Stars align for Fields, Bears to beat up Raiders
The Chicago Bears 20-9 win over the Las Vegas Raiders had more storylines than Papa Bear George Halas has grandchildren.
It was the Bears first game with Justin Fields as their No. 1 quarterback. They sought their first win of the season on the road, and as an underdog. They were without their best player on offense, David Montgomery, and top defender, Akiem Hicks. And they opened with the NFL's 32nd-ranked total offense against the league's sixth best.
The game would be Khalil Mack's second crack at Jon Gruden, who traded Mack to the Bears, as well as another chance to claim bragging rights over best friend, Raiders QB David Carr.
And, of course, there was the specter of the huge story that broke Friday about Gruden's racist comments about NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.
Then the game started.
Bears fans' collective hearts went to their throats when on third-and-4, just four minutes in, Fields rushed for 3 yards before taking a vicious shot in the side from Raiders safety John Abram that left him suffering on the bench, and then again when he hyperextended his knee, the same injury that just landed Montgomery on I.R., halfway through the second quarter.
But the kid kept coming back and clearly stamped himself as a franchise QB for toughness and leadership.
Fields' numbers on the day were paltry but there were again special moments. the most special came on a third-and-12 throw to Darnell Mooney for 13 yards with just over seven minutes to play from his own 27-yard line while leading just 14-9 and it looking like the game was in danger of getting away.
Instead, six plays later, Fields and company finished a 6:00 drive with a 46-yard field goal from Cairo Santos to open the lead to 17-9 and put the Bears firmly in the driver's seat with 2:50 to play.
The most promising sign from Fields Sunday was after converting just 4-of-29 third-down attempts coming into the game, the Bears were 6-for-13 Sunday with five coming from Fields, and Andy Dalton adding one while Fields was shaking off the knee injury.
The stats are yet to come but weeks and/or months from now we could very well look back at Sunday as the day Fields became a man in NFL parlance.
At the same time, this wasn't Fields' day. There was more great news from the arrival of rookie Khalil Herbert (18 carries, 75 yards) and Damien Williams (16 carries, 64 yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 20 yards) in relief of Montgomery, and a cameo from Mr. Touchdown, tight end Jesper Horsted, collecting Fields' first NFL TD pass for the Bears first score, but the day belonged to Mack and company.
In as physical a Bears game as we've seen in some time, Mack was everywhere. He was credited with just 1 sack, but if felt like he had a handful to go along with his 8 tackles and a bunch of QB pressures.
Roquan Smith, Robert Quinn and Eddie Jackson all flashed repeatedly, and DeAndre Houston-Carson provided the game's only turnover with a third-quarter pick.
When you hold one of the league's top scoring teams to just nine points, all the offense has to do is stay out of its own way.
I've yet to comment on what should be done about Gruden, because as horrible as his comments were, I don't know what the appropriate punishment is, just that it better be really big.
That he was still there Sunday and having heard nothing so far from team owner Mark Davis other than "it's disturbing" is beyond disappointing, and it felt funny with Gruden on the sideline Sunday as if everyone was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
His troops certainly played that way dropping more passes than I could count and committing one stupid penalty after another, 10 for 82 yards total, although the Bears competed there too with eight penalties for 70 yards of their own.
Still, the Raiders didn't lose this game so much as the Bears won it with ferocious defense, huge production from backups at running back and tight end, another solid performance from the offensive line, and a young general under center who appears to be coming of age a lot quicker than most expected.
And, oh yeah, story lines? Guess who's coming to town next week.
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