The Bears opened the preseason with a bang on Saturday, with the first-team offense scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions.
I know that as fans we are supposed to temper enthusiasm in meaningless games, but we have to allow ourselves to approve of the execution as well.
After the starting defense – minus a few key players – allowed the Tennessee Titans offense to open the game with a touchdown, Justin Fields and Co. came onto the field to try to answer in kind. After a short pass to fullback Khari Blasingame, who turned it into an 11-yard gain, and a 2-yard gain off a run play from Khalil Herbert, the Bears immediately went to test out their shiny new acquisition of the offseason, receiver D.J. Moore.
And boy, did that shiny new toy bring quite the enjoyment for the youth in all of us.
On a well-blocked wide receiver screen, Moore corralled Fields’ pass and sprinted 62 yards for a touchdown on his first touch as a Chicago Bear.
After a Titans punt on the next possession, the offense returned to work for its second series. Herbert rushed for 11 and 3 yards on consecutive runs, before being dropped for a loss of one on his third attempt of the series. Then, Luke Getsy dialed up another screen pass, this time to Herbert. As the Titans brought pressure up the middle at Fields, he had to scramble out of the pocket while the screen was developing, before hitting a wide-open Herbert on the run. Herbert sprinted down the sideline for a 56-yard touchdown, breaking a few tackles inside the five-yard-line.
The rest of the first half was an utter disaster to watch as backup players from both teams played about as well as you’d expect in a preseason opener. The teams traded punts, interceptions and fumbles while playing something resembling football. The Bears went on to win the game, 23-17, for those who care. But the real story is the execution of the offense.
There were a lot of mixed reactions following the game. Fields’ performance has been the topic of many social media debates over the weekend, with some extreme views on either side of the coin.
To those who are extremely optimistic and pro-Fields, his performance was flawless (and by passer rating, it was).
For those who are skeptical of Fields and want to downplay everything, his lack of air yards on his three pass attempts, plus the fact that he didn’t throw the ball right on the numbers to his receivers, are big hang ups.
I, of course, fall somewhere in the middle, but closer to the positive side of the ledger.
Much like the old adage that you can only play who is on your schedule, and you can’t help if they’re missing players to injury or just aren’t very good, the same thing applies to preseason games.
It’s not Fields’ fault that he was playing against some backups who weren’t very good. And what did you want Moore and Herbert to do? Run maybe 10 yards for the first down and then run out of bounds?
No, the Bears offense went out onto the field for preseason reps and executed those reps to the best of their abilities — as far as we know without picking apart the plays in a film session the way their coaches inevitably have done since Saturday.
It’s no knock on Fields that his three passes were incredibly efficient thanks to great execution by his teammates.
We would obviously like to see more from Fields moving forward to see if he has indeed improved from Year 2 to 3. But I’m not going to completely dismiss the offensive success and be unhappy about touchdown production because I wanted to see him throw more.
The Bears have two more preseason games. Fields and the starters are not likely to play much, if at all, in the finale against Buffalo. But they should see extended action next Saturday against the Colts. Let’s wait to see how Fields moves the ball in that one, while also remembering that neither team will have a full slate of starters, nor will either team be fully game-planning for each other.
It’s just fun to see Bears football again, and a joy to see long touchdowns that were executed well.