The Andy Dalton era in Chicago is off to an inauspicious start.
During the Bears’ 34-14 loss to the Rams on “Sunday Night Football,” Dalton completed 27 of his 38 pass attempts for just 206 yards, averaging 5.42 yards per attempt. He did not complete a pass of more than ten yards; one of his two attempts beyond that threshold was intercepted.
The lack of deep passing in the game plan from coach Matt Nagy was an achilles heel for the Bears offense, which moved the ball but had no explosive plays. The players don’t appear thrilled.
“It’s challenging, but you’ve just gotta work with what you’re getting,” Bears receiver Marquise Goodwin said. “I don’t control the plays that are called. I don’t control anything but just going out there and doing my job and I just do it the best that I know how: fast.”
The Rams had the top-ranked defense in the NFL in 2020, and the quick passing game was largely enacted to neutralize Aaron Donald on the defensive line, especially after the Bears suffered a series of offensive line issues. However, Goodwin pointed out that the game plan didn’t do anything to neutralize their other superstar – cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
“As you mentioned, [Ramsey] is a unique player, All-Pro, Pro Bowler, instinctive, especially in short spaces,” Goodwin said. “And us not running past 10 yards, that fell right into his hand, I feel like.”
There is a cloud hanging over the Bears’ offense in the form of Justin Fields, their rookie quarterback who they traded up to draft No. 11 overall this offseason. Nagy has repeated that Dalton will remain the starter while Fields learns the offense, but Fields’ skillset might be exactly what the Bears need to counteract their issues on offense. The Ohio State product is a prolific deep passer, and his mobility compared to Dalton could help the receivers to buy time to get open downfield.
We’ll see how long the Bears can keep rolling Dalton out there, but if the offense continues to lack explosive plays, Fields’ presence will loom larger and larger every week.