Quick Game Comments: Bengals at Bears 9/19/21

American Poet Mark Strand once said, “The future is always beginning now.” Never was that more true than today. Most Bears fans will agree that this game was really about Justin Fields emergence from the sideline to play his first significant half of football. And, oh, by the way, they also won the game over the Bengals.

I wouldn’t call this a great game by Fields but I will say that he looked like he belonged and he deserves credit for doing just enough to help the team win.

Some felt that putting Fields out onto the playing surface for isolated plays here and there was too disruptive to the flow of the game for both Fields and Andy Dalton. Well, no one will be saying that today. After Dalton injured a knee near the end of the first half, Fields entered the game. Dalton came back in for a series but in the end he had to go to the locker room, perhaps never to play again for the Bears. It was evident that he thought he could still play. They Bears decided that they wanted to see more of Field. He got the rest of the game to show what he could do.

To me the big question with Fields has been whether he can play from the pocket. No quarterback can truly succeed in the NFL long term without being able to do that. The evident goal has been to get Fields to the point where he could and he hadn’t shown it to this point. Most of his best plays were when he made his read, didn’t find a receiver and ran. That was true again today.

Fields was just a little bit off for most of the half. He generally held the ball too long. His balls tended to be just a tad bit late and/or just a little bit too far out in front of the receivers. He looks like he still needs to work on his timing. He had some trouble with some false starts when it looked like he was trying to get the snap and he was laying back on his back foot in anticipation of getting it. He’s going to have to clean that up. And, of course, he threw a bad interception deep in Bears territory with the team up by 10 points late in the fourth quarter. It resulted in a Bengals touchdown and a razor thin 3 point lead which the Bears managed to hold onto in the end.

So Fields was generally up and down when he wasn’t running with the ball. But as expected, it was his mobility that made the difference and he used it to good effect to make plays to finish the game out.

It wasn’t a great start. But it was a start and probably a new future for a franchise badly in need of one.


  • The Bears didn’t do much play action last week despite the fact that the running game worked quite well. So it was nice to see Andy Dalton throw a play action pass the first play the game. I wish they had done more of it as the game wore on.
  • And that’s because David Montgomery picked up where he left off from last week and came out running well. Montgomery ran 20 times for 61 very tough yards where he frequently made a few yards out of nothing. Overall the Bears ran for 123 yards and it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that Montgomery was the beating heart of the offense.
  • Last week the Bears hardly ever threw the ball beyond 10 yards. They threw at least four passes beyond that much on the first drive alone, ending the drive with a pass to Allen Robinson. Over the course of the game they averaged a very disappointing 3.1 yards per pass and that has to come up. But I’ll give them credit for at least taking their shots on occasion. Now they just have to complete more of them.
  • The Bears were not good on third down and terrible on fourth down last week against the Rams despite working on this aspect of their game all summer. They were a substandard 6 for 15 on third down and 0 for 1 on fourth down today. So more work needs to be done in this critical area.
  • Supposedly the Bengals were going to play single high safety man-to-man coverage. However the Rams had a lot of success playing a two deep safety zone against the Bears last week. As it turns out the Bengals chose to follow the Rams game plan this week. However the Bears attacked the zone this week instead of simply throwing short and the results were better and they moved the ball to much greater effect. Eventually they went back to man-to-man And although they weren’t pressing the Bears like I thought they might, it was still more effective.
  • I thought that it was interesting that the Bengals started off by rushing three and trying to confuse Fields by playing coverage. It didn’t work very well as Fields was left with all day to survey the field and wait for someone to come open. Eventually they started to blitz him and that had a much greater effect. Assuming Fields continues to start, I think that’s what we’ll see a lot of until Fields shows that he can burn the teams that try it.
  • My guess is that smart defenses will avoid fancy adjustments and simply play the Bears offense in the way that best fits their own strengths from here on out figuring that they can beat the Bears if they make them play their own game the way that the Rams and, ultimately, the Bengals did.

  • Tough day for the interior of the Bears offense of line. They gave up a number of sacks and pressures and were generally dominated by the Bengals defensive tackles. That has to get better. They are supposedly the strength of the unit.


