The Bears lost to the Cardinals 33-22 and missed a huge opportunity to make up ground in the playoff race. Andy Dalton threw two early interceptions, and the Bears never recovered.
The Bears played well statistically
On Friday I posted an article about the three things the Bears should focus on if they wanted to upset the Cardinals. They actually accomplished two of the three goals I laid out for them. If you need a refresher, feel free to double-check my article here.
The Bears won the time of possession battle 34 to 25 and had some success running the football. David Montgomery ran the ball 21 times for 90 yards and a touchdown. The Bears outscored the Cardinals 22-19 in quarters 2-4. So, what happened?
A first quarter to forget for the Bears
The Bears gave the Cardinals an easy game script. The Cardinals were gifted two turnovers in the first quarter that led to 14 points. The first interception was tipped off the hands of Bears WR Jakeem Grant, but the throw was behind him, so Dalton deserves some of the blame. The second pick was even more unfortunate. Cole Kmet juggled the ball and it popped up into the hands of Buddha Baker, who ran it back to inside the Bears 20-yard line.
This one was more painful to watch. Not only did Kmet juggle the ball, but the Bears were in the midst of a productive drive. They had made it deep into Arizona territory, only to give the ball back, and set Kyler Murray up with another short field.
Murray would later scramble into the end zone from 9 yards out, and the Bears trailed 14-0.
The Bears could not overcome the first quarter disaster
Rarely would I consider the first quarter the most important time of a game, but in this one, it couldn’t be more true. With two short fields that led to touchdowns, the Cardinals did not need to rack up yards. They needed to be smart and productive with the ball. Kyler Murray only threw for 123 yards, but he completed 11 of 15 passes and had two touchdowns. On the ground, Murray added two more, and the Cardinals offense played it safe and methodical.
After exchanging touchdowns in the second quarter, the Bears’ defense was able to slow the Cardinals down at least a little. Matt Prater scored the only Arizona points in the 3rd quarter with a 33-yard field goal, and the Bears brought the game within ten on Dalton’s TD pass to Jimmy Graham from 1 yard out.
More interceptions, more problems
The Bears were gifted a new set of downs after a roughing the kicker penalty on punter Pat O’Donnell, but an Andy Dalton pass was tipped and intercepted on the ensuing drive. This was Dalton’s third interception of the afternoon, and he would throw a fourth later in the game.
The Cardinals were up 24-14 at this point in the game, and had the Bears been able to produce points on the drive, the game would have been more of a contest late. The Cardinals went on to win by a score of 33-22, but the victor was rarely in question.
Bright spots for the Bears?
As I mentioned earlier, the Bears weren’t horrible today. David Montgomery was a beast and essentially was the entire offense. I would be offended that Darnell Mooney had such a quiet game, but the weather played a role in the passing game.
The Bears’ defense also played relatively well, considering the situations they faced that were created by the offense. The only issue, of course, was the lack of pressure on Murray, and the fact that they didn’t produce a takeaway of their own. As in most games, a -4 turnover differential cannot be overcome.
Last, it may not be much consolation, but Justin Fields returned to practice this past week and could be back under center next week. And I do not think Andy Dalton did enough to create a controversy.
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