CHICAGO — The Bears’ 24-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers was a lot like a movie we’ve seen before.
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields had an outsized impact, both pros and cons, but from where I sat he was secondary to a bigger issue.
The Bears put up seven points on 14 plays for 86 yards in the first quarter, while the Packers were shut out, managing just 40 yards on 10 plays and Aaron Rodgers was sacked by both Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn.
But while it appeared the Bears had a chance to dominate Green Bay early, the Pack made adjustments on defense during the Bears’ second possession. They also made adjustments after their second offensive possession, which led to a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on their third, and a seven-play, 38-yard field goal drive that gave them a 10-7 lead with 4:09 left in the first half.
Conversely, the Bears were never able to adjust to the Packers’ changes.
When the Bears got the ball back after Green Bay’s field goal late in the first half, they knew they could regain the lead or at least tie it with a field goal, and then receiving the second kickoff they could once again take control.
Instead, they ended the first half with a delay of game penalty following a replay timeout that changed a potential 50-yard field goal try to a 55-yarder, and then Fields took a sack for 10 yards eliminating any chance to score at all.
They started the second half with two nice runs from rookie Khalil Herbert, who had another big day in his first NFL start, but then a dropped Herbert pass on second down and a 2-yard scramble from Fields on third-and-6 led to a punt.
The Packers then drove 90 yards for a touchdown and 17-7 lead, and while there were still 21 minutes left the game, it was for all practical purposes over.
The pivotal moment in the game was the final play of that second Bears drive when Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark appeared to jump into the neutral zone, and Fields, thinking he had a free play, just heaved the ball into the end zone, where Darnell Savage intercepted it.
The officials, who were awful all day long for both teams, never threw a flag.
Instead of the Bears being 3rd third-and-2 at the Packers’ 42 and driving for a 14-0 lead, the Packers had the ball and marched to the tie.
The bottom line Sunday was that with two teams that appeared fairly evenly matched not position by position, but in overall talent, the Packers had answers for everything the Bears did and knew how to win. The Bears had no answers and found another way to lose.
As for Fields, he again took a few steps forward and a few back as his NFL education continues.
He graded himself afterwards.
“I think I should have played better,” Fields said. “I think the drive before the second half ended, I think we should’ve got points right there, so that’s on me. And I mean, I just gotta play for my teammates. I’ll take the credit for losing because unfortunately I just didn’t play how I needed to play for us to get the win.
“Once you come out, get a stop on defense, score first drive, it’s 7-0, I mean, we’ve gotta keep putting the points on them—especially with a quarterback like Aaron. We’ve gotta get points up.”
While I admire the kid’s leadership and accountability, the loss was not on him. It took all 53 guys and their coaches who needed to help them more.
This loss was the kind you bargain for when your coaches are playing catch up all day and you put a young quarterback out there against one of the best to ever play the position, and it’s what it’s going to look like while he’s still learning on the job.
It was clear afterwards this performance hurt Fields at least in the moment more than his others.
He didn’t lose the game.
But Fields wasn’t good enough to win it either, and when he will be ready to win games like this, and when his coaches will give him a better shot, remains the big question.