Dhruv Koul shares his in-game reactions, thoughts and observations from the Bengals-Bears game at Soldier Field.  Follow him on Twitter @DhruvKoul to continue the conversation.

CHICAGO — I’ll say one thing, I’ve never seen the Chicago Bears‘ fan base more united in their feelings than when coming into this 2021 season.  The sheer “over it”-ness with Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace, the desperation to have Justin Fields take the field, you name it.  It’s been a whirlwind of consensus from Bears fans for a while.  And that’s what made today’s “make or break” game against Cincinnati so fascinating.

The Bears have talked about their plan for Fields since he was drafted, pointing to veteran Andy Dalton as a steady mentor who could hold down the fort, win some games, and let Fields continue his development from the sidelines.  The plan had some merit, but everyone from the national media, local media, and the Bears’ organization seem to think Nagy is on an island with this plan:

(That thread from Jeff Hughes is well worth your time.)

After the Bears got blown out in Week 1 (though the score was misleading given the game was close into the late third-quarter), Week 2 (already) became a pivotal scene for Chicago’s season.

Win, and you get to 1-1 and live to fight another week.  Lose?  Hoo boy, you might be staring down the barrel of a 2-7 or 1-8 start before the bye week.  The Bears absolutely needed this game at home.

In the end, the Bears escaped with a big win along the lakefront.  And though the game got too close for comfort, the Bears showed plenty of things to be encouraged about going into Cleveland next week.

I shared my in-game reactions, thoughts and observations from the game below.  Follow me on Twitter @DhruvKoul to continue the conversation.

Thoughts and Observations

(PREGAME) — No Eddie Goldman again in Week 2, which certainly hurts the defensive front in a game where they should prioritize stopping Joe Mixon.  The surprise, however, is Trevis Gipson being inactive.  With only three active OLBs now (Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Jeremiah Attaochu), the Bears may have some schemed rushing planned today against Cincinnati.  Looks like they are prioritizing coverage with Marqui Christian and Duke Shelley both being active.

On the bright side, Jason Peters will give it a go again at LT.

1. One more pre-game thought that I’d like to get out here is this:

The fans are going to be loud and — shall we say — expressive with their thoughts on Dalton and Fields, especially if the offense struggles and the Bears find themselves down big at halftime.

I’m wondering if the Bears’ “home field advantage” at Soldier Field will in turn become a day of judgment in front of the home crowd.

2. Solid opening drive by the Bears and Andy Dalton to start the game.  The Bears converted three third-downs on that drive, including a big pass interference on Cincinnati on Marquise Goodwin down the field.  The running game didn’t do much on that drive, but Dalton was sharp and decisive, finding Darnell Mooney twice and Allen Robinson for the eventual touchdown.

3. Nice to see Robert Quinn get back in the sack column — an interestingly schemed play where Sean Desai had Quinn and Mack on the same side and stunted them.  It generated pressure to sack Joe Burrow and force a punt.  Good hold on the Bengals’ first drive after the Bears’ first drive generated points.

4. Looks like Andy Dalton injured his left leg (ankle?) on the Bears’ second drive.  Justin Fields had to finish that drive — with the Bears getting stopped on third and fourth downs (though I think the spots were bad on both plays).  Led to a turnover on downs.

I feel bad for Dalton, though.  He was playing well so far today.  We’ll see if he can re-enter or how Matt Nagy balances the rest of this game.

No harm, no foul on the turnover on downs, though.  Eddie Jackson made a TFL (no, really!) on 3rd and 1, and then Kindle Vildor had sticky coverage and knocked down a pass for Tee Higgins on 4th and 2 to turn it over.  Great defense there.

5. Update on Dalton: He did come back for a series, looked uncomfortable and then went back to the locker room before halftime.  Something to watch, as he is officially questionable to return.

Fields got the two-minute drill right before halftime, however.  And… it didn’t go great.  No points, and it included a bad sack on 2nd down as well.  We’ll see what happens after the half with respect to the QBs.

6. Halftime score: Bears 7, Bengals 0.  The Bears have also controlled this game more, so far.  They should probably be more ahead at this point, but they’ll take a lead into halftime.

