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Even though I write frequently about the NFL and the Chicago Bears, I have (believe it or not) never been to a regular season NFL game. Living in Las Vegas, seeing an NFL game always required a road trip. My dad and I went to a few preseason games in Pheonix and San Diego when I was younger (I once saw Joe Montana play the first quarter of a preseason game with the Chiefs), but my dad is a public school teacher, the start of the NFL regular season always coincides with the start of the school year, and so road trips were impractical. So we had never been to a regular season game.

Until now.

I was public and outspoken about my misgivings regarding the financing of the Raiders' stadium in Las Vegas, and I vowed not to support the team. The Raiders were already getting unnecessary corporate welfare from the city of Las Vegas, so I wasn't going to be subsidizing them further with money from my pockets if proceeds from ticket sales weren't going back to the city of Las Vegas. In my opinion, a publicly-financed stadium should put proceeds from ticket sales into the city coffers, and I don't approve of any publicly-funded stadium that doesn't. Mark Davis is a multi-millionaire, and the Raiders are a multi-billion dollar entity; Davis and the Raiders should be able to pay to build their own damn stadium without handouts from taxpayers.

The situation with funding the stadium changed since, and I've softened my position on supporting the team and seeing events at the stadium. One exception that I always had was that I would be willing to shell out for a game if / when the Bears come to town. So I check the schedule when it's released in the spring to see if there's a home game against the Bears.

Sure enough, this year, there was a Bears game on the schedule, and it just happened to be on my birthday, no less!

I saw my first regular season NFL game. The Bears came to Vegas to play the Raiders on my birthday.
The Raiders have a mandatory vaccination policy for attendees, but I still masked-up as an added precaution.
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Last weekend's game between the Bears and the Browns was ugly. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields started the game in place of an injured Andy Dalton. We all knew that Fields would start eventually, but this was not the game to throw him to the sharks.

Just like I said at the end of preseason, the Bears' offensive line was completely unable to hold off an aggressive pass rush from the Browns. But it was far uglier than I think any of us thought it would be, as the Browns totaled 9 sacks of poor Justin Fields. I think we all hoped that his mobility would allow him to escape the pocket and make plays on the ground, but it did not pan out that way. Fields often looked timid while moving around, as if he was trying to force the ball downfield rather than let himself take off and run. This resulted in him being dragged down from behind several times, and taking a lot more hits than he should have.

Justin Fields sack
Photo by Associated Press
Justin Fields was sacked 9 times by the Browns, and couldn't move the ball at all.

The Bears' offense was completely incompetent. It wasn't just pass blocking and Fields. The running game wasn't very effective, and receivers were dropping more than their fair share of passes. The whole offense looked like it was completely overwhelmed and shell-shock -- not just Fields.

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A lot of my initial excitement for the Bears' potential in 2021 has been dampened by a lackluster preseason. It didn't matter whether Andy Dalton was playing quarterback or Justin Fields, the offense struggled to move the ball.

Most of this was due to poor offensive line play. I didn't get to watch the games live, but I looked up as much highlights and play-by-play as I could later in each week, and what I saw showed that all the Bears' quarterbacks were constantly under pressure. There was very little time to stand in the pocket and throw. The running game wasn't particularly dominant either, and the Bears had to endure a lot of three-and-outs.

Dalton looked fine when he had time to throw, but he rarely had time and wasn't able to make things happen while under pressure. Fields seemed to have the better preseason, but this was mostly owing to his ability to get out of the pocket and run for yardage and first downs. He had very little time to throw as well and didn't exactly look spectacular throwing the ball. Though he did make some very nice improvisational plays in the final preseason game against the Titans.

Bears 2021 preseason - Andy Dalton pressure
- photo by Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press
Bears 2021 preseason - Justin Fields pressure
- photo credit unknown
All the Bears QBs had to struggle with constant pressure.
Justin Fields at least has the mobility to get out of the pocket and make something happen.

There is a lot of popular demand to start Fields in the regular season, but I'm not so sure that is a good idea. If this offensive line cannot play better in the regular season, I would worry about the long-term health of Fields. He would likely take a lot of sacks and have to run and expose himself to lots of hits.

A big reason for the offensive line struggles is that the Bears are short at left tackle. Their other big-name draft pick was tackle Teven Jenkins, who may miss most (if not all) of the season after having back surgery in the summer. The Bears were so confident that he's be able to step in and start his first year that they released their previous starting left tackle, Charles Leno Jr.. With Leno (perhaps their best pass blocker last year) gone, and Jenkins out indefinitely, pass blocking is probably the single biggest area of concern.

Teven Jenkins - photo credit BearsWire
Teven Jenkins' injury is straining the O-Line.

Yes, the Bears did win 2 of their 3 preseason games, so perhaps that is something to be optimistic about. The defense played well in 2 of those 3 games, and the offense did do just enough to take and hold a lead. But most of that success was against backups after the first quarter was over.

As far as preseason stand-outs, receiver Rodney Adams and tight end Jasper Horstedd had some exciting and explosive plays. I think Adams will definitely earn himself a position on the team, even if it's in a rotational receiver role.

Honestly, as excited as I am to see Justin Fields leading this team, I do worry that maybe this isn't the best situation for him. Unless the Bears can shore up their offensive line with a free agent signing or two, or a trade for an upgrade at one or both tackle positions, starting Fields might just be setting the poor kid up for failure.

