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Chicago Bears Week 9 Takeaways: Hope In The Wake Of A Loss

Outlining the main takeaways from the Bears’ Monday night loss to the Steelers.

Justin Fields Bears Steelers
Photo: Gene J. Puskar/AP

The Chicago Bears’ losing streak has reached four games following a 29-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. The Bears’ hopes for the playoffs are quickly fading. However, their future looks bright with the emergence of Justin Fields as a viable franchise quarterback. Now at 3-6, the Bears are the third-worst team in the NFC. But they are only 1.5 games back of the seventh-seeded final Wild Card spot.

Th Bears’ current skid marks the third year in a row Matt Nagy’s team has endured such a losing streak. After losing a winnable game to the 49ers last week, the Bears followed up by dropping another game that was within their reach. Although it feels like the 2021 season is over at this point, there were several positive takeaways from this contest, including the face of the franchise stacking another good game.

Here are the takeaways from the Bears’ Week 9 loss to the Steelers.

Justin Fields: Highlight Reel

It’s undeniable that Justin Fields is the real deal. Under the bright lights of MNF, he further proved that fact. His stats won’t do him justice, but the proof is in the pudding. Fields posted the following numbers against a solid Steelers defense: 17-29, 291 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, and a QB Rating of 89.9. In addition to throwing for 10.0 yards per attempt, he added 45 yards on eight rushes.

His lone interception came on a bizarre play. Fields’ pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and landed right in Cam Heyward’s hands.

More so, the interception happened historically fast. It was just an instance of bad luck.

However, Fields’ only TD pass of the night was a thing of beauty.

Below is an end-zone view of that throw. His smooth, controlled throw going to the left was dazzling. You can’t teach that. It was a special play by Fields.

That touchdown pass even caught the attention of another well-respected QB.

But that’s not all. The rookie QB was throwing darts and dimes all over the field all night long.

The play below was a 50-yard completion to Marquise Goodwin.

Similarly, he found Jimmy Graham over the middle in a tight window.

Finally, Fields to Allen Robinson. How long have Bears fans been waiting for this connection?

Justin Fields: Finally Arrived?

Despite tumultuous surrounding circumstances, Fields continues to grow and develop each week. So much so, that he finally got top honors for Week 9 according to Pro Football Focus.

Even more impressive, Fields did something no Bears QB has done since 2006, and it came against a damn good defense.

All in all, it was a good night for the future of the Bears. Despite the loss, Fields proved that he belongs in the NFL by showing out in primetime despite having Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor around him.

Fields showed poise and composure and made some good throws in addition to several quick, decisive decisions. Several of those plays occurred during crunch time. The rookie QB led the Bears on a drive late in the game to give his team a lead. After the defense gave that lead right back, he nearly drove them down the field for a game-winning field goal attempt.

Just imagine how much better Fields could be with the right coaches around him. If the past two weeks are an indicator, the Bears are finally seeing the QB they moved up nine spots to draft.

Welcome Back, David Montgomery

After a long four-and-a-half-week absence, David Montgomery finally returned from a knee injury. Finally back in action, he saw a bulk of the carries. The third-year running back logged 13 carries for 63 yards, good for an average of 4.8 yards per attempt. His longest rush of the night went for 21 yards. Montgomery also added 17 yards on two catches

Since his injury and the emergence of rookie RB Khalil Herbert, there has been chatter about the Bears potentially moving on from Montgomery. However, those discussions can be put to rest. David Montgomery is the heart and soul of the Bears’ offense. There is no reason why he and Herbert both can’t be around to shoulder the load in the running game. It worked for the Bears when they had Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson.

Cole Kmet

Elsewhere on the offense, Cole Kmet was the leading pass catcher for the Bears against the Steelers. The Chicagoland product hauled in six catches for 87 yards. Throughout Kmet’s first season-plus in the NFL, there has been a great deal of unfair criticism regarding his ability to separate and make plays. Given that tight end development typically takes a bit of time, it was nice to see Kmet finally break out. It was also refreshing to see a scheme catered to getting him open.

Allen Robinson

It took nine weeks, but Allen Robinson was finally spotted. He added 68 yards on four catches, including a long of 25 yards. While it wasn’t a typical Allen Robinson game, it was encouraging to see Fields actually target him. Hopefully this will lead to bigger and better things in the second half of the season.

Jimmy Graham… But Why?

The 2021 Jimmy Graham experience has been unpleasant. After being seemingly nonexistent through the first eight weeks, his usage in Week 9 was uncomfortable. After Kmet helped get the Bears down to the red zone, Graham saw back-to-back targets. The first one was a catchable ball that just went off his hands. The dumbfounding target happened on the very next play, which was a fade to the back corner of the end zone that went incomplete.

Additionally, Graham hauled in a touchdown pass later in the game that was called back due to a questionable penalty. All in all, Graham finished the game with one catch for 28 yards. For the sake of the Bears’ future, Graham needs to take a back seat to Kmet, Jesse James, and Jesper Horsted going forward.

Offense

The first half was well less than ideal for the Bears’ offense. However, the unit came alive in the second half. In total, the Bears put up 414 yards on 58 plays, good for an average of 7.1 yards per play. 278 yards came from the passing game on 32 attempts for an average of 8.7 yards per attempt. That number includes three sacks for a loss of 13 yards. The remaining 136 yards resulted from 26 rushing attempts, which averaged out to 5.2 yards per rush. In addition, the Bears picked up 20 total first downs.

Also of note, the offense struggled in the red zone. The Bears only converted on two of four opportunities and settled for field goals on their two failed attempts.

Special Teams Scoring

A special teams touchdown on Monday Night Football… is this 2006? Nope. It happened in the year 2021.

