NFC North Reporter
The Chicago Bears finally won a game in Week 5. It was on short rest, on the road and came against an up-and-down Washington Commanders team. The Bears’ offense, in particular, seemed to ignite. It was the second straight game they recorded over 450 yards. Quarterback Justin Fields and wide receiver D.J. Moore finally looked like the duo Bears fans hoped they’d be. Moore had a career-high 230 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
The next step would be consistency.
Against the division-rival Minnesota Vikings at home in Week 6, the Bears were anything but. Chicago lost their fifth game of the season as Minnesota eked out a 19-13 win.
To make matters worse, Fields exited the game early in the third quarter. The QB was sacked by Vikings edge rusher Danielle Hunter and on his way to the ground, his throwing hand appeared to slap the ground awkwardly. Fields was in a lot of pain as he left the field and ultimately went to the locker room. He went 6-of-10 for 68 yards passing with one interception on the day.
“He wanted to come back in the game,” said head coach Matt Eberflus. “But he couldn’t grip the ball to throw it.”
Fields’ X-rays were negative but Eberflus said the team will conduct an MRI on Monday.
Then came the roller coaster of Tyson Bagent’s first NFL playing time. The rookie out of Shepherd University, who won the backup QB job in training camp, saw his first series end in a strip-sack that was turned into a scoop-and-score for the Minnesota defense.
But then Bagent came back and led a nine-play, 77-yard drive that ended in a one-yard touchdown run for Bagent himself: his first NFL score. Bagent surpassed Fields’ passing stat line during the drive. He was 7-of-10 for 67 yards.
That high wouldn’t last for the Bears. After the Chicago defense forced a Minnesota three-and-out, giving the ball back to Bagent and the offense with six minutes to play, the ride took a nose dive. Bagent launched the ball towards D.J. Moore all the way down the field. But the ball was underthrown and it was then picked off by Minnesota cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., all but sealing the game for the Vikings. Bagent ended the day completing 10 of 14 pass attempts for 83 yards and an interception. His passer rating was 56.5.
Vikings defense dominates in 19-13 victory vs. Bears with three forced turnovers
The Bears had been struggling before Bagent took over, though. Chicago had seen some success running the ball with Fields in the game, but the offense was largely anemic. They had 89 rushing yards at halftime and just 45 net yards passing. Fields had taken three sacks in the first half. His fourth would be the play on which Fields was injured. There was no continuity in what had been a prolific passing attack the two prior weeks. Five of Moore’s seven targets on the day came from Bagent — not Fields.
Whether it was a symptom of playing from behind or not, the Bears tried to get the passing offense going with Bagent. His 14 pass attempts accounted for 58.3% of the Bears’ total on the day.
“What they’ve done a good job of is that their offense can stay very similar with [Bagent] in there,” said Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. “We didn’t expect their offense to change all that much and it didn’t.”
The good news about having a backup similar to your starter is that they can execute the offense without many adjustments. The bad news is, that doesn’t throw off the defense. They can execute their game plan without many adjustments, too.
Eberflus wouldn’t comment on the identity of the offense if Bagent is operating it, and whether it changes from how the offense operates under Fields.
“We’ll see where Justin is going forward,” said Eberflus. “We’re going to have to look hard to see how we can get the ball down the field and score points. That’s the number one thing we have to do.”
That’s putting it… simply.
The Bears found something that worked in the last two weeks. But this is the NFL — Not For Long. That creative interpretation of the league’s abbreviation is a nod to players’ short careers. It also means that when teams find things that work, they don’t work for long. Defenses figure things out and adjust. Truly good teams evolve from week to week. Sunday was evidence that Chicago isn’t evolving electively. Whether they are forced to going forward will depend on an MRI on Monday.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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