The Chicago Bears dropped their first game of the 2021 season to the Los Angeles Rams, 34-14, in what was an even bigger blowout than many had predicted.
The Rams were heavy favorites entering Sunday night, but the way in which Los Angeles picked apart the Bears’ pass defense was surprising, even to the most confident of prognosticators.
Chicago’s lack of cornerback talent and depth was obvious, and the sloppy tackling by former All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson made an embarrassing defensive performance even worse.
There were some bright spots despite the 20-point loss. Here are our Studs and Duds from Week 1.
Stud: David Montgomery
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Montgomery looked the part of a feature running back Sunday night, finishing with 16 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown. Montgomery’s vision, burst, and impressive contact balance in a primetime game may have finally launched him into that next tier of running backs in 2021. He belongs there, too. The only thing stopping Montgomery from a career year will be the playcalling of Matt Nagy. As long as he gets his touches, he’s going to have a lot of nights like Week 1.
Dud: Eddie Jackson
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The days of Jackson being one of the NFL’s elite defenders seem to be long gone. The Bears’ top safety missed several tackles and failed to put a hand (or even a finger) on Rams wideout Van Jefferson in what resulted in a 67-yard touchdown and a morale-killing play. Jackson is sloppy, undisciplined, and downright unreliable at this point in his Bears career.
Stud: Justin Fields
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Sure, maybe it’s a little generous to call Fields a stud when he only attempted two passes and one run. But the Bears did score a touchdown in those three plays, which Fields made look easy on a two-yard run that would’ve been nearly impossible for Dalton to finish. On a night with average marks on offense, Fields appeared ready for liftoff when he was on the turf.
Dud: Khalil Mack
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The only chance the Bears had at slowing Matthew Stafford and the Rams offense was if Mack and the defense generated intense pressure. Mack’s end-of-game box score tells the story of his failure to do so: one tackle. That’s it. No sacks and few, if any, pressures. He was ‘just a guy’ Sunday night. Mack is still an elite pass-rusher whose bust is already waiting for him at the Hall of Fame, but the Bears need more from him. And they need it quickly.
Stud: Bears interior offensive line
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One of the big storylines entering Week 1 was whether the Bears’ offensive line could limit Aaron Donald to a mortal performance. The task belonged to Chicago’s interior linemen — Sam Mustipher, Cody Whitehair, and James Daniels — and for the most part, they succeeded. Donald was limited to three tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss, and his sack came late in the game when the Bears were already out of it. Chicago’s offensive line as a whole was better than expected.
Dud: Matt Nagy
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Nagy gets a dud spot for a few reasons. His decision to forego punting on several fourth downs early in the game drew praise from the stats and analytics sector of football punditry, but it also sent obvious signals to his team that he didn’t think the Bears could keep the Rams from scoring. At the end of the game, he was right. Los Angeles dropped 34 on Chicago. But it’s a bad message to send to a defense that’s in what appears to be a transition season. Nagy also fumbled the final drive of the game. The Bears had no chance of coming back late in the fourth quarter and they could’ve given Fields a full series to gain some valuable experience. Instead, Nagy trotted Dalton back onto the field for one of the least inspiring drives of the game. It was a bad decision by Nagy because not only did it deprive Fields of reps, but it also created an even worse impression for Dalton’s overall night.