LAKE FOREST, Ill. — It only took one game to get to the point where trying to explain why Justin Fields is on the bench is pretty much impossible.
Just try to ask the Bears. They already admitted Fields is ready to play by making him the backup quarterback and making third-stringer Nick Foles inactive on game day. Then they played Fields for five snaps, which immediately advanced the rookie beyond the Patrick Mahomes-path they’ve been selling. And all Fields did was score one of the team’s two touchdowns against the Rams.
So is he ready for more? Like maybe a whole series?
“I would have said after the preseason that he's moving quickly and ready for whatever's thrown at him. So I don't think anything's changed,” Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Wednesday
The original question came from NBC Sports Chicago’s Alex Shapiro, and his follow-up was a fair one: If Fields is ready for it, then why isn't he getting those additional chances?
“I think Matt (Nagy) has probably addressed what his philosophy is on the quarterback position. I don't think that's any different. I don't think there's any reason for me to answer that,” Lazor said.
In fairness, it was a tough spot for Lazor to be in. Perhaps he could have thrown some praise towards Andy Dalton instead, but well, that’s tough too since everyone saw the Bears’ 34-14 loss to the Rams.
Maybe Fields will get a whole series Sunday against the Bengals. Perhaps he’ll play even more than that. Because the team is running out of reasons not to play him.'
Here are the hits from defensive coordinator Sean Desai’s weekly chat with the media:
— Khalil Mack barely appeared on the stat sheet against the Rams, getting credited with just one assisted tackle. It’s a concerning development considering Mack battled injuries last season, but it is encouraging the edge rusher did not appear on Wednesday’s injury report.
“From my end, we’ve got to do a better job of trying to get him going,” Desai said. “And from a coverage perspective and a schematic perspective, we’ve got to be tighter. Sacks become a function of rush and coverage. There are not many people that are free-winning on the first move in this league and if they are, you’re talking to the o-line coach on that side of the ball and they’re saying the same thing — that it was a mistake.”
Still, the Bears acquired Mack to be one of those rare players who can do that — and they paid him to be that player too. Considering the defense’s slow start in Week 1, it’s imperative Mack returns to his dominant form.
— The nickelback competition is not over. Marqui Christian won the job and Duke Shelley was inactive in Week 1, but Christian struggled.
“You know, there were a lot things that go into that decision and it’s been a great competition and it continues to be a great competition with him and Duke,” Desai said. “We as a staff felt that (Christian) edged out there in the beginning and earned that spot there and so we felt good with that decision.”
Notice how the DC said “it continues to be a great competition” though.
— According to Desai, the Bears had 12 missed tackles against the Rams and they occurred over a total of eight plays, which is some concerning math.
“That means on one play, you had four or five guys miss. And that’s a function of pursuit and angles. Those are things that we will continue to correct and continue to fix,” Desai said.
— Bears safety Tashaun Gipson admitted Tuesday’s defensive film session with Desai was “a bit hard” and said the film was every bit as rough as it looked live Sunday night. For Desai, it was his first time leading a film session after a bad loss, even if he has sat through them before.
“I mean, it was tough. And you never would have imagined something like that. You’re not trying to plan for something like that, but you’ve experienced things like that. I’ve experienced those types of losses,” Desai said. “You guys have been here with me for nine years. We’ve had some losses that have been much worse than that in my time here. So I’ve seen it and how it’s been handled. Like I said, we address it in a very direct, matter-of-fact way. And we address it from a teaching and learning perspective that we all have to improve on those processes from a teaching perspective as coaches and myself and a learning perspective as players.”
A gutsy return
As bad as the finish was, the start to Sunday’s game against the Rams was electric. It started with a 50-yard kick return from sixth-round pick Khalil Herbert.
Herbert took the kick out from seven yards deep in the end zone on the far side of the field, an indication that the Bears were going for the home run to start the game.
“I will always preach that we’re going to be aggressive, but we don’t want to be reckless,” Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. "I think you guys have known me, and … we brought everything out because of (Cordarrelle Patterson), but still, a lot of the same guys are blocking and I have confidence in those guys. At times maybe we do have to be a little more choosier. But at the same time, if we feel like there’s an opportunity, let’s go.”
Tabor said the Rams tried to pin them in that far corner and brought “a lot of guys hot” over to that far side. That allowed the Bears to block off the contain on the back side, which created the space for Herbert.
“Their back side too was really cutting the edge really fast, it was part of the design. Herbert did a great job of reading it and bring it back,” Tabor said.
It probably won’t be the last time we see the Bears be aggressive with Herbert back there.
“I still live by the philosophy, you have zero percent chance of scoring if you take a knee,” Tabor said.