive, Fields completed both his passes for 10 yards. But that possession was plagued by back-to-back offensive penalties. Subsequently, Fields tossed four straight incomplete passes, one of which got tipped at the line of scrimmage. Another incompletion was beautifully thrown but his receiver could not muster a centimeter of separation.
The ominous start to Fields’ Bears career did not end there. The 22-year-old also coughed up the ball on a six-yard scramble, but he hustled back in a diving attempt to recover the ball. This play proved to be the turning point for the highly competitive Ohio State alum. Following that miscue, the rookie found his groove by completing 12 of 14 passes for 132 yards and tossing a beautiful 30-yard touchdown.
Fields also showcased the elusiveness of his game on the ground. On top of his first run of six yards, he ran for 27 yards on four attempts, including scoring his first-ever NFL touchdown.
All in all, Fields’ stat line read as follows: 14/20, 142 yards, 1 TD, 106.7 QB Rating; 5 rushes, 33 yards, 1 TD.
Once again, Javon Wims set the offense back with a penalty. He didn’t punch any defensive backs this time, but he did commit a false start penalty on Justin Fields’ first possession. Wims made up for it by finishing with zero catches and zero yards. Have yourself a day, Javon. Now, it’s looking very likely that his days in a Bears uniform are coming to an end, barring injuries at the position.
As one door closes (Wims), another one opens. That door is now open for Rodney Adams. Adams led the team in receiving against the Dolphins. The ex-Viking and Colt hauled in 57 yards on four catches. It’s evident the rapport he developed with Fields during training camp has carried over to game action. Keep an eye on Adams as the preseason progresses.
The Bears have plenty of depth up front on defense. The linebackers and linemen were attacking and swarming the Dolphins all game long. But keep in mind that they faced second- and third-string players for the bulk of the game. Nevertheless, there were quite a few names — outside of the usual — that stood out despite not stuffing the stat sheet:
- Alec Ogletree
- Caleb Johnson
- Trevis Gipson
- Daniel Archibong
- Austin Calitro
- Mike Pennel
- Charles Snowden
- Jeremiah Attaochu
- Angelo Blackson
Of note, Ogletree made a key stop on a third-and-goal situation early on on that forced the Dolphins to settle for a field goal.
Defensive coordinator Sean Desai, much like Vic Fangio, decided to coach out of the booth for this game. In his first game calling plays for the defense, Desai did reasonably well. The ‘bend but don’t break’ defense showed up early on in the game before the Bears stifled the Dolphins in the second half. Given that it’s just the first preseason contest, there isn’t much to dissect from an X’s and O’s standpoint at the moment. But if this is just the taste of things to come, it will be fun to see what Sean Desai can do given the full complement of players.
Eh. There wasn’t much that stood out among Bears returners today. Jordan Lucas, Chris Lacy, Jon’Vea Johnson, and Khalil Herbert hauled in one kickoff apiece and produced roughly the same result. Johnson and Lucas each had two punt returns, each muffed one, and didn’t really dazzle anyone. Luckily, their miscues did not cost the team at the end of the day.
Special Teams Coverage
The kick and punt return coverage for the Bears today was less than ideal. It was extremely evident how crucial Cordarrelle Patterson and Sherrick McManis were to these units over the past few years. There’s still plenty of time to clean it up, so no need to worry just yet.
Apparently, the Bears have another kicker on the roster who might be good. There had been whispers during camp of another guy who may be able to get the job done behind Cairo Santos. Well, today that other guy, Brian Johnson, booted a 44-yarder through the uprights and converted on both of his extra points. Ryan Pace has options now. The Bears can either stash Johnson on the practice squad or trade him to a kicker-needy team.
There was plenty to be excited about following the Bears’ return to action. At the end of the day, it’s still early in the preseason, so expectations should be tempered accordingly. Not all starters saw action today, so fans will know more about this team as training camp and the preseason slate progresses.
The biggest takeaway is that Bears football is finally back. The defense is still a strength of the team and Chicago may have finally found its franchise quarterback. Let’s sure hope that’s the case because that would mean good times are indeed ahead.
What’s On Tap Next?
Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears host the Buffalo Bills next Saturday, August 21, at 12 PM Central. The Bills coming into town also marks the return of, former Bears QB, Mitchell Trubisky. The controversial signal-caller taking on his successor will surely make for compelling, must-watch football.
Stay tuned to the Bears On Tap podcast all season for Chicago football updates, analysis, and commentary.
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