Monday, January 24, 2022

How Justin Fields, If He Plays, Will Engineer A Big Upset Of Arizona


They say optimism can go a long way. So let’s give it a try. The Chicago Bears don’t have many reasons for the power of positivity lately. After enduring two-straight heartbreaking losses to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, they were engulfed in controversies surrounding their head coach Matt Nagy and his job status. All of this while having to play on a short week in Detroit with their starting QB Justin Fields nursing cracked ribs.

In spite of all that, they escaped with a win against the Lions to finally end a five-game losing streak. Not that winning 16-14 with a late comeback convinced anybody this team is capable of mounting a late-season rally. Not with the #1 seed Arizona Cardinals coming to town. An opponent with a top 5 scoring offense and top 5 scoring defense and is about to get their star quarterback Kyler Murray back from injury.

Nobody is giving the Bears a shot. Understandably so.

That said, one should not discount Chicago. They are equipped to challenge Arizona more than others. Especially if Fields plays. How so? It centers on the run game. While the Cardinals don’t have a lot of weaknesses this year, their defense against the ground attack is a big one. They have surrendered 120 yards or more in a game six times this season. Including their only two losses to Green Bay (151) and Carolina (166).

The Bears’ offense has plenty of issues, but running the ball isn’t one of them. Led by David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, they cracked 100 yards rushing in five straight games prior to the tilt in Detroit. A big reason for that was Fields. He seemed to gain significant confidence with his legs during that stretch. If he returns this week, his threat to run should open lanes for Montgomery and Herbert. Not a favorable proposition for the Cardinals.

Justin Fields and the Bears may also benefit from the weather

Expectations for Sunday suggest it will be around the mid-40s in Chicago with rain and 15-20 mph winds. In other words a cool and wet afternoon. Considering it will be on that natural grass Soldier Field turf? That could equate to muddy conditions. Such an atmosphere is usually more conducive to a team that can run the ball well. The Cardinals and their lighter, faster defense may not handle it well.

Is this wishful thinking? Sure. Given how listless the Bears offense has been most of this season, it is difficult to imagine they can muster a sustained 60-minute effort against one of the best teams in the NFC. Especially when a defense that is banged up will have to somehow slow down Murray and the high-flying offense. This is why a run-oriented attack makes the most sense. It has worked before but also it might be Justin Fields’ best chance to get this team some momentum.

Ball control and power football.

It isn’t flashy but it is what this team has. Nagy has tried so many times to mold this offense in his vision. Hang in the pocket and attack down the field. He just isn’t equipped to implement it. At this point, he has to think about survival. That means doing whatever it takes to win. Don’t be surprised if the Bears pound that football early and often.

Erik Lambert
Educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College in Chicago, Erik has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.

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