Justin Fields

Bears studs and duds in blowout win to close 2023

From Justin Fields to DJ Moore and Tyrique Stevenson, these Bears balled out to ring in the New Year

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Bears’ Eddie Jackson, DJ Moore and Khalil Herbert react to Justin Fields’ magical pocket escapes vs. the Falcons

The Bears will enter the new year riding high. The defense kept swarming with four interceptions. The offense capitalized on the extra opportunities to put up 37 points. And the team ended its home slate with a convincing 20-point victory. It’s good vibes only heading into 2024, so no duds this week, just studs. Happy New Year, everyone.

STUDS

JUSTIN FIELDS

If Sunday was Justin Fields’ swan song at Soldier Field, then his performance against the Falcons was a tour de force. Fields’ day began with a rousing opening act: a 32-yard strike to DJ Moore along the sideline on his first play from scrimmage, followed shortly by a terrific throw to Moore for a touchdown. On the play, Fields threw a perfect ball to the back corner of the endzone, with standout safety Jessie Bates in tight coverage. It appeared that Bates got a fingernail on the ball, but Moore kept his concentration, made the catch and tapped his feet for the score. That series was a tone setter for several successful deep shots, which in turn set up more scores.

Fields was just as excellent as a ball carrier. The first big moment came on a draw play from the Falcons’ nine-yard line. It initially looked like Fields was going to be stopped in the middle of the field, but he kicked the ball out, captured the edge and raced to the pylon for a touchdown. Fields had another Houdini moment in the third-quarter when it seemed certain that both Bud Dupree and David Onyemata had Fields down for a big sack. But Fields escaped somehow, someway, and turned the play into a 13-yard run for a first down.

Fields finished the day 20-32 for 268 yards and one touchdown through the air with 11 carries for 45 yards and another touchdown on the ground.

DJ MOORE

Bears fans got the perfect regular season finale at home from DJ Moore. The No. 1 wide receiver played every bit the part en route to setting a new career high for receiving yards in a single season (1,300 yards and counting). He was a deep threat, he was precise on crossers and he was a security blanket on third down. The most impressive moments were two over-the-shoulder grabs where Moore seemed to tilt his head 90 degrees to track the ball. With Darnell Mooney out and Cole Kmet limited due to his knee injury, the Bears needed Moore to shoulder the majority of the receiving role and he delivered with nine catches on 13 targets for 159 yards and the one touchdown.

KHALIL HERBERT

Herbert followed up his dynamic performance in Week 16 with another big day against the Falcons. It looked a little different though. Instead of juking players and winning with elusiveness, Herbert ran through defenders on several occasions on Sunday. That physicality was a tone-setter on the ground and bought the team extra yards. He was highly efficient with 18 yards on 124 carries, for a 6.9 YPC average. Herbert made it into the endzone once himself, and helped to set the table for others to score, like fellow running back Roschon Johnson.

ROBERT TONYAN

It took nearly the entire season, but Tonyan finally made a significant impact in the Bears offense. As mentioned earlier, the Bears were without their No. 2 and No. 3 pass catchers in Kmet and Mooney, Tonyan helped by picking up some of the slack. His three catches for 40 yards may not pop off the page, but he finished second on the team in each category. He also made the swiping stop on Dee Alford’s missed field goal return. For a moment it looked like Alford was going to give the Falcons major momentum heading into halftime by taking Santos’ 55-yard try to the house with zeroes on the clock, but Tonyan managed to head him off and bring him down at the Bears’ 13-yard line.

GERVON DEXTER

Dexter’s snaps have fluctuated significantly throughout the season, but he got plenty of tick on Sunday and made the most of it. The Bears rookie was noticeable in the backfield on several occasions with the team’s second wave defensive line. He got home for a sack on third-and-eight to force a Falcons punt in the second quarter. Dexter followed that up with another big sack to force a third-and-17 play for the Falcons in the fourth quarter. Those were the only two sacks of the day for the Bears defense.

TYRIQUE STEVENSON

Stevenson continued his strong rookie season with a solid performance against the likes of Drake London and Van Jefferson. Things can be tough when working opposite Jaylon Johnson, since most quarterbacks don’t like to throw in Johnson’s direction. But when Johnson left the game in the second quarter due to a shoulder injury, Stevenson needed to step up as the team’s top cornerback. He came through with coverage that would make Johnson proud. Stevenson’s best moment came on an interception in zone coverage. He read the play perfectly, backpedaled to get in position, then made a full-extension grab for the takeaway. Stevenson ended up with another pick near the end of the game to help the Bears seal the blowout win.

CAIRO SANTOS

Kicking in Soldier Field is tough in the best of conditions. It’s really, really tough when snow is swirling through the air for most of the day. Just ask Younghoe Koo, the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history who missed two field goal attempts in his first game by the lake. But Cairo made things look easy by going 7-8 on the day with three field goal makes and four extra-point conversions. His lone miss was a 55-yarder that was beyond his kickline. It came at the end of the first half with the team trying a low-percentage kick to get some points. Hard to fault him for that. An impressive performance in less-than-ideal conditions.

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