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The Chicago Bears had possession of the football eleven more minutes than the Los Angeles Rams on their Sunday night opener. That fact just indicated how inefficient Chicago was in their 34-14 loss at SoFI Stadium for the 2021 NFL season’s first contest. Two miscues in the defensive secondary proved costly.
The Bears had an interception, a turnover on downs, then a fumble and a punt before finally putting the ball in the end zone.
Dalton, speaking about the interception said, “I was going to Darrell Mooney. Unfortunately It got tipped. When balls get tipped in this league, more times than not, (they) end up in the other team’s hands. It was a really good drive for us. I thought we set the tone early how we wanted to play, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish that one.”
Meanwhile the Rams took three plays to score their first touchdown, a 67-yard strike from newly arrived Matthew Stafford to Van Jefferson, a play in which both Bears defenders failed to make contact with the LA wide receiver, who promptly got up and ran untouched into the end zone.
Rams coach Sean McVay, “We only had twenty plays in the first half. We were able to get some explosives. What a play by Van Jefferson. To be able to get up, have the awareness to finish that. In the second half, I thought we got a little continuity. I think one of the best plays of the game was Robert Woods’ third down catch on the first drive of the second half. A third and long we hit him on a deep end breaking route. Does great job with aggressive hands and then Kupp on the next play. I was encourage to get the run game going a little bit. We can certainly build on this. Matthew did a great job leading the way offensively.”
Matthew Stafford, acquired from Detroit in a trade that sent Jared Goff to the Motor City, also hit Cooper Kupp on a 56-yard strike early in the third quarter. Stafford, sporting a happy face t-shirt in the postgame press conference was asked about his Rams debut, he noted, “a lot of anticipation for this game. For me, it’s a new experience. A New place, new stadium, new fans, a whole new deal .This team has embraced me, and I really appreciative that. I’ve done everything I can to try to work as hard as I can and get myself in this team. They wrapped their arms around me. It felt good to go out and play with them tonight. Such incredible players on this team, I’m lucky to be a part of it.”
About the only positive for Chicago was the debut of heralded 2021 first round pick Justin Fields. He got in on a few snaps including a three-yard run for the Bears’ first score. Starting QB Andy Dalton had a challenging day battling the vaunted Rams defense going 27/38 for 206 yards and an interception. Start defensive lineman Aaron Donald and the rest of the Rams front line spent a lot of time in the Chicago backfield.
Fields described his first NFL score as, “just a regular read option. Basically reading the end, he froze a little bit, and I thought I could beat him around the edge, so I just tried to get the ball in the end zone.”
Chicago may have had a glimmer of hope when they pulled to within six points at 4:14 in the third quarter. However, the Rams roared back to score just before the end of the third on a Darrell Henderson one yard run. They followed that up with a short scoring pass to Robert Woods to seal the game.
Matt Nagy stated afterwards, “at the end there, being able to not stop them, and then not score offensive. That’s where it got away, When you become one-dimensional against this team, look out, because they’re pretty good at what they do, and that’s where they tee off on you.”
Once we got behind and we got three-dimensional, that was a little more difficult.”– Matt Nagy
Nagy also added, “They know that we can play better. It’s not about overreacting.You have to give a lot of credit to Sean McVay. They got good players and they are well coached. I have nothing but respect for them.”
Apart from Fields getting his first foray into the end zone, was the running of David Montgomery, who finished with 108 yards rushing and a touchdown. He commented, “I was just going with the flow of the game. I got opportunities, and when I did , I was trying to be sure that I extended those, but it really was everybody around me. The whole night was pushing and creating massive lanes, as well as wide receivers helping me a lot too.”
The big picture for us is, OK, we have a big run to start the game. We have a forty-one yard run. You get down there – the tempo is going, you’re good to go, and then, boom, penalty. Now you look up, and you don’t even get three points . They get the ball. That’s where we have to grow. We also talked about this is going to be a slug fest.”
One of Nagy’s other goals was to get Justin comfortable with his few plays. He also wanted Dalton to not loose his rhythm as the staff inserts Justin into the game flow.
