NFL

Bears assessing QB Justin Fields' ability to face Green Bay

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

By GENE CHAMBERLAIN

Associated Press

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears showed Sunday they struggle trying to beat good teams with veteran Andy Dalton at quarterback.

The attention turns now to getting rookie quarterback Justin Fields available and healthy enough to face the Green Bay Packers for a second time despite broken ribs. The development of their first-round draft pick remains a key goal in a 4-8 season.

"That's going to be an ongoing discussion for us all week long, literally," Bears coach Matt Nagy said on Monday. "So starting today as we start to game plan and then as it goes the rest of this week, and I'm sure as each day passes, we'll have more and more of an idea of where he's at."

Despite the injured ribs, Fields threw in practice last week and practiced on a limited basis every day. Dalton then started and threw four interceptions in Sunday's 33-22 loss to Arizona, three on tipped balls.

"I've said it all along: This is more of a pain thing for him right now medically," Nagy said of Fields. "We're never going to put him at risk medically. Never. So you can mark that down.

"If he is able to go and he is able to play and be the starter, it's going to be because medically he's cleared. And then I think more than anything it's pain. You know? It's going to be a pain tolerance deal. We've just got to work through all that."

Fields has missed the past two games after suffering the injury and leaving in the early second half of a 16-13 Nov. 21 loss to Baltimore. Nagy said there is no chance the team would put Fields on injured reserve because they feel he'll be ready again at some point, and the playing time is critical in his development.

"Even going back to the San Fran game (Oct. 31), I really felt like the game, No. 1, was slowing down to him," Nagy said.

There are goals in mind for Fields in terms of reading defenses and proving he can run specific types of plays, but coaches also need to learn more about Fields' strengths. Nagy feels eight starts haven't been enough to reveal what Fields can do best within their offense.

"I really felt like his confidence was starting to get good out there at practice, on the field, in himself," Nagy said. "So then the other part of this, too, is us creating, and knowing what his strengths are helped us out as well. So we were kind of trying to find that balance. "

WHAT'S WORKING

The offensive line. The blockers allowed 30 sacks in the first eight games and only 10 in the past four, and helped the offense outgain each of its past four opponents after being outgained by each of the previous four. It's part of the reason Nagy said there is no rush to get second-round draft pick tackle Teven Jenkins in the starting lineup after he was promoted last week to the 53-man roster.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Pass receiving. Tipped passes for interceptions were only part of the problem Sunday. The Bears had other passes dropped, including one by practice squad player Rodney Adams in his first game after being flexed to the 53-man roster.

Rain, wind and cold at Soldier Field was part of the problem, but the biggest issue they have is health, as top receiver Allen Robinson hasn't been in the lineup since Nov. 8 with a hamstring injury. No. 3 receiver Marquise Goodwin missed Sunday's game with foot and ribs injuries.

STOCK UP

David Montgomery. Montgomery had been somewhat hard on himself assessing his play since returning from a knee injury on Nov. 8. He had averaged 3.8 yards a carry with six total receptions in three games prior to Sunday's loss.

Against the Cardinals, Montgomery carried 21 times for 90 yards and a touchdown, and caught a season-high eight passes for 51 yards.

"I'll be way more happy if I had 12 yards averaging 0.1 yards per carry if we got the win," Montgomery said. "I could care less about individual stats because the feeling that you get when you win is completely different than having good stats when you lose."

STOCK DOWN

Dalton. Going into Sunday, the backup had just two interceptions in his first five appearances this year, and now has six. Dalton entered Sunday's game with an 89.4 passer rating and now it's 79.9.

INJURIES

Dalton's left (non-throwing) hand was reported after Sunday's loss as injured while making a first-half tackle attempt following one of his four interceptions. However, he was able to finish the game without a problem. Nagy had nothing more to add Monday on this injury.

KEY NUMBER

1 - number of interceptions made by Bears cornerbacks this year. Jaylon Johnson made it, and it came in Week 2.

NEXT STEPS

The Bears are at Green Bay on Sunday night, trying to break a five-game losing streak against their NFC North rivals.

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Updated December 6, 2021


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