Heading into Saturday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, the Chicago Bears’ starters hadn’t had much time on the field. Justin Fields attempted only fourteen passes between two games. But once coach Matt Eberflus declared that starters would play the first half of Week 3’s game, and that this was going to be Chicago’s ‘dress rehearsal’, the expectations for Bears starters, and Fields in particular, went way up.
This was their last chance to give Bears fans a reason for hope heading into the regular season, and they delivered.
Justin Fields went 14 for 16 in passing for 156 yards and three touchdowns, each one a beautiful ball from at least 10 yards out (58 of his 156 passing yards were on these three throws). Ten different receivers caught passes, running great routes to get open and not force Fields into too many tight-window throws.
The offensive line held up well following a disastrous opening drive that went three-and-out for negative yardage. For the rest of the half, Fields was able to sit back and relax in some pretty clean pockets and was never sacked or hit (not legally, at least).
Fields took a cheap shot from a Browns defender after sliding for a first down, and the offensive line immediately responded. Backup center Sam Mustipher led the charge, mixing it up with Cleveland’s defense and coming to his quarterback’s aid. Guard Cody Whitehair was there as well, pushing and shoving. It was great to finally see a Bears team sticking up for their quarterback, yet another sign of a new culture in Chicago.
Perhaps the best stat of the night, and really of the whole preseason, is that the Bears were penalized just eight times all summer. It’s a major upgrade from last year and, again, shows that the improved coaching is impacting on-field play and discipline.
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The win over the Browns completed an undefeated preseason for the Bears. I’ll be the first to tell you that preseason wins ultimately don’t matter, but what does matter is how you get those wins, and the Bears looked damn good. There’s no doubt the unbeaten summer will create confidence heading into the regular season, too.
Plus, preseason wins do matter a little bit. Football is a sport played by human beings. Human beings are affected by things like attitude and emotions, and getting three wins while playing well gives the Bears nothing but positive vibes.
To be fair, there are quite a few caveats that the national media is sure to bring up in any discussion of the Chicago Bears. The Browns did not play Myles Garret or Jadeveon Clowney, their two best EDGE rushers and arguably two of the best in the league. But hey, the Bears were missing plenty of starters too, and they still dismantled the Browns in the first half.
The Bears looked like a competent, competitive NFL team on Saturday. That’s your headline, and that’s all you need to know as we stumble into the long, two-week drought of NFL football before the regular season begins. At least the sweet taste of victory and some epic Justin Fields highlights will keep Bears fans abuzz for now.