October 28, 2021

Browns pile up 9 sacks against Bears in Justin Fields’ first start

Anyone looking for something positive from Justin Fields’ first NFL start might consider this: The Bears’ potential franchise quarterback was not injured and the game is over.

Other than that, Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium was more miserable than memorable.

The Browns hounded the Bears’ prized rookie from the outset, sacking him nine times and limiting the Bears to 1 net passing yard, on their way to a 26-6 win. The Bears finished with 47 total yards and four first downs.

Bears defensive end Robert Quinn, who was credited with 1 1/2 sacks, may have summed it up best.

“This one’s behind us,” Quinn said. “There’s a lot of correcting that’s about to go on. On to next week.”

Browns defensive ends Myles Garrett (4 1/2 sacks) and Jadeveon Clowny (two sacks) were the chief culprits, but the whole defense made it a rough afternoon on Fields, who the Bears (1-2) moved up nine spots in the NFL Draft to take at No. 11 in April.

It was hardly only Fields’ fault, though. He rarely had time to throw or open receivers to find.

“When you get in games like this, it’s hard to do with these numbers, about where we’re at offensively,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “The competitor in you gets frustrated. We’ve got to rebound and stay positive with the coaches and the players.

“Justin handled everything really well. He did a really good job of staying calm and composed with the sacks that he took. He never once got frustrated or angry. That’s tough in that situation. I’m proud of him for that.”

Nagy has insisted through the offseason that veteran Andy Dalton, who was signed before the Bears picked Fields, was the starting quarterback. Dalton suffered a slight knee injury in last week’s win over Cincinnati and was not available Sunday, so Fields made his debut as starter.

The former Ohio State star was 6-of-20 passing for 68 yards. Since NFL statistics subtract sack yardage from the passing total, the Bears finished with 1 net passing yard. Fields’ passer rating was 41.2.

Perhaps the best news after the game was that Fields said his throwing hand, which Nagy said he dinged during the game, was fine. Fields said it was X-rayed as a precaution but he was not injured.

Fields received some encouragement about the rough day from Dalton and third quarterback Nick Foles on the sideline.

“You have these days, you just have to bounce back, we have to get better as a whole,” Fields said. “Me, personally, I want to get back working and get better each and every day.

“(Dalton and Foles) were telling me there’s going to be games like this, but it’s about how you respond. It’s great to have those guys as a support system and knowing we support each other.”

The Browns (2-1) finished with 418 total yards, 215 of which came on the ground, but many of those came in the second half as Cleveland wore down the Bears. The Browns possessed the ball almost twice as much as the Bears, 39:34 to 20:26.

The Bears’ only trip inside the red zone came with the aid of a 48-yard pass interference penalty on Browns safety John Johnson III.

“This one hurts. It’s not what we wanted, obviously,” Bears center Cody Whitehair said. “The good thing is we have a bunch of guys on the O-line who know we’re better than what we put out there today.

“Justin kept his poise. There’s two different ways he could have gone about it, he took the route where he just stayed positive. He came to the huddle very poised and we kept trying to get it going.”

Nagy repeatedly accepted responsibility for the offense’s poor showing and vowed to fix things before next Sunday when the Bears host Detroit (0-3).

“This is one of those that we want to go back and see the why,” Nagy said. “At this point, with the limited amount of yards you had on offense, the limited amount of plays and points, you have to get to the bottom of it.

“This is not how we wanted it to go. You almost can’t even make it up. It’s that bad. We have to get to the film and we have to be hard on ourselves and understand the whys and really go from there.”

Joe Stevenson

Joe Stevenson

I have worked at the Northwest Herald since January of 1989, covering everything from high school to professional sports. I mainly cover high school sports now.