3 and out: Justin Fields steps in

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bears quarterback Justin Fields looks for a receiver during their game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Sep. 19, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

    Bears quarterback Justin Fields looks for a receiver during their game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Sep. 19, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago. Shaw Media

 
By Jake Bartelson
Shaw Media
Updated 9/19/2021 6:15 PM

The Bears survived the Cincinnati Bengals' comeback attempt and held on for a 20-17 victory Sunday at Soldier Field. Here's what you need to know:

Three moments that mattered

 

1. Starting QB drama: The Justin Fields era might officially be here. With about 12:50 left in the second quarter, Bears starting quarterback Andy Dalton scrambled for 14 yards. After reaching the sideline, Dalton sustained a left knee injury and it forced Fields briefly into the game. Dalton felt good enough to start the next offensive series, but later went to the locker room. Fields then started the second half and finished 6 of 13 with 60 yards and an interception.

2. Flashing the wheels: Fields was intercepted and the Bengals cashed in one play later to make it a three-point game, 20-17, with 3:39 left. The following drive, Fields motored for a crucial conversion with a 10-yard scramble on third-and-9. A punt or a sack at that point couldn't happen with the Bengals having all the momentum. The Bears were able to pick up a few first downs with David Montgomery to seal the win.

3. Pick-six: Roquan Smith rumbled for a pick-six to make it, 17-3, Bears with 10:55 remaining in the fourth quarter. Jaylon Johnson and Angelo Blackson then had consecutive interceptions the following two drives. The Bears' defense needed a performance like this -- 4 sacks and 4 turnovers -- and clearly delivered.

Three things that worked

1. Roquan Smith: Smith hasn't gotten the national recognition he deserves as being among the top inside linebackers in the league. Perhaps this week is a step toward rectifying that after his 8 tackle, 1 sack and pick-six performance.

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2. Sack attack: The Bears' pass rush definitely showed up and limited Joe Burrow. After a forgettable Week 1 performance that saw little pressure, defensive coordinator Sean Desai schemed up some beauties. The result: 4 sacks and Burrow would later throw three consecutive interceptions.

3. No-fly zone: The Bears' top two corners, Johnson and Kindle Vildor, played exceptionally well. Johnson wasn't challenged much and had an interception, while Vildor had a big defensive pass breakup in the first half on a fourth-and-2 to turn the Bengals away near midfield. This was a nice bounce back after the secondary's difficulties in Los Angeles.

Three things that didn't

1. Tight ends: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham and Jesse James weren't anywhere to be found in the passing game. The Bears had to get creative in the offseason for cap purposes; Graham was one to survive that, but it's not all that clear of his true role inside this offense. Kmet finally had an apparent reception in the fourth quarter, but it was wiped out for offensive pass interference.

2. Rookie mistake: Hindsight is 20-20, but it was a questionable decision to have Fields throwing on third-and-7, which led to the interception late. The Bears needed to milk the clock. Yes, they ultimately needed to convert, but the risk of a mistake was pretty high and could've been avoided.

3. False starts: This is really nit-picky, but it's not often a quarterback -- Fields -- gets tagged for two false start penalties. While they were ultimately inconsequential, they did slow the offense. The line had a few as well.

What's next?

The Bears face Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns on the road next Sunday. Kickoff is at noon.

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