The Chicago Bears had a quarterback controversy the entire offseason after they selected Justin Fields in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Andy Dalton was signed during the offseason, and despite most seemingly wanting Fields to be the guy, Bears head coach Matt Nagy handed the ball to Dalton to begin the season.
However, an unfortunate injury to Dalton opened the door for Fields to get the starting call earlier than expected. His first career start against the Cleveland Browns was a forgettable one by every metric. He went just 6-for-20 for 68 yards and no scores in the Bears’ 26-6 loss. Then came the preparation for the game against the Detroit Lions, and Fields was named the starter after Dalton was unable to go due to his lingering knee injury.
Well, the Bears fans got exactly what they wanted as Fields led the team to a 24-14 victory over the Lions. But it’s important to remember that Detroit has one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Justin Fields played well in Chicago’s win over the Lions
On Sunday afternoon, the Ohio State product seemed to forget all about his disastrous first NFL start and got back on track against the Lions at Soldier Field. And it was the perfect opportunity for Fields to put up some numbers (and gain some confidence) against a terrible defensive unit.
Dalton being out was exactly what most Chicago fans likely wanted. If it weren’t for his injury, Nagy probably would have started the veteran gunslinger. Instead, it was Fields, and the way he played against Detroit makes it seem like he should remain the starter for the rest of the season.
He had a solid afternoon, completing 11 of 17 passes for 209 yards with one interception. And while Fields didn’t throw a touchdown pass, he made some nice plays on the afternoon, and the Bears’ offense was clearly more fluid with him than with Dalton running the show.
The Bears finally had a wide receiver finish with 100 yards or more as Darnell Mooney became the first Chicago pass-catcher to do so this season. Mooney finished with five catches for 125 yards, and Allen Robinson had three catches for 63 yards.
David Montgomery ran wild with 23 carries for 106 yards and two touchdowns but left the game in the second half after going down with a knee injury.
Even though Fields’ stats weren’t eye-popping, he made some big plays, and this offense had their most productive day of the season with him under center.
The Lions defense just gave Matt Nagy a nice pat on the back
Yes, the Lions’ defense is not good, even worse after the departure of Jamie Collins. They are near the bottom in essentially every defensive category to start the new era under head coach Dan Campbell. Before facing the Bears, their first three opponents were the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and Baltimore Ravens, so not exactly a cake-walk of a schedule. And in those three games, they gave up an average of 31.7 points per game, tied for last in the NFL.
So this was the perfect opportunity for Nagy and Chicago to get Fields a little more comfortable with the NFL level of play. In turn, the Bears were able to get their second victory of the season even without Fields having a big day. The rookie looked much more comfortable than his first start against the Browns and threw some impressive passes, including a couple down the field.
Truth be told, if it weren’t for the injury to Dalton, Fields more than likely would have been holding a clipboard against the Lions, and who knows what that result would be.
Fields or Dalton going forward?
Now is the question everybody has been waiting for: Justin Fields or Andy Dalton?
To this point, there has been no clarity whatsoever. Nagy even said earlier in the week that the starting quarterback decision would be made Sunday morning. It turned out that Fields was named the starter on Saturday as Dalton had no shot of playing (Nick Foles was the other option), but this quarterback “controversy” is a massive headache for Bears fans– and for their offensive playmakers as well.
The Bears’ schedule tightens dramatically, with the next three games against the Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay Packers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After that, the Bears face the 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers before their bye week, so Fields could be in for a rude awakening if he is named the starter when Dalton is healthy.
Nonetheless, Nagy needs to keep the fans happy– and the players– and give Fields the key to the car already. Things will only go up from here, and the more reps the rookie gets, the more comfortable he will be and the better the chances are for the Bears going forward.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference