The Bears’ starting offense looked all too familiar in the 19-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field on Saturday
In three series for the first-team unit, the offense ran 18 total plays for 78 yards and scored no points. Justin Fields had pressure in his face and was sacked two times. There were some drops. Oh, and the referress are still not protecting Fields from late hits.
A lot didn’t go right for the starting offense against the Chiefs, and these issues can’t just be ignored, but it’s just Game 1 of the preseason. Bears coach Matt Eberflus was encouraged by what he saw from Fields and the first-team offense.
“I thought it was good. I thought he operated good, ” Eberflus said. “I know he had a couple of drops there, they dropped a couple balls there, but we’ll get that cleaned up. We’ve got to be able to take those layups when he’s checking the ball down and get those yards, but we’ll get that cleaned up. …”
Let’s put each drive under the microscope and see what went right and what went wrong in each one.
DRIVE 1: 3 plays, -4 yards, 2:03
After the Chiefs deferred the coin toss, rookie running back Trestan Ebner gave the offense solid field position with his 34-yard return. To start, Fields lined up in the shotgun and the Bears went with 11 personnel. The Chiefs brought pressure and Fields threw quickly to tight ends Chase Allen for a 2-yard gain.
On second-and-8 and in 21 personnel, Fields went under center and the offense utilized fullback Khari Blasingame. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy called a run to Khalil Herbert and gained another two yards.
Here comes the bad. With Fields in the shotgun on third-and-6, Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones outmuscled right guard Michael Schofield and got the first sack of the game. Fields started off by looking left and by the time he brought his eyes to the right side of the play, Jones already had his arms around him.
Three and out.
DRIVE 2: 6 plays, 32 yards, 3:08
To start the second offensive series, Bears went to 11 personnel and had Fields under center. Herbert took the handoff and read well-executed blocks from rookie Braxton Jones and tight end Rysen John to pick up five yards.
Getsy called the first designed rollout for Fields on second-and-5. But as Fields began to turn around 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Jones pursued the quarterback. Then Frank Clark closed the gap on Fields and hit him as he threw. Fields completed the pass to Rysen John for one yard.
Facing a third-and-4 from the 31-yard line, Fields went to his favorite target: Darnell Mooney. Fields threw an accurate pass to Mooney in between the left sideline and the numbers for a 26-yard gain.
“I pretty much knew what was going to happen,” Fields said in his post-game press conference. “Man coverage, just like I said before, there’s a lot of man coverage being played in preseason just because teams want to evaluate their guys on defense and stuff like that. Just saw man, that defender got picked a little bit so Darnell was winning at first, and then at one point he was trying to beat him to a spot. I think Darnell knew where I was going to put that ball. I think that was a routine play for us. It was of course a great catch by him, but we’ve seen that many times, so it was no surprise.”
Following the big third down conversion, the Bears went empty with Fields in the shotgun. He didn’t find anyone open and ran right, eventually sliding to give himself up. Safety Juan Thornhill dove to hit Fields, appearing to commit a late hit. But instead of a penalty the Chiefs were credited with a sack on the play.
I asked Fields about the hit and what the refs said on the play.
“I talked to them in the second half about it and they said they hit me in the shoulder, but I was looking for like an unsportsmanlike conduct or something like a late hit call or something like that,” Fields said. “I guess I’ll just have to wait a few years, maybe 4 or 5 years, before I get that one. Hopefully I get it soon.”
On the next two plays, the Bears failed to pick up a yard with a Herbert run up the middle and then a tipped pass on third down.
DRIVE 3: 9 plays, 50 yards, 4:06
After a muffed punt by Dazz Newsome and an illegal block in the back by Jaylon Jones, the offense started on its own 7-yard line. Herbert picked up a yard on first down. Then Fields threw a low pass to Herbert in the middle of the field that falls incomplete.
On third-and-9, the Chiefs overloaded the left side of the line and Fields was hit as he delivered a pass to Tajae Sharpe along the right sideline. Somehow Sharpe made the catch, using his left hand to help bring the ball into his body.
Immediately after Sharpe’s catch, the offense rushed to the line to run the next play. Fields escaped pressure by running left, picking up 10 yards on the play. The offense kept gaining positive yards on an end around to Equanimeous St. Brown. Blasingame made a nice block downfield and helped his teammate get eight yards on the play. Herbert gained another eight yards on a run to the left. Jones, Whitehair and Sharpe made key blocks on the play.
That four-play sequence for the Bears accounted for 45 of the first-team’s 78 yards on the day. But the offense fizzled out immediately after. Herbert dropped a pass on first down, and Getsy called two straight runs for him after that, including a third-and-6 run from the Chiefs’ 43-yard line.
But just like that, the starting offense’s day came to an end. They came away empty on the scoreboard, so clearly there is work to be done. Still, there were some positive moments for a unit running a new offense with at least six new starters in this game from last year.
“Just like I said before, I think we can improve at everything,” Fields said. “Coming up on the ball, executing better. Of course there were plays where we didn’t execute as well as we wanted to, so just continually getting better each and every day and keep stacking these days.”