The Chicago Bears go on the road to face the Cleveland Browns in a Week 3 matchup. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields makes his first professional start. Here are some keys to help him and the Bears come back home with a victory.
Well, the time is finally here. The Chicago Bears announced that rookie quarterback Justin Fields makes his first start of his career. Unfortunately, it took Andy Dalton‘s knee injury to make it happen. This is Fields’ time, however, and he has to make the best of it.
Most of the NFL world will turn their attention to Fields. He comes with a lot of fanfare and most fans in Chicago Bears Nation feel the team finally has its franchise quarterback. They feel a great sense of excitement at having the Fields era begin. Head coach Matt Nagy took the turn of villain. He keeps insisting on having Dalton continue as the starter. On the other hand, the fans and others around the league feel the rookie should get his shot and not languish on the bench.
Despite FIelds finally getting his start, Nagy announced that, when healthy, Dalton is still the starter. However, it’ll be very difficult for him to keep his word if Fields plays well. If he balls out and the Bears win games there will be a revolt if Fields gets benched again.
There are others, though, who agree with Nagy. They point to Fields’ performance last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. The numbers looked scary, but he really played better than what the numbers showed. There were a couple of drops that could have resulted in touchdowns and another big completion that was wiped out by a penalty. At any rate, Fields looked comfortable and the situation didn’t overwhelm him. With a week of having a game plan tailored to his skillset, and taking reps with the starters, Fields should look better.
Here are some keys for Fields and the Chicago Bears to come away with a victory.
In order for the defense to succeed on Sunday, the Chicago Bears’ front seven needs to put pressure on quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has shown that he’ll throw an ill-advised pass when he’s under pressure. We all saw that in the Browns’ Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. On the possible game-winning drive, he threw an interception while under pressure.
The Bears need to do the same. It not only forces Mayfield to make bad passes but also helps Chicago’s secondary. That secondary got severely scorched in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams. The Bears front wasn’t able to put pressure on Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and he passed for 320 yards.
Against the Bengals, though, the Bears were all over quarterback Joe Burrow. They sacked him five times and pressured him for most of the game. Burrow ended up throwing three interceptions on three consecutive throws. The unit also forced a fumble. That means the Bears forced four turnovers on four consecutive drives.
This is what the Bears need to do to Mayfield. They need to make him run for his life and make bad decisions.
One thing that helps the Bears on that front is the return of Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman. Goldman started practicing after missing over a week of practices. Also, he missed the first two games of the season. He does a great job of clogging the running game so stopping Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and company puts even more pressure on Mayfield to make plays.
Linebacker Robert Quinn is coming off of a monster game last week. He had 3 tackles (2 for a loss), a quarterback hit, and 2 sacks. It’s worth noting that he had two tackles all of last season. Add in the half-sack he got in Week 1 and he already surpassed his 2021 sack total. Hopefully, he keeps it going this week. If he does, it’ll really help out Khalil Mack. WIth Quinn causing trouble on one side, Mack had plenty of space to do his thing as well. He also recorded a sack and put pressure all game long on Burrow.
If the Bears hope for any chance of pulling the upset they must harass Mayfield and wreak havoc on the Browns’ backfield.
The same game plan I outlined for the Bears’ front seven is the same plan. The Browns want to put pressure on the rookie and hope he also makes mistakes. His is inexperienced so we all want to see how he handles the pressure of an NFL pass rush.
In order to help the kid out, the Bears need to run the ball successfully. They did a good job in the first two weeks. They rushed for 134 yards in Week 1 and 123 yards in Week 2. That has to continue this week. If they get even more, that’ll be better.
David Montgomery needs to lead the way. After rushing for 108 yards against one of the top rush defenses in the NFL, he ran for 61 yards in Week 2. He is averaging 4.7 yards per run so that’s pretty good.