I have tickets to the Bears road game against the Raiders in October. I suspect that Fields will be the starter by that time, especially if the Bears offense under Dalton is as bad at converting third downs as they were in the preseason. But I also worry that if he is starting by that time, that he might not finish the season.

Allegiant Stadium
Photo by Orlando Ramirez, USA Today Sports
I'll be seeing my first ever NFL regular season game in-person when the Bears visit the Raiders in October.
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The Chicago Bears really hit it out of the park with the 2021 draft. What's funny is that this draft mirrors the Bears' dumbfounding 2017 draft, but with an almost polar opposite outlook. In 2017, the Bears infamously traded up one spot to take Mitch Trubisky with the number 2 overall pick. At the time, Bears fans and sports pundits were scratching their heads wondering what the heck Ryan Pace was thinking, as Trubisky wasn't even projected to be the best QB in the draft, let alone the second best player overall. With the gift of hindsight, the Bears' pick looks even worse considering that both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were both available, and neither was drafted in the top 10. Other notable players from that draft whom the Bears passed on drafting include Jamal Adams (pick 6 to the Jets), Christian McCaffery (pick 8 to the Panthers), Marshon Lattimore (pick 11 to the Sants), and Evan Engram (pick 23 to the Giants).

Photo by Chicago Bears
The Bears got a steal at the 11th overall pick in quarterback Justin Fields from Ohio State.

The Bears once again traded up to select a QB in the first round. Many analysts listed Justin Fields as the 3rd best QB in the draft, but also acknowledged that the top 3 positions were close to being a toss-up. Fields could easily have been the third overall pick to the 49ers, but San Francisco opted to take Trey Lance instead. This meant that Fields was still available at pick 11, after both the Broncos and Eagles passed on selecting him. The Bears traded up with the Giants to select Fields 11th overall. Like I said, the situation resembles the 2017 draft, except instead of trading up one space to reach for a QB who everyone expected would be available much later, the Bears patiently waited to steal a top talent who had slipped to a later pick. Sure the Bears gave up their first-round pick for next year's draft, but they got a much better value from it this time around.

The Bears had a similar opportunity in the second round, trading up with the Panthers to take offensive tackle Teven Jenkins with the 7th pick of the second round. Jenkins was projected to be a first-round talent, but slipped to the second round. Once again, the Bears got excellent value for their pick. Fields may sit behind Nick Foles and/or Andy Dalton for a period of time, but Jenkins will likely be a started in week 1 (especially since the Bears promptly cut veteran tackle Charles Leno Jr. after drafting Jenkins). And even if Fields does sit behind one of the veterans, I fully expect that he'll be starting by the end of the season.

Not only are both Fields and Jenkins excellent picks in their own right (and excellent value), but they also compliment each other well: an elite passer and an elite pass protector. The fact that both slipped to later picks (or rounds) will also potentially mean that both will be playing with a chip on their shoulders.

Photo by Brett Deering, Getty Images
Fields can likely feel safe with offensive tackle Teven Jenkins blocking his blind side.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2020 11:20 AM

Is Chicago's Nick Foles experiment over?

in Sports | Chicago Bears by MegaBearsFan
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When I wrote earlier this year about the Bears benching Mitch Trubisky in favor of Nick Foles, I said that I was surprised that Trubisky had been named the pre-season starter, that I expected Foles would eventually have the starting job, and that I was still surprised that Trubisky was suddenly benched in the middle of the week 3 game against the Falcons. It all seemed so indecisive. Trubisky had supposedly earned the job in training camp, was playing well, had lead a comeback victory in week 1 against the Lions, but was benched after a single mistake.

From my position as an un-informed spectator, the whole thing made no sense.

Then Foles came in and didn't exactly light up the scoreboard either. Foles lead the team to 2 victories, and it almost looked like the decision to change quarterbacks wouldn't hurt the team. Then the Bears' offense started playing far worse with Foles as starting quarterback, dropping the next six games straight. Granted, most of those 6 losses were against solid good offenses, such as the Saints, Packers, and Titans, and the Bears struggled to keep up. But Foles just wasn't looking good, and he wasn't helped by a stagnant run game while Tarik Cohen has been sidelined with injury. By the time of the week 10 matchup against the Vikings, I was starting to expect that a switch back to Trubisky probably should happen.

Mitch Trubisky has re-taken the starting job from Nick Foles. But was it too late to save the season?

That switch waited a few more weeks until the week 12 game against the Lions. The Bears still lost that game with Trubisky playing, but the offense did put up 30 points. The offense has also gone on to score more than 30 points in the Bears' 2 wins since, including a victory over the Vikings this past weekend that moved the Bears up to the top slot for playoff runner-up. The Bears are now 1 game behind the 7-seed Cardinals with 2 games left to play. They're also 2 games behind the Buccaneers and Rams, but only have a tie-breaker with the Buccaneers. Their victory against the Vikings puts them 1 game ahead of the Vikings (who are the only remaining team eligible for a wildcard berth). The Bears basically need to win both their remaining games (including a week 17 rematch against a Packers team that embarassed the Bears at the end of November), and then also hope that the Buccaneers, and/or Cardinals lose their last 2 games.

The most likely path to a playoff birth is if the Cardinals lose both their remaining games, and the Bears win both. That would give the Bears a 1-game lead over the Cardinals. The Cardinals' remaining games are a home matchup against the 49ers (coming off an upset loss to the Cowboys) and a road game against the Rams. Both are tough matchups for the cardinals, but very winnable ones. The 49ers also have nothing left to play for except pride and the satisfaction of maybe playing spoiler to a division rival.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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