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Perhaps Matt Nagy was right that Justin Fields wasn't quite ready to be the Chicago Bears' starting quarterback. But that view might also be slanted by Nagy's inability to help his rookie QB thrive.
Both can be true. In fact, both looked glaring in the Bears' 26-6 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 3. The Browns moved to 2-1 with the impressive victory.
Fields' first NFL start was marred by nine sacks — the most in an NFL game in 2015 — many of which were the result of a Bears offensive line that had no shot of handling Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and a relentless Browns pass rush. Garrett finished the game with a career-high and team-record 4.5 sacks.
The Bears fell to 1-2. They tried whatever they could to get Fields in a rhythm, but it was an uphill battle all game. Fields completed 6 of 20 passes for 67 yards and ran only three times for 12 yards.
Six completions and nine sacks has not traditionally been a winning formula for a quarterback. Nagy's insistence on using predominantly five-man protections appeared to be a major mistake, giving Fields little chance to get clean looks.
Seven of the sacks Fields took came on third downs, too. The Bears were 1 of 9 on third-down conversions and only crossed midfield twice — one as a result of the Bears' defense forcing a fourth-down sack, the other aided by a 48-yard pass interference call.
Following the PI on the Browns' John Johnson, the Bears were set up at the Cleveland 12-yard line, trailing 13-3 late in the third quarter. After a sack, Fields got them to the 4-yard line, facing a fourth-and-2. Nagy called for a field-goal try, just as he had on the Bears' opening drive on the same down and distance from the Cleveland 29-yard line.
Both drives ended in fields goals. But the Bears' defense — which racked up five sacks of its own and was stout early — couldn't hold down the Browns well enough.
Kareem Hunt led the way for the Browns with 155 yards from scrimmage with a rushing TD. Baker Mayfield completed 19 of 31 passes for 246 yards and TD, also scrambling for 31 yards.
But this one was about the Browns' defense — and Nagy's inability to give Fields any quality looks.
The Bears averaged 1.1 yards per play vs the Browns, the 2nd-fewest by any team in a game this century. pic.twitter.com/0oo2rvU99i
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) September 26, 2021
The Browns outgained the Bears by more than a factor of five — 418 yards to Chicago's 47. It's hard to determine whether Nagy's faith in the Bears' defense was more concerning than his lack of aggressiveness on fourth downs.
Both are crippling the Bears right now.