The strength of the Browns’ defensive line is on the edges. Myles Garrett on one side and Jadeveon Clowney on the other are a great duo. However, Montgomery and the Bears can take advantage of the Browns up the middle. The Bears’ offensive line strength is the interior. If they can move bodies around, Montgomery, as well as Damien Williams, could have a big day.
Nagy continues to talk about having the running game more involved in the offense. Having a rookie quarterback come in and take over for the injured starter is the perfect opportunity for him to do just that. If he does run the ball more, the Bears have a better chance at winning.
In last week’s game, Fields had a couple of passes that should have been touchdowns. Two of those involved wide receiver Allen Robinson. There was a perfectly thrown 35-yard pass that Robinson couldn’t handle. The defender had good coverage on him, but Fields placed the ball where only Robinson could catch it. He just didn’t. It went through his hands.
There was another one closer to the end zone. This time, it was Fields who held onto the ball a little too long and missed the throw.
These are examples of the problems with Fields not getting reps with the starters. They don’t have the rapport needed to get things done. Dalton got all the reps with the starters from training camp to the preseason and now into the regular season. Now that Fields is the starter, though, they’ll get the continuity worked out.
Robinson needs to be the leader that Fields needs. He has to be there during practice, explaining what it is he’s doing and how he likes the ball placed. Yes, the other receivers need to do that as well, but they’ll follow Robinson’s lead.
Robinson has to be vocal during the game as well. He needs to be FIelds’ best friend and talk to him throughout the game. If he wants that big payday, helping FIelds will go a long way to helping him get it.
In addition to having the running game more involved, the Chicago Bears need to get the tight ends more involved. This season is progressing much like last season did in terms of the usage of the tight ends. They weren’t involved very much early on. As the season progressed, however, they threw more to the tight ends.
That has to stop now. The tight ends need to be used extensively. With their big bodies, they offer Fields a nice big target to throw to. That is especially true in the red zone. They can outmuscle anyone in the secondary and make the play needed.
So far this season, the tight ends, Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham, have been targeted just 10 times. They made seven catches for 53 yards. If that continues this week, the Bears’ offense will struggle to score. Perhaps if the Bears made more calls made for the tight ends, Chicago could’ve won by a larger margin than three points.
Fields has a larger margin of error when it comes to throwing to tight ends. The defensive backs who cover them are usually smaller. Look at the one catch Graham has for the season. Jaylen Ramsey covered him on the play. It was an 11-yard completion that went to the Rams’ 3-yard line. Ramsey, who had an incredible game, had no chance of affecting Graham.
For some reason, the Bears never went back to that matchup. That cannot happen against the Browns. The Bears need to involve the tight ends and create mismatches.
As I mentioned earlier, Fields came into the game last week in relief of Dalton. The game plan was more suited for Dalton than for Fields. Once FIelds got in, Nagy cut a lot of the plays out.
This week, however, Nagy develops a game plan tailored for Fields. With the Browns’ edge rushers playing well, the Bears need to move the pocket. Fields does a great job of using his legs. He doesn’t just use it to tuck the ball and run, however. The accuracy he has while throwing on the run is incredible. We’ve seen how he moves and throws a perfect dart on the run.
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By moving the pocket and having Fields run around, hopefully the Browns’ pass rushers lose steam as the game progresses. It takes a lot of energy to chase after a fly like Fields. He bounces all over the place and has the strength to break away from a tackle. That takes a lot out of a pass rusher.
The Bears could use some of those short passes to get Fields in a rhythm. Cleveland’s secondary is nowhere as good as the Rams’ so if Fields moves the ball with the short passes they’ll start to come down. That’s especially true when you add FIelds’ running ability. The Browns will have to try to contain Montgomery and Fields and the running game. Once they try that, Fields will have a couple of shots deep.
Combining the running game with Fields and Montgomery, moving the pocket, completing short passes to get a rhythm and to soften up the defense, then throwing deep is a good game plan to move the ball and score points. Hopefully, Fields does a good job of executing the game plan and help the Bears leave Cleveland with a big upset win.