The emphasis this is week is on the progress made as the Chicago Bears get ready for it’s 2022 opener against San Francisco at Soldier Field. Chicago has to game plan for both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garappolo. The 49ers are coming off an appearance in the NFC title game last season, while the Bears are in a major rebuilding mode. San Fran has Debo Samuels, one of the top receivers in the NFL, while the Bears are struggling to find a starter to complement Darnell Mooney as a pass catcher.
Don’t be fooled by Chicago’s three-win preseason. The onus was on the Bears to work on their game day, game plan, signal calling and substitutions. They had to treat those exhibitions like the real thing. Other teams were merely looking at the third and fourth stringers.
New head coach Matt Eberflus was asked about game management. We’re continuing to work on that. We’ve been working on that since the last preseason game. We’re continuing to educate and go through scenarios, and that’s something we do the whole season. Those situations are like snowflakes, they’re all different. You stay ahead of the plays, so you stay ahead of what’s going to happen next. You don’t wait for the situation to just show up. You stay ahead of the situation. It’s more manageable that way.”
The biggest hope for Bears fans is whether or not QB Justin Fields has made progress from his rookie season to this year, despite a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator.
Eberflus discussed Fields’ continuing development. “Justin has taken every step that we have asked him to take. Talk about model and the behavior you wish to see. He’s a great teammate. He is a guy that works with others, and wants to soak in everything, and has gotten better. And he’s done it through his work ethic. He’s obviously very intelligent, which helps him along the way. He’s been a great teammate.”
A not insignificant part of the conversation this week was about the new grass at Soldier Field.
“This has been planned for quite some time. We feel this is going a nice surface. It’s going to be a fast surface.”Matt Eberflus on the new hybrid grass at Soldier Field
One of the main beneficiaries of the improved turf will be kicker Cairo Santos. “I’m excited to check it out. We’re going down there Friday to see it,” he says. “I know the Chiefs had it. They are also in similar weather. They had a heating system underneath the field to keep it warm. So I’ve been familiar with that. The Bermuda is a better grass to kick in this cold. If you can grow it and protect it, then it’s a great thing. The Bermuda is always been a shorter grass than the crabgrass that has been in the past. I think you can see more of the ball. The plant foot is just tighter. The other one (the old grass at Soldier Field) got ripped out too easily. They just came at halftime and put down sand. It just becomes a sandy field that’s painted green”.
Justin Fields is excited. “Our mentality is to go out there be that hardest and the toughest out on the field and play the fastest and longest. I’m more comfortable with the offense and have a grasp of it. I’m ready to play.”
They have a good defense. Their front four is pretty good. They have good d-linemen, great linebackers, a bend, don’t break defense. Kind of play often soft, then they swarm to the football when it’s caught underneath.-Justin Fields on the 49ers defense
Jayon Johnson on limited film on presumptive starting quarterback Trey Lance: “He’s a young guy and has a strong arm. Just trying to find tendencies and go out there and make adjustments on the field. But, there’s a lot to prove out there. I feel that we are all on the same page this year.” He noted that the 49ers have many of the same players as the team that Chicago faced in 2021.
“We work our craft every day,” stated Robert Quinn. “We zero in on the minor details in the playbook. Making sure when the lights do come on, we’re clicking on all cylinders. We got talent everywhere. Now, can we just put it together all four quarters consistently and come out with the win. We have great players at every position. Can we collectively do it together?”
I”t’s a good mindset that everybody is walking around with.”-WR Darnell Mooney
Eberflus is naturally optimistic. “It’s not just mine. It’s our whole football team. I have a great staff what we’ve put together that has been a part of this and has bought into what we’re doing. The style which we play. And then the players. You got to think about the players, cause they’re the product on the field that’s going to be doing it. The buy-in has been great there and we’ll see where it goes. It will be tested, and we’re excited where that’s going to go.”