The Chicago Bears face what is realistically a do-or-die game on Sunday at Soldier Field. Somehow they have to pull off a big upset of the 8-2 Arizona Cardinals. A team that is getting their two best players back in Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins while also coming off a bye. All of this at the same time that the Bears defense is seeing cornerstones fall to injuries left and right. Khalil Mack is done for the year. Roquan Smith suffered a hamstring in the win over Detroit.
Then there is the quarterback situation. While head coach Matt Nagy made it clear that Justin Fields is the starter, it is only if he is healthy. Having suffered cracked ribs in the loss to Baltimore two weeks ago, his status moving forward hasn’t been clear. Will he play in this game? Nagy offered a bit of clarity on that subject during his Wednesday press conference. Fields was returning to practice, which was good news. However, veteran Andy Dalton would be taking the first-team reps in practice.
Bears coach Matt Nagy won't give any update on QB Justin Fields (ribs) but says he'll practice today.
— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) December 1, 2021
Andy Dalton will get starters reps today in practice, per Nagy. #Bears
— Mike Berman (@MikeBermanNBC) December 1, 2021
That offers a pretty obvious indication.
Fields is progressing from his injury. Which is good. That said, the team doesn’t seem to think it is happening fast enough to make them comfortable playing him on Sunday. Not against a defense that features a strong pass rush led by Chandler Jones and Markus Golden. Dalton played fairly well last week in relief against the Ravens and then against the Lions. He is a veteran with plenty of starting experience. Playing it cautious with the rookie, who is the future of the organization, makes plenty of sense.
Everybody wants to see him play but the last thing this team needs is to throw him out there and risk making an already notable injury even worse. A quarterback with cracked ribs standing behind an iffy offensive line is often a recipe for disaster. Don’t be shocked if the Chicago Bears decide to play it safe.