When last we saw the Chicago Bears in a competitive game they were losing the NFC Wildcard Playoff to the New Orleans Saints. Chicago lost that game due to continued problems on the offensive side of the ball. Scoring issues were a theme in the 8-8 season that saw the Bears sneak in to the final playoff spot.
The main culprits behind the struggles were the quarterback position and the offensive line. Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky both played poorly in 2020. The front office let Trubisky move on to Buffalo while Foles drops to third on the depth chart.
General Manager Ryan Pace attempted to fix those liabilities in the off-season via the draft and free agency. He traded up in the first round to select what he hopes will be a franchise quarterback in Justin Fields. The second pick, Teven Jenkins, was intended to strengthen the tackle position, unfortunately, a back injury ended his season before it began.
As the year begins, Andy Dalton, formerly of the Bengals, has been installed as starting QB while Fields waits in the wings. Former all-pro Jason Peters was added late to take over at left tackle, but injuries have taken a big toll on him in recent years.
The defense is still anchored by Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, and Roquan Smith in the uber-talented front seven. The loss of Kyle Fuller at cornerback leaves second-year player Jaylon Johnson in the top corner spot. All aspects of the game will be challenged out of the gate as the Bears open the 2021 season in Los Angeles against the Rams.
The Rams (9-7) week 17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals was the reason the Bears made the playoffs in 2020. They also got in and surprised the Seattle Seahawks in the Wildcard before getting beaten soundly by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the Divisional Round.
Los Angeles coach Sean McVay was very frustrated with the inconsistent performance of quarterback Jared Goff and sought to replace him this off-season. They did just that with a blockbuster trade to land Lions QB Matthew Stafford. The loss of emerging running back Cam Akers to an Achilles tear certainly hurts, but the Rams should have a good offense with the upgrade under center.
The real star attraction at SoFi Stadium is the Rams defense, led by future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Donald at defensive tackle. Donald, former Bear LB Leonard Floyd, and CB Jalen Ramsey are the three-headed monster that leads an all-world defense. Moving the ball against this team will be an accomplishment.
Where to Watch/Listen
- Sunday, September 12 at 7:20pm CT on NBC, WBBM Radio (English), WRTO Radio (Spanish)
Keys to Victory
Here are my keys to Sunday’s game. If these things happen, the Bears should have a shot to win.
- Try to protect Dalton, this will not be easy with the Rams front line and the Bears offensive line issues. If they can it’s possible to get some points on the board and stay in the game.
- One good way to keep the quarterback protected is to establish the running game. David Montgomery really started showing out in the second half of the season. If Montgomery can pick up where he left off it certainly would help Chicago keep the Rams offense off the field.
- Stafford likes to think he can force throws anywhere, so getting a couple of turnovers – especially interceptions – will be a big help.
- The Rams haven’t settled on a running back rotation with Akers injury. So if Chicago can stuff the run and make them one-dimensional and force passing situations it will give Mack and the Bears line a chance to pressure Stafford.
Full disclosure, for those of you who did not read these previews last year I am a Rams fan. Yes, yes, I know stunning to hear. Anyway, I am always skeptical of my teams’ ability to win and feel as if expressing confidence in them will karmically lead them to defeat. So, good news Bears fans, I feel as if the Rams defense will be just good enough to pull out a 21-17 victory that Chicago can at least feel good about.
Here are Bears analysts Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer with their preview of the Bears’ upcoming Week 1 matchup.