For the second year in a row, the Chicago Bears got their doors blown off on Halloween weekend. But also for the second year in a row on Halloween weekend, quarterback Justin Fields looked like a star. Nestled in that loss was an offense that continued to take strides, particularly at the quarterback position.
The Bears fell to the Dallas Cowboys 49-29 in a game where their defense allowed six touchdowns. It was the most points they allowed since the Green Bay Packers dropped 55 on them during the infamous 2014 season. But in this defeat, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives.
The offense continues to develop and is becoming a problem for opposing defenses and Fields looks the part of a budding franchise quarterback. Work is still in progress, but the positive signs are there. At the very least, you can feel a lot worse about a 49-29 loss on the road. Here are our takeaways from Sunday’s defeat.
1. Justin Fields continues to reach new heights
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 30: Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears runs against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half at AT&T Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Progression in the NFL, or anything for that matter, is not linear. Players will shine one week and fall down to Earth the next. We saw that with Fields in the first few weeks of the season. But these last few games have felt like he’s finally putting things all together and the results have been breathtaking at times. Fields had an efficient day through the air, going 17-of-23 for 151 yards and two touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 120.0. He was also deadly on the ground once again, rushing eight times for 60 yards and a score. The stats say one thing, but his play tells another story.
Fields was not only efficient with his throws, but he was also accurate and that’s something we haven’t seen consistently this year. Last week, he was overthrowing players on deep balls and missing open receivers in the flats. This week, he hit his receivers in stride (even though they couldn’t come down with the ball at times) and was sharp in his quick throws to the sidelines. That progress was evident from even last Monday and resulted in Fields’ best game, topping what he did against the New England Patriots. He’s continuing to reach new heights and the ceiling is sky high for him.
2. Khalil Herbert should be getting the bulk of the carriers
Oct 30, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert (24) runs for a first down against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been a hot minute since running back David Montgomery had a stellar game. You have to go back to Week 2 to find the last time he averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry. While he did miss some time with an injury, it’s still been enough time where the coaching staff needs to consider rolling primarily with Khalil Herbert as the early-down back. Herbert has outgained Montgomery by over 200 yards on nearly the same number of carries.
Herbert has been the more explosive back, showing better burst and vision. He can jump start the Bears offense at a moment’s notice like Fields can and though he struggles in pass blocking, his running ability can be a game changer. That was on display Sunday when he had 99 yards on 16 carries, compared to 53 yards on 15 carries for Montgomery.
This isn’t to say Montgomery should be benched. He’s a hard runner and can get those tough yards when it matters most. He has a place on this offense, but Herbert simply provides more upside at the moment. It’s time the coaching staff gives him more run.
3. Darnell Mooney and N’Keal Harry will be the top WRs for the rest of the year
Oct 30, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver N’Keal Harry (8) celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps this should have been saved for Friday’s bold predictions, but after seeing these two receivers work with Fields on Sunday, it’s fair to make the prediction as part of the takeaways. Darnell Mooney was once again Fields’ top receiving threat, catching all five of his targets for 70 yards. N’Keal Harry, on the other hand, is finally starting to get going and had himself a day of his own. He caught both of his targets for 24 yards and a touchdown. He was outtargeted by Mooney, Dante Pettis, Equanimeous St. Brown, and even Velus Jones Jr. but that’s not going to be the case for much longer.
Mooney and Harry offer the Bears offense a nice variety of playmakers. Mooney can be effective in the slot, running underneath routes as a possession receiver. Harry, meanwhile, can be that “X” receiver on the outside as the bigger option to make plays over defenders, using his big frame to box them out for first downs. Think of the duo as a poor man’s Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf from the Seattle Seahawks. Both have different skillsets that give the quarterback options in the passing game.
Mooney has already established himself with Fields and Harry is still playing catchup. But by the end of the season, these two will both be go-to targets. Who knows, perhaps it winds up in a contract extension for Harry in 2023. But that’s a long ways away.
4. Luke Getsy's scheme is transcending the offensive linemen on the field
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 30: Khalil Herbert #24 of the Chicago Bears celebrates a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
5. The offsides call in the second half turned the game
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 30: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys looks to pass against the Chicago Bears during the second half at AT&T Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Focusing on the positives during a 20-point loss is fun, but this was still an ugly game on one side of the ball. While some may think the game slipped away following the Montgomery fumble that was scooped up by Micah Parsons, things unraveled earlier in the game, and it all came because of an offsides call.
Late in the first half and early in the second, Dallas’ offense began to sputter. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw an interception and then went three-and-out on consecutive drives. The Bears then scored another touchdown to pull within five points and the defense was on the verge of pushing the Cowboys offense off the field yet again. But on third-and-nine, Dominique Robinson lined up offsides, giving the Cowboys a free play. That resulted in the secondary looking confused as Prescott found Dalton Schultz for a 30-yard gain, which then resulted in another Dallas touchdown a few plays later. The Cowboys put their foot back on the gas and it was essentially over after that.
The game was in the balance at that moment and who knows what would have happened if Robinson didn’t line up offsides. The Cowboys may have still converted and drove for a touchdown. But it was clear momentum was on the Bears side until that moment. The Parsons play will be circled, but this is where things changed for the worse.
6. 'Rollercoaster Roquan' is here to stay
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 30: KaVontae Turpin #9 of the Dallas Cowboys runs against Roquan Smith #58 of the Chicago Bears during the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
It’s been an up-and-down season for Bears captain Roquan Smith. So much so that as of today, I’m officially nicknaming him “Rollercoaster Roquan.” Smith followed up his best game of the season with his worst. He missed too many tackles and the defense was blown out early thanks to both the Cowboys running and passing attack.
Smith finished the game with five total tackles, the fewest he’s had in a game this year and the fewest he’s had in a full game since 2020. He’s simply not consistent enough this season and while some of his struggles can be attributed to a defensive line that hasn’t been as dominant as they have been in the past, he’s still playing out of position too many times and missing key tackles. When he was in position to make a play, he was run over by ball carriers.
He’ll surely bounce back and have another stellar game because that’s what he’s done all season. It’s the inconsistency that’s frustrating, given we’ve seen him dominate throughout most of his career. But with half the season remaining, the ups and downs aren’t going away. We’re stuck on the rollercoaster until the end of the season when a decision about his future will be made.