Justin Fields responded with a terrific game in his first Soldier Field start, and the Bears never lost control in a 24-14 victory over the Lions to even their record at 2-2.
Detroit dropped to 0-4 for the sixth time since 2001. The Lions are 2-12 in their past 14 games, dating back to last season.
They made it a game with two second-half TD drives but hurt themselves early in the game by coming up empty their three first drives. Each time Detroit moved the ball inside the Bears’ 8-yard line, and all three times the Lions failed to score — two lost fumbles and a turnover on downs.
Chicago took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter and extended it to 21-0 before the Lions warmed up. For the Bears, the offense in Week 4 looked nothing like Fields’ nightmarish first NFL start last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, when he was sacked nine times and completed only 6 of 20 passes for 67 yards.
Fields surpassed that pass-yardage total late in the first quarter against the Lions. He hit on his first four passes — all to Darnell Mooney — and finished the game 11 of 17 passing for 209 yards. Fields threw one interception off a deflected pass but was mostly on-target this game.
There were myriad changes to the Bears’ offense from last week.
Fields was allowed to attack vertically. The protection held up fairly well; Fields was hit four times but only sacked once, and that was major progress one week to the next. The run game was fruitful most of the game, as David Montgomery ran for 106 yards and two scoresbefore leaving in the fourth quarter with an apparent knee injury, and Damien Williams added 55 more yards and a score of his own.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was night and day from what we saw last week. Perfect timing, too, with chaos seemingly leading into this game, with head coach Matt Nagy initially unsure who would be starting under center for him Sunday. Once Fields was named starter, it was imperative he was allowed to do what he does best — a far different skill set than nominal starter Andy Dalton.
Did Nagy relinquish play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor? Nagy refused to say before kickoff who would have the honors vs. the Lions but did indicate last Monday that “everything was on the table” as far as schematic changes going forward.
Simply based on the look and feel of the scheme, it felt during the game like Lazor was dialing up the plays — and after Nagy was grilled on the subject postgame, Nagy admitted that Lazor was indeed in the captain’s chair with the laminated sheet.
Give Nagy some credit for recognizing his efforts were not working as hoped, even if he created the issue in the first place.
Lions come up short early … and late
The Lions had a shot to cut into a 24-14 Bears lead in the fourth quarter when Fields was sacked and fumbled deep in his own end of the field. But after the ball kicked around for a bit, Fields was able to jump on it to save the possession.
Detroit moved the ball readily most of the game. With just over four minutes left, the Lions once more entered the Bears’ red zone but came up short when Jared Goff couldn’t hit Amon-Ra St. Brown on a fourth-and-1, turning the ball over on downs.
Goff started slowly but finished the game 24 of 38 passing for 298 yards with two TD passes.
But the story Sunday was really Fields. Despite not throwing a TD pass or doing much with his legs, the eye test showed what he can with with time to throw — and with an offensive design that’s better catered to his strengths.