CHICAGO — Justin Fields and the Bears’ first-team offense tackled Soldier Field in a Saturday afternoon show against the Tennessee Titans.
Fields played two series, both of which ended in explosive touchdowns that were the result of short passes by DJ Moore and Khalil Herbert.
Two series was enough for the Fields and first-team offense as they gave the stage to the second and third teams for the rest of the afternoon.
A typical preseason sloppy opening follows, full of muffled runs, interceptions, and missed tackles.
When the dust settled, the Bears were out to win, 23-17. But the end result is irrelevant.
Here’s what we learned in the Bears’ season-opening 23-17 win against the Titans:
DJ we got to fall in love
It didn’t take Moore long to endear himself to the Soldier Field faithful.
On the offense’s third play from scrimmage, Moore showed why everyone around Hallas Hall had been fussing since he arrived from Carolina.
Fields pulled back and fumbled a pass to Moore behind the line of scrimmage. The 26-year-old receiver caused one man wasted and got good blocks from Teven Jenkins and Darnell Mooney before running for a 62-yard touchdown home run.
Chicago, meet DJ. DJ, meet chicago.
That 62-yard strike ended Moore’s day, but coach Matt Eberflus elected to give Fields another lead.
Results? Another explosion shook Soldier Field.
On third and eighth, the Bears set up a screen left fielder. They’ve been working on the game screen a lot during Saturday’s dividend-paying training camp.
Fields escaped some quick pressure and moved left before throwing it back to Khalil Herbert. With Cody Whitehair and Gater Carter leading, Herbert dashed 56 yards to push the dirt to give the Bears a 14-7 lead.
Fields finished his day 3-for-3 for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. not bad To make a light day.
Sharpening iron needs
The Bears’ first-team defense wasn’t fully armed on Saturday.
Defensive end Yannick Ngakwe, safety Jaquan Brisker, linebacker Tremaine Edmonds, and defensive end DeMarcus Walker. There is no doubt that these are huge gaps that need to be filled. However, the Bears had eight of their 12 projected starters (the nickel package) in the field for the opening series against the Titans.
Results? Not what Eberfels or defensive coordinator Alan Williams wanted to see.
On the first play from scrimmage, Titans backup Malik Willis punched Chris Moore for a 30-yard gain. Sophomore nickelback Killer Gordon slammed Moore after the catch, but Moore was able to hold onto the ball. Moore was running against rookie cornerback Turki Stephenson on the play.
The Bears’ defense is expected to improve a lot this season, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday as Tejay Spurs made the ball easy against the first-team defence.
The Bears had a chance to get out of the field when they forced a third out and 6 out, but Willis evaded the pressure and slipped past Jack Sanborn and caught first.
Willis finished driving with his legs.
On third down and goal from the 2-yard line, the sophomore quarterback broke out of the left pocket and darted into the end zone.
Gordon and Stevenson handled well on drives, and veteran linebacker TJ Edwards was good at running back.
However, it was not the opening shot that the Bears’ first-team defense wanted or expected.
It will help get healthy. Edmonds likely tackled Sanborn’s snorted third and sixth. But there is still work to be done.
Make the most of your opportunity
Stevenson was in a fierce battle with fellow rookie cornerback Terrell Smith for the starting job opposite Jaylon Johnson.
With Smith not properly dressed due to injury, the Bears gave Stephenson an extended look Saturday.
Stevenson gave up the big play to Moore but bounced back and acquitted himself nicely.
Stevenson, a youngster dubbed a “shoulder handler” in college, did an excellent job of cornering and securing tackle. He also showed great instincts by quickly diagnosing and blasting a wide receiver screen.
Stevenson also nearly picked Will Levis midway through the first quarter.
All in all, it was a good day for Stevenson, who may be getting into combined practices with the Indianapolis Colts with his leg on Smith.
A few other players did well to make the most of their chances on Saturday.
Rookie defensive tackle Zack Pickens notched a sack in the first quarter. Pickens and Dominic Robinson performed a trick, and the third-round pick went straight through tackle and guard to sack Levis.
Travis Gibson and Terrell Lewis also had good days in defence. Gibson had one sack and three quarterback hurries, while Lewis had two sacks and a forced fumble.
Freshman Jalen Harris recorded 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries during his second half play.
come on man!
Philos Jones Jr. had a clean sheet catching kicks in training camp. Both Eberflus and special teams coordinator Richard Hightower praised Jones for improving on the field after a tough rookie season that saw two costly starts.
But the sophomore receiver had trouble tracking the ball again on Saturday.
Jones was able to land a clean first kick off a jump but was stopped shortly after securing the ball.
He wasn’t so lucky on the second try.
Jones let the ball bounce again, but this time he was tagged out before being secured, and the ball flowed. The titans recovered.
If Jones continues to have problems passing runs cleanly, that should open the door for Dante Pettis, who didn’t play on Saturday, to prove his worth and secure a roster spot.
Rookie wide receiver Tyler Scott also had ball safety issues on Saturday.
Late in the second quarter, Scott caught a pass from quarterback BJ Walker for a gain of 9, but was hit by safety Sheheim Carter and fumbled. The Titans recovered the confusion.
In terms of the top two rows of the depth chart, Jones and Scott’s errors were the only major errors of what was a generally encouraging afternoon for the Bears.