With the fifth overall pick in the draft, the Bengals chose to give quarterback Joe Burrow a weapon in LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase instead of a protector like Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. It played out as expected in Week 1 against the Vikings — Burrow was sacked five times, but Chase caught five passes for 101 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown.
It’s the big play that looks daunting after the Bears’ secondary broke down against the Rams — leaving Van Jefferson open for a 67-yard touchdown and not even covering Cooper Kupp on a 56-yard touchdown. Safeties Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson and nickel back Marqui Christian were the biggest culprits.
“Ja’Marr, man, he’s really good,” Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “He’s setting himself up to be a marquee receiver in the league. And he’s earned the right. He’s really good at the intermediate routes, getting in and out of breaks — so he presents a nice challenge for us.”
After struggling to run the ball against top-tier defenses last year — the Colts (16 carries, 28 yards), Buccaneers (14-35) and Rams (17-49) — the Bears rushed for 134 yards on 26 carries against the Rams last week. David Montgomery had 16 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown.
But the Rams also were not loading up the box to stop the run, so there’s still something to prove. The Bengals were 29th in the NFL in rushing defense last year (31st in yards per attempt). With a defensive line fortified by newcomer Larry Ogunjobi (from the Browns) and D.J. Reader back from injury, the Bengals held Vikings star Dalvin Cook to 61 yards and a one-yard touchdown on 20 carries.
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Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields played five snaps last week, with positive results on two of them — a nine-yard pass to Marquise Goodwin and a three-yard touchdown run. He figures to get that much work if not more against the Bengals, pending situations.
Fields played one snap at a time against the Rams. After the offense fizzled when Matt Nagy went back to Andy Dalton after Fields’ nine-yard completion set up a third-and-one at the Rams’ 3-yard line, it’s possible Nagy will give Fields a chance to run consecutive plays and build on his own momentum. There’s no telling what that could lead to.
The Bears have all sorts of motivation to respond positively after crapping out against the Rams on both sides of the ball.
They’re playing at Soldier Field with fans in the stands for the first time since the 2019 season. And Dalton acknowledged that he’s still juiced to face the team that unceremoniously dumped him last year — even after facing the Bengals in Cincinnati last season with the Cowboys. Dalton threw two touchdown passes and had a 122.6 passer rating in the Cowboys’ 30-7 victory.