Soldier Field could turn quickly on Andy Dalton, Matt Nagy if Bears’ offense sputters
They’re hoping it’s “loud” on Sunday. But Soldier Field could get very uncomfortable for the Bears if they deliver more of the same.
Sometimes it’s clear the moment someone says something that it has extraordinary potential to come back at them later with the cruel bite of irony.
Like when Bears quarterback Andy Dalton said he hopes Soldier Field is “loud” for the season opener Sunday against the Bengals. He was talking about the fans roaring when the Bears are on defense, but they’ll make a lot of noise that Dalton doesn’t want if the offense struggles again.
Dalton got a taste of that in the preseason, when he was booed after three-and-outs and the chants for rookie Justin Fields reached such a volume that Fields stepped in and admonished fans for being “disrespectful” because “Andy is a human being, too.”
Dalton does seem to be a decent human being as well as a decent quarterback, but he has never been the one Chicago wanted. When he signed in March, it was only as a disappointing consolation prize because the Russell Wilson trade talks evaporated. The Bears drafted Fields six weeks later, which reduced Dalton to merely a hindrance to the rookie’s quest to be the starter.
So before the Bears have lined up for their first snap at Soldier Field this season, impatience is boiling.
The temperature around Dalton is hot.
Same for coach Matt Nagy.
And for the entirety of the team general manager Ryan Pace assembled.
While it’ll be good for the Bears to have Soldier Field full for the first time since December 2019, the audience won’t be particularly understanding or gentle if they get off to a rough start. A dud on the opening possession might be all it takes to lose the crowd.
“Yeah, we understand that, and we know,” Nagy said with a big smile. “Totally get it. Again, just a reminder that we all want the same thing.
“Is there going to be a three-and-out? Probably. Is there going to be more than one punt in this game? Probably. But we want to score points because that’s when everybody likes to cheer — when you’re scoring touchdowns.”
Touchdowns at Soldier Field? This guy really dreams big.
The home crowd routinely booed the Bears off the field at halftime in 2019, when they opened by scoring three points in a loss to the Packers and closed by scoring three in a loss to the Chiefs. They scored 13 offensive touchdowns in eight home games.
And the overall product hasn’t gotten much better since then. Can you imagine what the reaction would’ve been last season to their implosion in the final minutes against the Lions or getting throttled by the Packers in the finale?
There has been nothing fun about the Bears sitting 29th in scoring in 2019 and leaping to a whopping 22nd last season only after feasting on some of the NFL’s worst defenses down the stretch.
And this part isn’t Dalton’s fault, but the quarterbacking has been atrocious between Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles. Over the 2019 and ’20 seasons combined, the Bears were 26th in yards passing, 22nd in passing touchdowns and 23rd in passer rating.
The overall agitation is understandable, and so is the eagerness to see Nagy turn to Fields permanently rather than drop him in for a play here and there.
For all those reasons, the Bears can absolutely count on Soldier Field being thunderous Sunday. But they’re not going to like what they hear if they give the crowd more of the same.