Bears know they need to take more shots downfield
Quarterback Andy Dalton failed to complete a single pass of more than 10 yards through the air in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Regardless of any ridicule from football fans at the water cooler or on social media, the Bears know that can't happen moving forward. Dalton might be a prototypical "game manager" quarterback, but even a game manager must complete a pass of more than 10 yards on occasion.
Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Dalton was 0-for-2 passing on attempts of more than 10 yards, including his first-quarter interception. Also according to Next Gen Stats, Dalton's average intended air yards was 4.2 yards per attempt. Of all the QBs who played in Week 1, he ranked ahead of only Jalen Hurts' 3.7 yards per attempt for Philadelphia.
"We were limited in that area," Dalton said Wednesday. "We weren't able to take very many chances downfield. I think if you look back, it's something that we wish we could have done a little bit more in that game. I think we understand that, we understand how we want to play."
Dalton also attributed it, in part, to how well the Rams' defense played. When a defense has a tackle like Aaron Donald eating up the middle and a cornerback like Jalen Ramsey in coverage, it makes life hard on any offense.
That being said, Sunday night's game wasn't awful from an offensive standpoint. The Bears totaled 24 first downs and found ways to keep the chains moving against one of the best defenses in the NFL. David Montgomery and the running game were solid. The Bears went 2-for-3 in the red zone but failed to convert on four fourth-down tries.
All the talk in training camp was about how quick Dalton released the ball. Maybe it shouldn't come as such a surprise that it means the Bears aren't throwing the ball as far down field.
"We knew what we were trying to get accomplished by just being able to get the ball out and try to get more yards after the catch rather than air yards," receiver Allen Robinson said.
Robinson caught six passes, but none went for more than nine yards. He finished the game with 35 receiving yards.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor didn't think anything changed when third-string left tackle Elijah Wilkinson entered the game due to injuries to Jason Peters and Larry Borom ahead of him. From a scheme perspective, the Bears didn't change anything they were doing.
"We moved the ball really well," Dalton said. "When you look at what we were able to do, we had longer drives. Going back to that (Rams) defense, that's what they make you do. I thought we did that at times. We stalled a couple times there."
The Bears totaled 322 yards in the game, which was tied for 23rd among NFL teams in Week 1. The task ahead this week should be a little less challenging with the Cincinnati Bengals coming to town. The Bengals' defense ranked 26th in yards against last season and just allowed 403 yards against Minnesota in Week 1.
Presumably, that should present more big-play opportunities for the Bears.
"We have the players to be able to do it," Robinson said. "And I think when you look at guys histories that are here who are able to make those plays, I mean, we have that."
As far as the quarterback situation goes, don't expect to see much more of rookie Justin Fields just yet. Fields played five snaps in Sunday's game, including his first career rushing touchdown.
"From the outside looking at it, he looked like he belonged," Lazor said. "He looked like he could be successful. Nothing was too big for him, which we didn't think it would be. (It) looked like he had fun."
If the Bears are going to take more shots down field in the immediate future, it's going to have to come from Dalton.