3 Takeaways from Bears' Week 3 Loss
There was a sense of excitement surrounding the Chicago Bears heading into Week 3. While no fanbase should be happy about an injury, Andy Dalton's knee injury meant that rookie Justin Fields would make his first NFL start in Cleveland against the Browns.
The excitement surrounding Fields and his starting debut quickly turned to dismay, however, as the Ohio State product was completely overwhelmed by the swarming Browns defense. Fields finished with only 68 passing yards. He was sacked nine times for 67 yards. That means that Chicago netted just a single passing yard against Cleveland.
The Bears averaged just 1.1 yards per play, the second-lowest average of any team this century, according to CBS Sports—in a tweet that was retweeted by Bears tight end Jimmy Graham (h/t Jim Reineking of USA Today).
To put it bluntly, Fields' debut was a disaster. It became clear that the former Buckeyes star just isn't ready to be a quality NFL starter. Here's what else we learned during Chicago's 26-6 loss to Cleveland.
The Coaching Staff Had No Plan for Fields
Rookie quarterbacks are going to have bad days, and this one isn't entirely on Fields. Yes, the Ohio State product held onto the ball too long and seemed unsure of what he was seeing. However, head coach Matt Nagy and his staff seemed to have no real plan to make life easier on the rookie.
Instead of utilizing Field's legs, the Bears allowed him to run only three times. Instead of giving him easy screens and swing passes, they forced Fields to survey the field and attack the secondary. When it became clear that Fields was going to face pressure on almost every play, there was no change in protection scheme.
To a large degree, Nagy and Co. failed Fields.
"This is the damn problem right here, because there’s no adjustment during the game," former Bears defensive end Alex Brown said on NBC Sports Chicago’s Football Aftershow (h/t Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports Chicago).
If the Bears hope to see Fields succeed as a rookie quarterback, they need to do a much better job of making his job easier. That means, first and foremost, adjusting the offense to suit his strengths and weaknesses.
The Offensive Line Is a Real Problem
The Bears plan to go back to Dalton once the veteran is healthy. However, it's not going to matter who is under center if the offensive line performs like it did on Sunday.
Myles Garrett set a new Browns franchise record with 4.5 sacks on Sunday. With nine sacks taken against Cleveland, Bears quarterbacks have now been sacked 15 times through three weeks. The pressure has come early, often and throughout most contests.
Unfortunately, the line's issues have not been limited to pass protection. It has struggled to open up running lanes, which led Nagy to abandon the run against Cleveland—another poor decision with Fields under center.
David Montgomery rushed only 10 times for 34 yards on Sunday. For the season, the Bears rank just 20th in rushing yards. If the line cannot hold up in protection and the offense is going to remain one-dimensional, Chicago has virtually no hope of finding offensive success this season.
Perhaps things will improve when and if rookie tackle Teven Jenkins returns from back surgery, but right now, Chicago's offensive line is a major liability.
The Defense Has Improved Its Pass Rush
If we're looking for a positive in Sunday's loss—and we are—it's that Chicago's pass rush did do its part. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was sacked five times and constantly found himself under pressure.
This has been a positive theme for opposing quarterbacks, who have been sacked a collective 11 times through three weeks.
This is an encouraging development for a defense that produced just 35 sacks in 2020—despite having star pass-rusher Khalil Mack in the fold. Another positive development is that Robert Quinn is finally making his presence felt.
Quinn was Chicago's prized free-agent acquisition in 2020. However, he yielded just two sacks in his first season with the Bears. Through three weeks this year, he already has four sacks and six quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Reference.
If Chicago is going to win games this season, it's going to have to play tough defense and force opposing quarterbacks into mistakes. Fortunately, the pass rush appears up to the challenge.