With the preseason in the books, Week 1 is right around the corner for the Chicago Bears. While the national narrative that the Bears will be the worst team in the NFL is probably overblown, there’s a chance that the roster isn’t rich enough for the Bears to be contenders in the NFC North.
Still, there will be plenty to watch this season. Justin Fields and his development will be the focal point. We discussed some of the bright moments for Fields in Saturday’s preseason finale in Cleveland. For me, Luke Getsy’s offense will be equally as important to monitor this season. It’s well documented that Getsy plans on building an offense around what he’s got, unlike his predecessors in Chicago.
Scoring drives are fun and something that Bears fans will welcome more of this season, regardless of record. The Bears had three touchdown drives on Saturday, so let’s talk about them.
1. Touchdown (7-0) 1st QTR: 7 Plays, 80 Yards, 4:01, 5 1st Downs
In 2021, the Bears ranked dead last in third down conversions (34.7%). And in 2020 … they also ranked dead last in third down conversions (33.5%). In 2019, they were a little better (25th). But other than a few outlier seasons (2018 – 13th, 2015 – 7th, and 2013 – 7th), the Bears have ranked at the bottom of the league in third down conversion rate for the last 20 years.
So it was nice to see the Bears avoid third downs altogether on their first scoring drive on Saturday.
Talent indeed plays a significant role in those long-running inefficiencies, but play calling is culpable, as well. How many times have we seen the Bears get the ball and run a first-down play that sucked the life out of the drive? A lot. Last season the Bears averaged 4.9 yards per play on first down. On Saturday, the Bears’ first-team offense averaged 8.8 yards per play on first down. The Bears first-team offense got five drives on Saturday, and they logged 14 first downs (2.8 first downs per drive).
Here’s David Montgomery setting the tone on the first play of the second drive on a toss play for six yards to set up a nice 2nd & 4.
That 6-yard gain on first down opened things up for the Bears, and they were able to get a first down and some on the next play when Fields hit Khari Blasingame on a play-action bootleg to the right to move the sticks and get some momentum going.
Fields then hit Darnell Mooney on the left side, and Mooney picked up five yards to stay ahead of the chains. Fields converted on second down with a scramble (the late hit that added 15 yards to the end of Fields’ nine-yard run).
After the Fields scramble, they went back to the run on first down, and David Montgomery broke off a 24-yard run that was brought back due to a Ryan Griffin hold. Starting down a 1st & 20, Getsy dialed up a pass call, Fields found Dante Pettis for 14 yards to make up for the flag and set up a 2nd & 4. Another rollout to the right for Fields ended in a hook-up with Cole Kmet and yet another first down.
Fields hit Ryan Griffin for a 22-yard touchdown pass on the drive’s ensuing and final first down play.
So, to recap:
- 1st & 10 (CHI 20): 6 YD Rush by David Montgomery
- 1st & 10 (CHI 32): 5 YD Reception by Darnell Mooney
- 1st & 10 (CLE 39): 24 YD Rush by David Montgomery (HOLDING)
- 1st & 20 (CLE 49): 14 YD Reception by Dante Pettis
- 1st & 5 (CLE 22): 22 YD Reception by Ryan Griffin (TOUCHDOWN)
Yeah, that’ll play, folks.
2. Touchdown (14-0) 2nd QTR: 5 Plays, 52 Yards, 1:54, 2 1st Downs
Drive number two featured success on first and second down again, with no third downs on the short drive. Equally as important on this drive, the Bears took advantage of a short field caused by the missed Cleveland field goal on the previous drive.
After a four-yard gain on 1st & 10 and a fresh set of downs thanks to a defensive holding penalty on that drive, the Bears went back to the play action. Why not, right? Montgomery was running with a purpose, and the play-fake worked on the previous drive. Stick with what works. Novel concept, right?
Fields hit an open Equanimeous St. Brown for an 18-yard gain down to the Cleveland 25-yard line, setting up the Fields-Pettis touchdown strike just two plays later.
3. Touchdown (21-0) 2nd QTR: 8 Plays, 62 Yards, 3:48, 4 1st Downs
The Bears didn’t see many third downs (two to be exact) while the first-team offense was on the field thanks to their success early on the downs. But when they finally saw their second, the call was solid.
Lineup up in the shotgun with Khalil Herbert to his left; Fields has two options on this one; 1) Nsimba Webster running a quick slant on the right side of the play, and 2) Khalil Herbert on the designed toss with Cole Kmet and Isaiah Coulter acting as blockers on the left side. Fields chooses Herbert, who gets some strong blocking from skill players in Kmet and Coulter on his way to a 6-yard gain just shy of the sticks.
While they didn’t convert the third down, they put themselves into an obvious fourth down conversion attempt with less than a yard to gain deep in Cleveland territory. A simple QB sneak by Fields moved the chains again.
Fields then hit Cole Kmet for a 24-yard touchdown on the ensuing play, putting the Bears up 21-0 and capping Fields and the 1’s day.
Luke Getsy’s offense did multiple things well on Saturday. The calls were basic and efficient but gave Fields plenty of options. Getsy got Montgomery involved early, and they were able to build success through the air off of that early success. The Bears stayed ahead of the chains. They took advantage of the short field. They executed the offense by just taking what was there and playing clean football.