‘Sorry to my teammates and all the fans’: Justin Fields, Chicago Bears offense off to slow start

Bears drubbed by Packers in season opener

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields escapes the pressure of Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander during their game Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

CHICAGO – It didn’t need to be said, but Bears quarterback Justin Fields said it anyway.

“Sorry to my teammates and all the fans who were rooting for us,” Fields said. “We’ll bounce back, we’ll be good.”

A loss in Week 1 doesn’t usually require an apology from the starting quarterback.

But this didn’t feel like a regular Week 1 game. The Bears spent the entire offseason talking about how their passing attack had to be better, and how they felt they were moving in the right direction. They opened up against the hated Green Bay Packers at home with a roaring crowd at Soldier Field. Aaron Rodgers was at home somewhere in New Jersey.

And then the Packers, led by quarterback Jordan Love, still pounded the Bears, 38-20.

It was a demoralizing start to what was supposed to be a new era in the historic Bears-Packers rivalry.

“It sucks,” Fields said. “A rivalry. Week 1. Going against the Packers. I mean, it sucks. I mean, nobody’s in good spirits. But it is what it is. This one hurts, I’m not going to lie to you.”

Bears fans would agree.

It wasn’t just the result that stung, but the way things went offensively for the Bears. Receiver DJ Moore was supposed to be the new electric pass catcher for this offense. Fields targeted him just twice. Moore made back-to-back catches in the second quarter that totaled 25 yards. Fields didn’t throw his way the rest of the game.

All in all, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy wanted to attack the Packers with a lateral passing attack, getting his playmakers the ball out wide. Fields averaged 3.3 air yards per pass attempt, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That was among the lowest from NFL quarterbacks in Week 1.

Fields totaled 37 pass attempts (nearly matching his career high of 39 from a game vs. the Vikings in 2021), and only four of them went more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage through the air.

“That was just the game plan,” Fields said. “Just with those [short passes], we’ve just got to get better blocking on the perimeter just to set those up. I mean, you go back and look at the film, if we block the guys, those are big chunk plays.”

That may be the case, but it simply didn’t happen Sunday. In the preseason, the Bears looked good in the screen game. But that can’t be the entire game plan.

Fields finished the game 24-for-37 passing for 216 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He connected with receiver Darnell Mooney on a 20-yard touchdown in the second half, which briefly cut the Packers’ lead to 10 points. He also carried the run game, rushing for 59 yards on nine attempts.

Head coach Matt Eberflus declined to comment at all on Fields’ game at quarterback or how the offense performed around him.

“I’ve got to look at the tape,” Eberflus said. “To make a big statement like that would be not right for me to say that without watching the tape. We’ll look at it, we’re going to make the corrections.”

Eberflus said he didn’t agree that his team wasn’t ready to play. He said he felt the team hurt itself more in the second half than in the first half.

This is a big game just because of Bears-Packers, so it’s a big game for us, but at the end of the day it’s one of 17. Look, it hurts. We didn’t expect this to happen, but we’ve got to be able to regroup here.”

—  Cole Kmet, Bears tight end

Tight end Cole Kmet pinned the struggles on penalties and miscues before the snap. Fields also referenced “self-inflicted penalties.” Kmet noted that the Bears were shooting themselves in the foot. As a team, the Bears were penalized seven times, but that was less than the Packers’ nine penalties.

The issues were far bigger than that for this offense. This was not the vertical passing attack that Bears fans were hoping to see from Fields this season.

“This is a big game just because of Bears-Packers, so it’s a big game for us,” Kmet said. “But at the end of the day it’s one of 17. Look, it hurts. We didn’t expect this to happen, but we’ve got to be able to regroup here.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.