It felt great. Finally getting out there. Getting, I guess some real NFL action, with the starters and stuff like that. It wasn’t weird, me running in and out, just because this past week we were practicing that.-Justin Fields
The performance of the Bears is not going to leave Bear Nation encouraged. They struggled in the red zone. They were poor on defense, and had no answer for the Rams pass rush.
Next up for Chicago. The Cincinnati Bengals, fresh off a home win in overtime against the Vikes, while the Rams travel to Indianapolis next Sunday.
“It’s with great sadness that I write this: My father, Jerry, has passed away. He was a great man who made me what I am today,” wrote Chris Kuc, former Chicago Blackhawks beat writer for the Chicago Tribune.
Reaction was pretty swift.
Fred Mitchell, former columnist for the Tribune: I have many fond memories of being interviewed on radio by your father, playing in charity softball games and hanging out together in press boxes.
Steve Kashul, Chicago Bulls pre/post game host: A wonderful man. Always friendly and always hustling in his craft and working hard.
Chuck Swirsky, Chicago Bulls broadcaster: I truly enjoyed the many nights with him covering sporting events. What a wonderful, caring human being.
Jason Belenke, ESPN Radio: Jerry was a great man who welcomed me into the press box when I was just a kid and was always there to answer a question or two and provide tons of laughs.
Mark Carman, WGN-Radio: A true gentleman. So kind and fun right when I was starting out. Did not have to be nice to the new guy.
What all of these people shared in common was Jerry’s friendly style, and willingness to teach the craft of broadcasting to up and coming reporters.
Kuc was born in 1939. He started his career as a copy boy at the Chicago Sun-Times, then worked at television stations in Chicago and Milwaukee. Kuc gained notoriety as one of the best reporters and update anchors at WMAQ radio. He also hosted sports talk shows at the then NBC-owned, powerhouse AM radio station.
I first met Jerry in 1993, when we made a deal to produce a live sports talk show, originating from a sports bar near Wrigley Field in Chicago. He was recommended by our then Sports Director, Bob Greenberg. Live radio is always a challenge, and when you are a new player on the scene, things can and do happen, such as no-show guests or technical difficulties. Jerry handled every little misstep with utter professionalism and a calm demeanor. Still, we had some top notch guests like the late Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, and Gary Barnett, who would shepherd Northwestern to the Rose Bowl. Jerry himself scoured his little black book, and provided us with reporters, coaches, and former players who joined us for the show.
A few years later, when we needed a host for our home improvement show, Kuc offered to take the reigns, despite having no experience in the subject matter. It made no difference. After a few weeks of giving him prep material, he helmed the show as if he’d been talking shop for years.
Jerry was so dedicated to his craft that he suffered a mild heart attack, and despite our protestations, showed up the next day for his hosting duties.
Most notably, as my sports colleagues alluded to, was Jerry’s willingness and eagerness to teach the craft of sports reporting and broadcasting to a whole crop of young professionals who began their broadcast careers in Chicago in the 1990’s.
I benefited from his experience firsthand. He taught me about broadcast ethics, how to ask good questions in a press conference, and how to produce a clear and concise sports report.
Like many of Jerry’s contemporaries, the corporate suits who run broadcast companies today had no appreciation or use for Kuc, and he was forced to leave the business in 2009.
His son Chris, took over the “family business” and became a beat reporter. Chris remembers vividly when Jerry brought him for the first time to Chicago Stadium. It was Feb. 20, 1980, as Tony Esposito and the Hawks downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. He recalls looking on horrified as Esposito took a slap shot to the head and collapsed. The crowd was stunned silent. However, after a few moments, the Hall of Fame goaltender stood up, received a standing ovation and finished the game.
Kuc had a front row seat for a lot of memorable sporting events, such as the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, which he covered for NBC. In the 1988 NBA All-Star game, he was courtside, and was immortalized in the now famous poster of Michael Jordan’s slam dunk contest winner.
Les Grobstein sent me a picture of Jerry with the electronic media baseball team after defeating the writers at a charity game at Wrigley Field in the 1970’s.
I’ll always have the memory of Jerry walking into the studio wearing his 1988 NBC Olympics jacket, with his tobacco pipe and trailing faint whiffs of tobacco smoke.