  • To my surprise, the Bengals came out and attacked Jaylon Johnson this week. I would’ve thought they would’ve gone after Kindle Vildor, who you would think was the weakest link on the outside in the Bears defensive backfield. On the other hand they also attacked Duke Shelley, who started this game after he was a game day inactive last week. And that was not a surprise. Shelley reclaimed the job today after spending the offseason as the starting nickel cornerback. But coaches went with Marqui Christian against the Rams. It didn’t matter as Shelly has a miserable game.
  • I think we can officially consider nickel cornerback to be a serious issue.

  • Sean Desai did a good job of designing pass rushes upfront to take advantage of the talent in the Bears front seven. There were lots of twists and stunts and other games that were being played upfront that were reasonably effective at getting pressure on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
  • The Bears have been starting young draft picks at quarterback in an effort to save cap space at other positions for 5 years now. Starting with Mitch Trubisky and now with Justin Fields, not having to pay a franchise quarterback allowed the Bears to pay money to a lot of other players at a lot of other positions. They’ve invested money into the pass rush (Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn) and into safety (namely Eddie Jackson). And over the last two years the players at these positions have consistently failed to live up to their billing. And their salaries.
  • Today was different however and I thought these players came through. Khalil Mack had a sack as did apparent free agent bust Robert Quinn. Quinn also looked like he was penetrating and generally causing some havoc today. Eddie Jackson caused a fumble that resulted in a Bears field goal in the third quarter. All in all a good day for the Bears cap space. That needs to continue.


  • The Bears looked flat in their first game last Sunday and they needed to play with an edge today. I thought that they came out and played with much greater energy at the beginning of the game this week. I found that to be encouraging.
  • The Bears opened as a 3 point favorite against the Bengals at home but it was a bad sign when that line fell to only 2 points on Friday when the sharp money came in. Apparently the bookies had it right in the beginning. Although the Bengals looked to me to be the better team when I watched them play the Vikings last week, I thought they came out just a bit flat today after what was probably a big win for them.
  • As it so often is, turnovers were the story of this game. The Bears really made hay on them today as a fumble caused by Jackson resulted in three points and a pick-six by Roquan Smith resulted in seven more. An interception by Johnson would have given the Bears three more points but in offensive pass interference Cole Kmet took the Bears at a field goal range. The situation was saved by and Angelo Blackson interception on the next pro possession which resulted in a field goal.
  • On the negative side was Fields’ his first career interception deep in Bears territory with the Bears up by 10 points. The Bengals pulled to within three points with the resulting touchdown. This is a situation where you just can’t throw it late in the game while protecting such a lead and it could have led to a disastrous finish.

  • This was a game where the Bears coaches had to make corrections, especially in the Bears defensive backfield and I’m not sure that they did so successfully.
  • Last week the Bears picked up right where they left off last season: they had an offense that couldn’t score and had a defense that is no longer dominant and may not even be top 10 in the league. It was the performance of that defense that was most disappointing. In particular, the tackling was poor and this veteran defense committed a number of mental errors, allowing the Rams to score quickly,
    often and far too easily.
  • The Bears defense has been living off of its reputation far too long and it is time for it to stop talking about setting a high standard and to actually start living it. That process needed to start this week as the defense needed to make adjustments and corrections based upon the many mistakes that it committed last week. Veteran players needed better preparation and better concentration during the game to avoid costly mental errors that the Bears deficient office could not make up for.

    “(It was) just making sure that we focus on little things,” cornerback Kindle Vildor said. “The stuff that we got beat on, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this person was just better or stuff like that.’ It was little, small fundamental things that we didn’t make sure we took care of. So we pretty much buckled in on that this whole week to get ready for Sunday.”

    It was inattention to the little details that killed the Bears defense last week. You could argue that its been inattention to the little details that prevented the Bears as a whole team from executing and performing to the level of a championship caliber team for going three years now. So I was a bit disappointed to see some of those problems continue today.

    Bengals’ receivers were frequently left all but alone as they wandered through the Bears secondary. Both Johnson and Vildor let receivers get behind them deep in the fourth quarter as the Bears were protecting a 17 point lead. Penalty after penalty, some of them extremely stupid (I’m looking at you Quinn and Gipson) cost the Bears time after time as poor Montgomery had a couple very nice long runs eliminated. In the first quarter deep in their own territory the Bears once again called a time out as the play clock wore down and, coming out of the time out, got a false start penalty.

    The Bears organization thinks that they have a good, competitive team here. But these are things that good, competitive teams cannot do. Eventually they have to come to an end if the team is going to have a chance to beat teams near the top of the league.

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