This play turned out to change the momentum of the game. Jakeem Grant had fumbled on a kickoff return just a few possessions earlier. After forcing a Steelers punt, the Bears offense went three-and-out. Still down 10 points, the special teams unit stepped up. Joel Iyiegbuniwe punched the ball out of Ray-Ray McCloud’s hands to set up a DeAndre Houston-Carson scoop and score.

Defense

This was a weird week for the defense. On one hand, they allowed only 280 total yards. 175 of those came through the air and the remaining 105 came on the ground. However, they did give up 29 points and were gashed for a couple of big plays.

The Bears’ defense held Ben Roethlisberger in check by only giving up 205 yards on 21 for 30 passing. Additionally, they sacked him four times for a loss of 30 yards. However, Big Ben did toss two touchdown passes.

Likewise, the defense stifled Najee Harris for an average of 2.8 yards per rush. Harris finished the game with 62 yards on 22 rushes.

Overall, the Steelers’ offense averaged 4.2 yards per play. But they were perfect in the red zone by converting all three of their opportunities. It was not the best performance by Sean Desai and his unit as they could have been much, much better.

Roquan Smith

  • 12 tackles
  • 6 solo
  • 1 sack
  • 2 TFL
  • 1 QB hit

And if the on-field production isn’t enough, he’s the leader of Chicago’s locker room.

Robert Quinn

Robert Quinn recorded a single sack and leads the team with a 6.5 on the season.

Khalil Mack

Once again, the Bears missed Khalil Mack. There were plays he would have made that could have altered the game, or at the very least opened things up for others. Yes, the Bears sacked Roethlisberger four times, but in crucial moments of the game, it would have been nice to have Mack.

Eddie Jackson

Likewise, it would have been nice to have Eddie Jackson at safety. Sure, his tackling or lack thereof is an issue, but his presence in pass coverage was sorely missed. That was especially evident when it came to big plays against Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley.

Penalties

The Bears committed 12 penalties for 115 yards. That’s unacceptable. The lack of discipline reflects on the coaching staff and more so on Matt Nagy. Of all the penalties, the offsides and illegal formation instances are most bothersome. However, there were a handful of bizarre and utterly dumbfounding calls that left football fans scratching their heads.

Worst. Refs. Ever.

The officiating on Monday night was an embarrassment in the national spotlight. If you check Twitter, you’ll see a united front that agrees the Bears got hosed numerous times. It’s not an excuse. Never let the refs determine the outcome and overcome it. However, the sheer quantity and convenient timing of the flags were painful.

Of the 12 penalties on the Bears, only four or five were egregious calls and/or no-calls.

  • Roughing the passer on Mario Edwards
  • Low block on James Daniels
  • Defensive pass interference on Jaylon Johnson
  • Taunting on Cassius Marsh
  • No-call on late hit(s) on Justin Fields

Of course, the taunting call on Cassius Marsh drew the most attention. Not only was it not taunting, but referee Tony Corrente made the play about him. Marsh claims that Corrente hip-checked him.

His claim looks legitimate after viewing the interaction in slow motion.

Furthermore, Corrente waited until that very moment to throw the flag for taunting instead of doing so immediately when it happened. That timing sequence seems kind of suspicious.

Additionally, Marsh explained himself and his celebration.

Media and fans around the league shared disapproval of the officiating on Monday night. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk even dragged Corrente in a recent article.

Tony Corrente and the NFL

The referee in question had a chance to explain himself. Here’s his response to the incident in question:

On Tuesday afternoon, the NFL backed Corrente and confirmed what he said while disregarding what Marsh suggested about the contact.

At the end of the day, the taunting rule is idiotic and unnecessary. It would be in the league’s best interest to let the players play and enjoy themselves after making a play. What’s wrong with expressing yourself?

Cairo Santos: The Streak Ends

Cairo Santos’ streak of most consecutive made field goals ended at 40.

Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy decided to attempt a 65-yard field goal in the dying seconds of the game in an attempt to capture a walk-off win. Unfortunately for him and Santos, the kick was well short to snap the streak.

Before that point, Santos connected on both of his field-goal tries to reach the 40 mark.

Overall

The Bears lost yet another game, but who really cares? They have their QB of the future in Justin Fields, and despite having a shaky offensive line and a contentious head coach, he put up numbers and carried the offense for a near upset against the 10th ranked defense in terms of DVOA.

Of course, Nagy was not at his best, but despite everything that took place his team fought back and had a lead with 1:40 left in the game. Ultimately, all the penalties and mistakes added up and the defense couldn’t close out the game. The Bears are still a poorly coached team. At 3-6 heading into a bye week, the Bears are not entirely dead in the playoff hunt, but things are looking bleak.

From a big-picture perspective, 2021 doesn’t matter in terms of wins and losses. All that matters at this time is Justin Fields and his development. And for the second week in a row, it’s trending in the right direction. The Bears and Fields need to continue stacking these kinds of performances that show promise for the future and hold out hope for competent coaching changes.

What’s On Tap Next?

Nothing. The Chicago Bears get a week off as they’ve hit the bye week. Everyone finally gets a break from Bears football. The players and fans alike get a chance to step back and decompress for a week. Let those stress levels and blood pressure numbers come down until we get to do it all over again in two weeks, which will mark the beginning of the second half of the season.

Tune into the Bears On Tap podcast for further postgame reaction.

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Writer/contributor for On Tap Sports Net and Bears on Tap. Lifelong and a die-hard fan of the Bears, Cubs, Bulls, and Blackhawks. Nothing but respect the White Sox though. Enjoying life and having a good time. Interests also include eating, gaming, sometimes reading and tons of tomfoolery. Good sense of humor (although sometimes dry). Occasionally witty. Follow me on Twitter

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