The Chicago Bears began preparations on Wednesday for their home opener Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bears will look to win their first game of the season following their 34-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams On Sunday Night Football. Starting quarterback Andy Dalton has been heavily criticized for his performance, with many calling for rookie quarterback Justin Fields to be named the starting quarterback, despite the offense displaying potential with Dalton.



Dalton’s Performance Has been Highly Scrutinized Despite Leaving Room For Optimism

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Many were critical that the Bears’ offense only scored 14 points and Dalton’s first-drive interception, caused by a tipped pass in the end zone. Despite the lack of points and the interception, the Bears’ quarterback quietly had a productive game, given the circumstances. Dalton led the Bears’ offense on seven drives into Rams’ territory, while the offense did not record a single three and out the entire game. The former Pro Bowl quarterback completed 27 passes for 206 yards with a completion percentage of 71.05.

Although the 206 passing yards by Dalton isn’t eye-popping, it is significant to note that Chicago’s offensive game plan was designed on short passes with only one pass attempt being longer than 15 yards. Dalton was not locking on to one receiver as he completed passes to eight different players. Furthermore, Chicago’s quarterback completed four or more throws to five different targets. Having the ability to involve all receivers in the passing game is significant when it comes to an unpredictability standpoint, especially when you incorporate a quality running game.

On Sunday, running back David Montgomery rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries, with rushes being 10 yards or longer. The Bears’ offense would finish 139 rushing yards, despite trailing for almost the entire game. Montgomery will enable Dalton to have success with play-action passes and have wide-open targets, given that he isn’t focusing on one specific target.

The big test for Dalton against the Bengals will be if he can connect on deep-passing routes to wide receivers and tight ends. Against the Rams, the main reason for the offense not attempting a pass longer than 20 yards was to avoid exposing the offensive line against the Rams’ premium defense. With speed receivers Darnell Mooney and Marquise Goodwin, it is unrealistic for Dalton not to attempt at least one deep pass to either receiver against the Bengals. Furthermore, With Mooney and Goodwin combining for eight receptions on short passes, it will enable both receivers to better beat opposing defenders on double-move routes.

Wanting To See Fields Can’t Overshadow The Offense In the Meantime

Fields did debut on Sunday against the Rams in a limited role as he completed two passes and scored on a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Many believe that the rookie quarterback’s big-play ability gives the Bears the best chance to win right now, but until the rookie is officially named the starter, they must focus on what the offense is capable of with him appearing in a limited role. It is pointless for fans and media to keep calling for Fields when it is apparent that Matt Nagy will not make a change unless Dalton severely struggles or when the coach is fully confident that the rookie quarterback is ready.

Being highly critical of Dalton for Sunday’s performance is unfair given the circumstances of the game plan and the coaching decisions. Although Chicago’s offense scored only 14 points, they left 9 to 16 points on the board due to turnovers and loss of downs. Nagy could have elected to try for a field goal on two different drives, given the success rate of kicker Cario Santos last season. The Bears offense was also forced to punt following a missed pass interference call on receiver Allen Robinson on third down. A PI call would have put the Bears in makeable field goal range and could have even led to a touchdown.

The Bears’ offense under Dalton will have their chance to find success in the passing game as the team’s next three opponents all allowed over 300 yards passing in their week one game. Furthermore, the Bengals, Browns, and Lions defenses allowed pass plays of 35 yards or longer. Dalton should have many opportunities to attempt deep passes to Goodwin, Mooney, and even Allen Robinson.

Even with a potential stellar performance on Sunday against the Bengals, Dalton will still face unfair criticism from those wanting to see Fields. Chicago’s loss to the Rams on Sunday was because of their defense being unable to stop Los Angeles’ passing attack and not because of the quarterback. Although there was limited success, Dalton and the offense left more room for optimism than pessimism once you look past the demand for Fields.

 

 

Eastern Illinois University graduate, Steve earned a Bachelor’s in Journalism with a concentration in sports. While at EIU, Steve co-hosted a weekly radio sports talk show focused on Chicago.