Justin Fields can’t make a comeback anytime soon. As the Chicago Bears look to squeeze as much meaning out of their wayward season as possible, the continued development of the rookie quarterback is at the top of the priority list.
Fields missed his second game in a row on Sunday with injured ribs and veteran Andy Dalton was left to throw four interceptions in a 33-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field. The Bears offense was without wide receiver Alan Robinson for the third straight week. Marquis Goodwin (leg and ribs) was also inactive due to injury.
And despite running 20 more plays than the Cardinals, controlling the ball for nearly 35 minutes, and scoring touchdowns on all three of their red-zone visits, the Bears didn’t have enough firepower to take down the NFC’s top team, which was called was undone by four turnovers. And the Cardinals scored 23 of those points.
“No matter who you’re playing, four turnovers are going to hurt you,” coach Matt Nagy said.
Here’s our Week 13 QB rewind.
After Dalton’s first interception and the Cardinals’ subsequent 28-yard touchdown drive, the Bears were in a good position to respond quickly after the Cardinals rolled the ball inside 25. On third and -6 out of 20, tight end Cole Kemmett worked open coverage with linebacker Isaiah Simmons in the middle.
Kmet, however, could not secure a Dalton dart on inside 10, tossing a rain-dropped ball into the air as it fell on his back and then was picked up by Budda Baker after watching as safety. . Baker freed easily, returning 77 yards to the red zone.
The Cardinals needed just five plays to score their second touchdown, with Kyler Murray’s 9-yard scramble keeping them leading by double digits for the remainder of the afternoon.
Kemet’s mistake was the most important moment of the game.
“The ball is wet and just slips,” Kemet explained. “You just have to be able to focus more on catching the ball (thinking about) what you’re going to do after the catch. So, yeah, I just have to get better about it.”
For the Bears, it was a fitting snapshot of this season, another damaging error for a team that needed to play nearly perfect games to stave off an upset.
Both interceptions of Dalton’s first half were in the hands of his intended target. But the first pick on third and -6 for Jakim Grant was off target during the opening drive as Grant went from right to left in the middle.
“I left it a little high and a little back,” Dalton admitted. “What is unfortunate in this league is that tipped balls don’t usually hit the ground. They usually find the other team’s hands. ,
In this case, Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson took advantage of Dalton’s inaccuracy for a crucial takeaway.
This was particularly unfortunate for the Bears when the Cardinals gave them the exact same man coverage look they were hoping to work against. A precise ball could have sent Grant into the open field for huge gains.
“We had what we wanted,” said wide receivers coach Mike Fury. “It would have been interesting to see if (Jakim) could have caught that ball very cleanly and if he missed that one guy, everyone else would have been out there. So it will be interesting to see where he ends up. That’s what we wanted. It’s just unfortunate.”
After the Cardinals’ second interception due to Kemet’s bobble, Dalton hurt his left hand while making a touchdown-saving tackle.
“I had two tackles today,” Dalton said. “Unfortunately.”
The injury was not serious enough to sideline the veteran quarterback. But he said he would undergo further testing.
Dalton’s third interception came on a pass towards Damier Bird which was tipped off by Chandler Jones and snatched by Byron Murphy. The final selection was on a screen play for David Montgomery, in which Dalton failed to see defensive end Zach Allen hiding behind a tackle from Larry Borom. After making a swing pass to the left for Grant, Dalton returned to Montgomery’s right, but Cody Whitehair and Allen’s quickness to work the throwing alley didn’t account for it.
Negi said: “Andy will tell you that in that case, it’s going to take your eyes over there, then try to either mess it up or throw it over the top.”
Instead, Dalton’s dump-off was a disaster, returning the Bears 12 for 25 yards by Allen and setting up the Cardinals for a two-play, win-sealing touchdown drive. It’s the crime of the bears in 2021: inconsistent, error-prone, and ultimately not doing enough to keep them afloat.
on the bright side
The Bears’ longest advantage came on a trick play in the middle of the third quarter, with Dalton hitting Grant 34 yards to the right. The play was a replica of their playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints the previous season—the “flash right atomic bomb”—with Mitch Trubisky firing what should have been a 40-yard touchdown pass to Javan Wims. But Trubisky’s pass in the end zone slipped through Wims’ hands.
On Sunday, another “atomic bomb” call gave a better result, but did not appear to be exactly as designed. Montgomery took a direct snap from a Wildcat formation and handed the ball to Grant coming on the right on a jet sweep. Grant quickly bowled the ball to Dalton, who was wide to the right as a receiver.
Dalton’s first reading was for Darnell Mooney in the role of Wims, going deep in the right numbers. But a zero blitz was called in the Cardinals’ defense and linebacker Devon Kennard shot into the backfield, placing his hand on Dalton and interrupting the play.
Still, the Bears quarterback rocked free, adjusted and threw a dart to Grant on the right.
“Great game, leaving Jakim (defender) behind,” Dalton said. “And I was able to find him there.”
Bear didn’t have many highlights to celebrate, but he was one.
Unfortunately, it could have been even more enjoyable. Mooney was streaking deep for a possible touchdown if Dalton had been able to throw the ball once.
“He was down the field,” said quarterback coach John DeFilippo. “You never know, throwing the ball in the air like this, what would have been the end result. But we would like to see if it is definitely successful.”
odds and ends
- The Bears only had three explosive passing plays. In addition to Grant completing 34 yards, Dalton hit Kemet for 24 yards and Bird for 19. They both came into the Bears’ final possession after trailing 19 passes. That series ended with Grant’s 8-yard touchdown catch from Dalton, a play Negi recognized as “a rare throw”, given that Dalton was under pressure and the window into which he had to fit the ball. But it took a very long time for the offense to commit any sort of vertical passing attack. Dalton said: “We wanted to try to score runs and achieve different things. So it took us some time.”
- Montgomery had his best day as a pass catcher this season, throwing eight of nine balls for 51 yards. Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph planned to deflect some of the Bears’ shot plays, with Dalton often using Montgomery as a safety valve. Montgomery took 12 catches for 103 yards in seven matches.
- Nagy couldn’t say Monday how the week would develop for Fields, who is working his way up from a broken rib and hopes to play Sunday night at Green Bay. Negi said that Fields’ condition is “going to be an ongoing discussion for us throughout the week” as the bears work to clear him medically while also having a clear understanding of the extent of his pain. What would Negi like to see Fields watch from the final month of his rookie season once he returns? Negi expects Fields to continue to gain a better understanding of the offense, learn pre-snap checks and use different options within a few plays. “I really felt like his confidence was starting to get good there,” Negi said. “In practice. On the field. In ourselves. So the other part of it also we’re creating and knowing what his strengths are. That helped us too. So we were trying to find that balance.”
- Twelve games in the season, the Bears have only had 10 touchdown passes. In the last 25 seasons, the franchise fell short for single-season TD passes in 2004 (nine), 2005 (11) and 2003 (12). Moving into Week 14, the Bears are one of five teams with more interceptions (14) than TD passes. The others are Jaguars (nine TD passes and 10 picks), Panthers (10 and 15), Texans (12 and 13) and Jets (17 and 20). That’s not the aggressive company you want to keep.