The Chicago Bears will host the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon, closing the books on their home schedule for the 2021 season. Favored for just the fourth time in 16 games, the Bears are hoping to build on last weekend’s dramatic comeback win over the Seattle Seahawks. With kickoff against the Giants approaching, here’s our snapshot look at the game.
Chicago Bears (5-10) vs. New York Giants (4-11)
- Kickoff: noon Sunday at Soldier Field.
- TV and radio: CBS-2, WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9, WRTO-AM 1200 (Spanish).
- The line: Bears by 5½. Over/under: 37½.
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1. Player in the spotlight
For the fifth time this season, the Bears will be forced to start a different quarterback than they used the week before.
Andy Dalton is back in the saddle Sunday, cleared to make his fifth start in a mostly meaningless January game against a last-place opponent. In a lot of ways, it’s right back to square one for the Bears.
Without question this registers as a missed opportunity for rookie Justin Fields, who has been bumped out of the plans for this week with a lingering ankle injury. Fields was limited in all three practices this week and, despite being listed as questionable on the injury report, isn’t being considered for backup duties Sunday. (Those will belong to Nick Foles.)
Coach Matt Nagy said Friday that Fields is still experiencing notable pain during certain football movements.
“We want to be able to have him do everything,” Nagy said. ‘And he wants that too. So whether it’s scrambling outside of the pocket, extending plays with his legs, whatever it is, with the package he brings we want him to be as close to 100% as we can get him. And he’s just not there right now.”
Dalton’s return comes after a challenging 27-day period during which he broke his non-throwing hand in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals, suffered a hip flexor strain during his effort to return and spent six days on the reserve/COVID-19 list after contracting the virus for the second consecutive season.
“It’s been a crazy month for me,” Dalton said. “Two-for-two on COVID. Unfortunately. In back-to-back years.”
Dalton also acknowledged the lack of continuity the offense has experienced this season because of all the flux at quarterback.
“This has definitely been a very unique year,” he said. “Very different than every other year I’ve been in the league. … The ideal situation is to have one guy (start at quarterback) the whole year where he’s building that chemistry with everybody throughout the season. But that hasn’t been the case.”
As for Fields, Sunday will be his fourth game missed because of injury and takes away a chance for him to gain additional on-field experience at the end of his first season. Nagy downplayed that part Friday afternoon, stressing that Fields showed enough flashes during the games he did play to show the organization that he is capable of succeeding at the NFL level.
There’s no promise Fields will see work in the season finale next weekend in Minneapolis, either. While Nagy said the rookie quarterback is getting close physically, he also emphasized the need for Fields to be fully prepared mentally if he’s going to take one more swing at things in Week 18.
2. Keep an eye on…
Outside linebacker Robert Quinn has humbly brushed off much of the talk of his personal accomplishments during his Pro Bowl season. But he recognized the significance of closing in on a 37-year-old Bears record.
After coming up with a key fourth-quarter sack in last week’s win over the Seahawks, Quinn is one sack away from breaking Hall of Famer Richard Dent’s single-season franchise record of 17½, set in 1984.
“Richard Dent is a household name around here,” Quinn said after the Seahawks game. “To even be in that same conversation, it’s an honor. I know it’s kind of repetitive, but I’m just trying to do my job. It’s definitely an honor, a blessing — for where I came from last year to now … from the guys just still believing in me and giving me another chance to re-prove myself. Luckily I had the backing of the guys in the locker room, so it made this year a little easier.”
Giants quarterbacks Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm were sacked a combined eight times in the team’s four December losses after Daniel Jones suffered a neck injury.
Along with the Bears record, Quinn is also nearing his personal high of 19 sacks, set in 2013 when he was 23. Outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey said he has seen Quinn’s approach stay consistent as he nears the milestones.
“He does play and he lives in the moment,” Shuey said. “And that’s real. He doesn’t take the next day for granted. … He believes that. So I think in this situation where he’s on the cusp of potentially breaking a record, he’s really looking at how can I get a little bit better?
“And that’s one of the things we focus on in the room week to week. It’ll be another focus this week: how do we get 6 inches better on each play? To get closer to making a play that can change a game and help us win. I think that’s Robert’s approach.”
3. Pressing question
<mark class=”hl_orange”>How can the Bears build off last weekend’s game-winning drive to beat the Seahawks?</mark>
No one at Halas Hall has mistaken last weekend’s 25-24 victory as season-defining. After all, it improved the Bears’ record to 5-10. But that doesn’t mean the rally from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to win was insignificant.
“It is what it is. Our record looks like what it looks like,” running back David Montgomery said. “But every opportunity you get to go out there on the field, you want to showcase that you are more than capable of performing at a high level and doing it with the guys next to you. That’s the moral. That’s what we’re living by.”
Damiere Byrd’s highlight-reel two-point conversion catch to put the Bears ahead with 1:01 remaining was special, the exclamation point on an energizing comeback. But so much went well for the Bears on the six-play, 80-yard touchdown march that set up Byrd’s winning moment.