May your memory be for a blessing. Special thanks to NBCSports.com, and Chris Kuc for the featured photograph and bio bits.
Updated: Info – Thanks to Cheryl Raye-Stout for correcting me about WMAQ and NBC. She wrote, “We worked together there. And we remained friends and still remained in contact.”
Courtesy of the College Football Foundation, here are important changes coming to the game this season:
2021 Rules Changes
Overtime 2-Point Conversion Requirements:Teams will be required to run a 2-point conversion play after a touchdown when a game reaches a second overtime period. Previously, a 2-point attempt was required after the third overtime period. Also, if the game reaches a third overtime, teams will run alternating 2-point plays, instead of starting another drive at the opponent’s 25-yard line. This is a change from the previous rule, which started to use 2-point plays in the fifth overtime period. This rules change is being made to limit the number of plays from scrimmage and bring the game to a quicker conclusion. Teams can still choose whether to kick the point after touchdown or run a 2-point conversion play during the first overtime period.
Team Area:The team area will be permanently extended to the 20-yard lines, starting in the 2021 season. Previously, the team area extended to the 25-yard lines, but this area was expanded to the 15-yard lines last season to create more spacing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unsportsmanlike Tactics: Video board and lighting system operators have been included in those personnel who may not create any distraction that obstructs play.
Feigning injuries:A new framework has been created to allow a school or conference to request a postgame video review about questionable actions through the NCAA secretary-rules editor/national coordinator of officials.
Instant Replay – Clock Adjustments:In order to keep the game moving, when Instant Replay overturns a call on the field, The clock will only be reset when there is less than two minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter and less than five minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.
Points of Emphasis:
- For the 2021 season, targeting and dangerous contact fouls will continue to be a priority for all officials. The NCAA Football Rules Committee continues to embrace the targeting rule to promote player safety and reduce head contact.
- It will be a point of emphasis for officials to penalize any taunting action directed toward an opponent. Committee members think these actions reflect poorly on the game and can lead to unnecessary confrontations.
- Officials are directed to be alert to players who are significantly in violation of uniform rules and to send violators out of the game to correct the issue. This will include specifically the pants, jerseys and T-shirts that extend below the torso.
- Coaches should not enter the field of play or leave the team area to debate officiating decisions. Those who do so will have committed an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct foul.
Normally pre-season NFL games do not spark much interest beyond die hard fans, bettors, and player personnel directors.
Both of the Chicago Bears 2021 exhibition games have had hype normally reserved for regular season contests. The first game was the professional debut of first round draft pick Justin Fields. Saturday’s second game was the return to Soldier Field of Mitch Trubisky, the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Due to reasons that may have been beyond the former Tar Heel’s control, Trubisky was not brought back for a fifth season in Chicago.
“It was different coming back here to Chicago obviously because I spent a lot time here the last four years,” he said in post game interviews. “It was awesome to see all the guys and coaches before the game, catching up with those guys, and then how supportive everybody in the Bills locker room was for me. I am just really grateful to be a part of this team and it was a lot of fun today. So we still got work to do. It just felt good to come back and perform well and play well at Soldier Field.”
Perform well he did. Trubisky showed what he could do with a good offensive line. In just one half of play he connected for 20 of 28 attempts for 221 yards and a touchdown. “It felt good to come back and play well. I owe a lot of that to my teammates, run after catch, great plays on defense, great plays special teams, dominated the field position in turnover battle in the first half, and we did our job and scored points. I just thought we were efficient. I feel comfortable on the offense going down, and it felt good to do it against these guys.” Mitch led his team to six scoring drives and a commanding 34-6 halftime lead.
But I’m also rooting for a lot those guys on the other side and they’re still like family to me.– Mitch Trubisky
Matt Nagy addressed Trubisky’s return in his post game press conference. “I thought he looked really good. He was playing very efficient, making good throws. Again, you know, for us, the personal side of that, it’s always — you spend three years with somebody, and you try to help and do everything you can and he does the same. He’s on a new path and we’re on a new path, and I think he did a good job today. They did a good job coaching. So it’s a credit to them.”
