As a fan, the final preseason game of the year is pretty much a throwaway game. The starters hardly play, if they play at all, as guys further down the depth chart fight for the final roster spots. But for coaches一 and those aforementioned players一 this is one of the most important dates on the summer calendar. Not only are there important personnel decisions to make, it’s the last opportunity to clean up details in the special teams department. For the Bears, that last point was particularly important, since it looked rough in the first two exhibition contests. But without further ado, here are the biggest takeaways from Saturday night’s game.
JUSTIN FIELDS READY TO ROCK
Fields was nearly perfect in his first preseason start, completing 7-10 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. The one score was an incredible highlight play, and two of his incompletions were drops. He more than passes the eye test and looks capable of starting a regular season NFL game, now.
DEFENSE STEPS UP
Poor tackling was a concern in the Bears’ first two preseason games, but things were much improved in that department on Saturday. Additionally, three players with question marks around them all played well. Eddie Goldman didn’t play much, but while he was on the field he was stout stopping the run and affected the pocket against the pass. Danny Trevathan had a wonderful two series, coming up with one interception, another pass breakup against a bigger tight end, and one great tackle showing enough speed to make it to the sideline to stop a running back along the boundary. Joel Iyiegbuniwe looked like a man fighting for a job too, and for the most part seemed to have earned a roster spot. He defended both the run and pass well, but had one whiffed tackle on special teams. Finally, the Bears managed to generate an effective pass rush throughout the first half.
SPECIAL TEAMS SOLIDIFIED
Besides poor tackling, bad special teams coverage was a bugaboo for the Bears in their first two preseason games. But the unit as a whole looked to have cleaned up their issues on Saturday. After surrendering an average of 29.4 yards per punt return against the Bills, including a 79-yard touchdown, the Bears only gave up an average of 3.2 yards per punt return against the Titans. Pat O’Donnell also helped the squad with some nice kicks that bounced out of bounds, and one perfectly placed kick that came to a stop right at the one-yard line. Chris Tabor seems to have found his return man going forward in Khalil Herbert, too. He gained 68 yards on three kick returns.
OFFENSIVE LINE NEEDS WORK
It wasn’t all great news tuning up for Week 1 however. Besides the Andy Dalton/Justin Fields non-competition, the biggest storyline to follow was how the team would fare at their two tackle positions. Jason Peters saw his first game action since Week 13 last season and didn’t look bad, but didn’t look particularly dominating either. More concerning was Germain Ifedi’s play on the left side. He gave up a sack on the first pass play of the game, then committed a false start on the second drive. If things don’t improve on the edges of the O-Line, it will be hard for the Bears offense to develop rhythm no matter who’s under center.
NICK FOLES DESERVES CHANCE ELSEWHERE
It’s been clear throughout all of camp, but in the preseason finale Foles left no doubt that he’s still capable of playing in the NFL. With quarterbacks moving across the league, and other quarterbacks going down, Foles deserves to head to a team that will give him a better chance to make it onto the field. After going 10-13 for 142 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday it wouldn’t be surprising if a team like the Panthers, Jaguars, Colts or Jets called Ryan Pace to check on his third-string QB.