Darnell Mooney, for example, started the drive with a 30-yard reception, running a crisp route and breaking a series of tackles while taking the ball inside Seahawks territory.
Receivers coach Mike Furrey praised Mooney for the way he set up his route, pushing the Seahawks’ slot cornerback vertically, then making a swift and crisp break in to catch the ball. From there?
“Once he got the ball in his hands, his effort after that was rare,” Furrey said. “You want to talk about unbelievable. That’s just a young man whose desire to win shows.”
Montgomery added a 14-yard catch on the march. Right tackle Germain Ifedi showed great hustle in recovering a Foles fumble with less than two minutes remaining. And Jimmy Graham’s 15-yard touchdown catch two plays later was a thing of beauty, with the Bears getting the 6-foot-7-inch, 259-pound Graham matched up against cornerback John Reid (5-10, 187).
“Advantage Bears,” tight ends coach Clancy Barone said. “That was actually the first thing I verbalized to the guys standing next to me.”
Graham’s end zone post-up was textbook. Foles’ pass was right where it needed to be.
Said coordinator Bill Lazor: “Nick has a really good sense for ‘How do I throw the ball on this play?’ As far as the amount of air and the amount of touch. Nick is a really good touch passer. So it just all worked out really, really well.”
4. Odds and ends
Montgomery accepted the scepter for winning the Week 16 “Good Morning Football” Angry Runs honor this week.
Montgomery’s 11-yard run in the snow in the first quarter, in which he trucked Seahawks cornerback Sidney Jones IV, earned him the title.
“I’m like that every week,” Montgomery said. “Ever since I’ve been in the league, that’s been who I am. That’s just how I run. I run with physicality. You could turn on the film and see that every chance I get, I’m straining just to be the best I can be on every opportunity I get, so it wasn’t just a one-week thing. It was just me being me.”
Montgomery didn’t have an easy task in the Seattle snowstorm, and he finished with 21 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown. But he also caught seven passes for 61 yards, including back-to-back catches of 10 and 14 yards on the Bears’ winning drive.
“He went out there with a purpose like he does every single day and every week,” running backs coach Michael Pitre said. “And obviously the weather forced him to have to really early make a decision that he’s just going to put his foot in the ground and get some ugly runs, but they were good runs, and force those guys to tackle him.”
Montgomery is in for more wintry weather Sunday, though forecasts are calling for colder conditions and perhaps not as much snow by game time. He’ll be up against a Giants defense that allows 125.3 rushing yards per game, ranked 26th in the NFL, and may be needed to play a heightened role if significant wind gusts affect the Bears’ ability to throw regularly.
5. Injury updates
Defensive end Akiem Hicks was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and was able to participate on a limited basis Friday. Hicks was the seventh Bears player to be taken off the list this week, leaving only Jesper Horsted and Joel Iyiegbuniwe as of Friday evening.
Receiver Allen Robinson returned from his bout with COVID-19 this week after losing 10 pounds and battling fatigue and congestion. It will be interesting to see where both starters’ stamina is Sunday.
In other injury news, tight end J.P. Holtz is doubtful because of personal reasons. In addition to Hicks and Fields, Eddie Goldman (finger), Duke Shelley (heel), and Jason Peters (ankle) are also questionable.
Brad Biggs (12-3)
Defensive coordinator Sean Desai has done a nice job this season, especially considering the number of key players that have missed large chunks of the season and some of the depth issues in the secondary. The Bears went against Kyler Murray, Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson, and with the Giants reportedly preparing to play Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm, that’s a huge step down in class. The Bears should be able to force a bunch of punts with the opportunity to swing the game if they play well on special teams. Andy Dalton will start at quarterback for the Bears, and if he can distribute the ball like Nick Foles did last week in Seattle, the Bears should win consecutive games for the second time this season.
<mark class=”hl_orange”>Bears 20, Giants 10</mark>
Colleen Kane (13-2)
The Giants have lost four straight without quarterback Daniel Jones, putting up nine, 21, six and 10 points in that span. The Bears offense should be able to top that, especially against a Giants defense that’s nothing special. The Bears are getting healthier after their COVID-19 outbreak. And they’re saying the right things about continuing to play hard despite the meaningless end-of-season games. It seems the Bears are in line for a win in this season’s Soldier Field sendoff.
<mark class=”hl_orange”>Bears 24, Giants 17</mark>
Dan Wiederer (14-1)
If you were a Giants fan, would you rather have your favorite team lose to improve its draft status or win to get a better draft slot from the pick collected through the Bears in the trade up for Justin Fields? These are the big questions worth pondering when two bottom-feeder teams clash in potentially nasty conditions in early January. The Bears remain the better team and they have enough left in their tank to record their first home victory since Oct. 3.
<mark class=”hl_orange”>Bears 23, Giants 12</mark>
Source: Berkshire mont