However, Nagy was really there to talk about his young prospect at quarterback. “When he’s back there doing things, how many times did we see where the pocket collapses and all of a sudden you go, okay, here we go again, he’s going to go outside of the edge and take off. The other thing is he’s being super smart and he’s not taking dumb hits. You always are scared down there when you’re down there that he’s going to take a senseless hit when he’s scrambling. But I love the fact that that’s a weapon when you have him using his legs like that. That’s real. And I think we’ve felt that the last two weeks with him and it’s neat to see. You feel that. So I know he was itching to get in there a little bit earlier and now he got going in the third.”
The one thing that you notice with him is you get to game day and he really gets that laser focus on game day-Matt Nagy on Justin Fields
Nagy also addressed the apparent revolving door of offensive lineman.”You want to be careful and especially you want to try to be careful getting too one-dimensional but again, the evaluation process of seeing those players, the depth players, it is what it is. It’s just kind of the situation we’re in right now and there’s not much we can do for that, and so we’ve just got to keep doing our best to evaluate him based off of that play that time. You know, taking everything else, put it aside, how did he do that play.”
Fields also talked about his second dress rehearsal of the season. “I feel like I got better each and every day this week,” he said. “I feel like of course this game didn’t go the way that we wanted it to but we just have to eliminate the mistakes that we had. We had too many penalties in my opinion, too many false starts, too many holding calls. Seemed like when we got a positive play it was always coming back, so if we can be able to eliminate those penalties, eliminate those self-mistakes I feel like we can get a rhythm going and drive the ball down the field and score.
I feel like I’m in a good place now mentally.-Justin Fields
Fields continued, “I feel good about my progression every day and how I’m practicing and getting in the film room and learning to the playbook. So now it’s just getting reps and reps and reps and just keep getting those reps, keep building that repertoire of plays and you know, plays like that — plays like on the field today where I got kind of hit out there, you just learn from those plays and go back to the film room and get better.”
Somewhat forgotten in the Fields vs Trubisky hype is the actual game one starter for Chicago, Andy Dalton. “I just feel like for us we didn’t get into much of a rhythm early and you know, consecutive three-and-outs, we started to get a drive together and then we had a turnover and penalties that set us back at times and so we’d like to be a little more efficient and consistent with our performance. It was nice to get the deep ball to Rodney, he made an unbelievable play, and for him to have just had a baby make that play, I think he rocked the baby afterwards. That was pretty good. There’s some takeaways that we can say, there’s some things we did well. But overall we would like to be more consistent.”
Consistency is something sorely lacking on this team. The Bears better find it, and find it fast. Otherwise they will have another season of bobbing either just above or just below the .500 mark.
All photos by SRN Broadcasting.
Expectations were naturally elevated, since this was going to be the debut of top pick Justin Fields, a player on whom many fans are heaping hopes of getting this team back into the upper echelon of the NFL elite.
That is an awful lot of hype and setting the bar at a very elevated level. Presumptive starter Andy Dalton played the first two series, completing two passes for 18 yards. Fields took over in the second quarter and the offense promptly moved backwards, ostensibly giving him a three-and-out. His second and third efforts fared no better as Justin tossed three straight incomplete passes on one attempted drive, and two fumbles and an incomplete on the subsequent drive.
The fourth try proved to be the charm (sort of) as Fields took the Bears from his own 23 down to the Dolphins 35 for 53-yard Cairo Santos field goal as the first half expired. The three points provided a much need lift going into halftime, since the Bears were slated to receive the second half kick.
Fields promptly took his team 77 yards, scrambling to his left for his first NFL touchdown. “They were playing man coverage, my man, Jesse [tight end James], he got tripped up,” observed Justin after the game. “I was looking to go to him. Of course I know my routes were coming my way back side but I knew they were in man coverage and knew nobody really had me. He went to the left and saw everybody gloved up, everybody covered, so started to run to the end zone and of course it was a touchdown.”
Matt Nagy was asked about Fields’ debut. “If you go back to the start of training camp and as when we drafted Justin and we had Andy in here and we had Nick, I’ve continued to say all we want to do is we want them to be the best quarterbacks they can be. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t worry about next week, don’t worry about the future. Just worry about today. I thought that Justin did a great job of worrying about today and he played smart football. He made plays, and again like what you just said, it is preseason, and we all understand that there’s variables involved in all that. But at the same time, if you go back and look, is he doing what you want him to do, absolutely. It’s good because Andy and Nick or on the sideline helping him, Flip helping him on the sideline. And that scramble for the touchdown, you feel the vibe, you feel the energy and it was pretty cool.”