7. To start the second half, Robert Quinn ruins a long third down stop with a very late hit on Joe Burrow.  It was 3rd and 16 and Burrow ran out at the line of scrimmage, but he smartly set up a late hit with a cleverly designed toe tap.  It was inexcusable by Quinn, though.  That can be a game changing penalty…

… And while the Bears eventually held, they held in field goal range.  Evan McPherson drilled a 53-yarder to make it a 7-3 game.  Those are points Cincinnati just shouldn’t have.  Undisciplined play leading to points.  Let’s see if it affects the actual outcome of the game.

8. Justin Fields took the first drive of the second half, and it was a roller coaster.  After two first downs where it looked like the Bears were getting into rhythm, a Darnell Mooney drop on a beautiful ball by Fields preceded a rumble of bad activity.

Justin Fields was stripped on a sack on 3rd and 8, and luckily recovered it before Cincy could take it for a touchdown.  But it was bad form (one hand on the ball) that led to the fumble.

The hope is Fields learns from that drive, but they need him to limit mistakes from here on out.

9. Big break for the Bears right after that series as Joe Burrow found Tee Higgins over the middle, but Eddie Jackon Peanut-Punched it out and Tashaun Gipson redeemed his taunting penalty from earlier with the recovery.  Bears took over inside Cincy territory.

Unfortunately for the Bears, a very messy ensuing drive didn’t end in a touchdown, but they did get points.  Justin Fields looks a little nervous right now and it’s showing with multiple false starts on him “flinching” for the ball.  The hope is that goes away with more experience and perhaps more reps with the 1s on offense.

10. What a turn of events here at Soldier Field.  After Joe Burrow converted a long 3rd down near his own 20, the Bengals got into Bears territory before Roquan Smith read Burrow to take back an INT for a touchdown.  Huge play.  Bears up 17-3 in the fourth quarter.

11. Joe Burrow’s very next throw:

What a fourth quarter so far for Chicago.  Wonderful response.  Bears up 17-3 and knocking on the door of more points to make it a three-score game.  This is how you take care of an opponent at home.

12. Man, the Bears played themselves out of points…  It’s still a 17-3 game, but that should’ve been a Soldier Field explosion in cheers on a deep ball dime from Fields to Robinson…

13. Three straight throws, three straight interceptions.  This time, Alec Ogletree generated pressure up the middle, tipped Burrow’s throw, and Angelo Blackson came down with it.  It’s been an incredible explosion here in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, the Bears couldn’t get the ball in the end zone.  Jimmy Graham whiffed on a block that would’ve seen Justin Fields waltz into the end zone.  And on third down, Fields missed Mooney.  Bears do lead 20-3, and it’s a three-possession game.

14. Eddie Jackson giveth, Eddie Jackson taketh away.  He took a baaaaad angle on a Burrow deep ball to Ja’Marr Chase, and the Bengals got one touchdown back more quickly than would’ve been expected.  It’s 20-10 with about 4.5 minutes left.

15. Hoo boy.  A bad Justin Fields interception sets the Bengals up inside the 10, and the Bengals score one play later.  It’s 20-17.

That’s a bad rookie mistake by Fields.  He thought he had a shallow cross open, but the linebacker Logan Wilson dropped back to pick it off.  Fields didn’t see him, but still a bad rookie mistake.

16. What was looking like mounting disaster, Fields eased with a great play with his legs.  A first down run gained one yard, and then a Cole Kmet flat route got back to the line of scrimmage.  Third and long, Fields escaped the pocket, shimmied out of a sack and picked up a huge first down.

Fields has a lot to correct for next week, especially if he’s going to start, but that was a huge play and a dimension the Bears can really use.

17. David Montgomery picks up one more first down with a huge run and the Bears will go to 1-1.  This was not easy.  But man, they earned it.

Lots to clean up going forward, but an encouraging win overall.  Hopefully Andy Dalton gets better soon.

18. The Bears head to Cleveland next week in what figures to be a tough game.  The Browns have two elite RBs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and an excellent QB in Baker Mayfield.  The Bears might be without Eddie Goldman again, and that would be … bad.  It’s a tough place to play and it could very well be Justin Fields’ first career start.  I expect them to struggle on the road against a true Super Bowl contender.

Early prediction: Browns 31, Bears 17.

Covering the Bears, Cubs, and Bulls @SportsMockery. Chelsea FC fan. Jay Cutler stan.