Dalton address the issue of having had a lot of different lineman vying for spots and playing time due to Covid and injuries. “There have been a lot of guys that have been put in a lot of different positions because of everything that’s gone up front. But I thought our guys did a great job today, great job in protection, great job in the run game, giving our guys opportunities to make a couple big plays. We had a couple big chunk runs that were big, explosive plays that helped us win this game. Yeah, I thought they did a great job.”
Dolphins coach Brian Flores was asked his impressions of Fields. “He’s a good player,” replied Flores. “I know he’s had a great college career, and just seeing him throughout the course of the week, I thought he did a lot of good things, obviously mobile. Somebody you gotta be aware of setting the edge and keeping contained and not letting him out of the pocket. I thought he threw the ball well on the run today, and really this entire week. He’s a good kid. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. If he keeps working the way he’s working, or the way I saw him work these two days; I don’t want to speak for him or anyone with the Bears staff which I would say these joint practices, coach and I and his staff, they were incredible this week, welcoming us here. We got two good days of practice, which I think were very good for us. We got a lot of great work. So I just want to say thank you to them for being so welcoming to us. But specific to your question on Fields, if he continues to work the way I saw him work this week, I think he’ll be just fine.”
Fields is seemingly doing a good job of keeping this one game in perspective. “I think when you look too far in the future, you start worrying about way too much stuff. You start thinking too much in your head. Alex Smith came and talked to the team and told us just to worry about to today and just to live. That was his main point, just to live, because of course him coming off that injury, you know he was just telling us how grateful he was to get back on the field and play. He played every game like it was his last game and that’s what I was doing all day. Today, last night, my mindset was going out there and no matter what happened, just play for today and kind of just try to act like it was my last time on the field and just take every opportunity and make the most of it.”
Reactions from around town
Patrick Finley, Chicago Sun-Times: Fields made the Bears relevant on a live NFL Network broadcast that was only put in place because of the national interest in him. For the 43,235 fans at the lakefront, it was enough to dream on — even if it was against the Dolphins’ second- and third-stringers.
Coleen Kane, Chicago Tribune: Fields’ NFL preseason debut didn’t get off to a pretty start, but the first-round draft pick did enough by the time he left the game to keep the hype train rolling.
Sean Hammond, Daily Herald: As bad as the first three possessions were, the next three were the exact opposite. They gave Bears fans plenty of hope for the future. It was an impressive couple of possessions from the rookie, and it was enough to get the NFL world talking about the Bears. The game was broadcast nationwide on the NFL Network and was the only game during the noon time slot Saturday. Fields said he felt “as calm as could be” heading into the game.
Hub Arkush, Pro Football Weekly: It’s not just that these practice games don’t count that makes them so frustrating. It’s almost impossible to know what can be completely ignored, and a lot of it can, and what can or should be taken seriously. What was real Saturday regardless of circumstances was how easy it was to see why Chicago is so excited and so much of the NFL is so intrigued by Fields.
Jason Lieser, Chicago Sun-Times: This collection of offensive weapons is talented, fast and reliable. Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace have gradually sifted out anyone who doesn’t check all three boxes. And the majority of that core is young enough to set up rookie quarterback Justin Fields for success well beyond this season. This roster, however, is one of his choosing, and it looks strong. There’s no doubt Nagy has improved Pace’s judgment when it comes to picking players on offense. But now that he’s gotten everything he wanted, he needs to show he can do something with it.
Dan Wiederer, Chicago Tribune: The energy he is creating continues to grow and might wash Andy Dalton out of his current starting role sooner than the Bears originally had planned. That was hardly a big enough sample size to draw any grand conclusions. Dalton still has the inside track to open the season as the starter with his experience and knowledge providing a steadiness that rookies typically can’t supply. But the idea of Fields spending the entirety of this fall on the sideline seems more preposterous with each passing day.