What we learned as Roquan saves day in 23-20 win vs. Texans


CHICAGO – When the schedule came out in May, everyone had Sunday's Week 3 matchup between the Bears and Houston Texans at Soldier Field as a must-win for Matt Eberflus' team. And Lovie Smith's, for that matter.

These are two teams on the ground floor of a rebuild. Two teams with defensive-minded head coaches who want to win ugly. Two teams with second-year quarterbacks who have a lot of question marks surrounding them.

The Bears came into Sunday's game hoping it would be a get-right game for quarterback Justin Fields and the passing game. It wasn't.

Fields had one of the worst games of his career. He missed several throws by a wide margin and looked hesitant to pull the trigger. He finished the day going 8 for 17 for 106 yards and two interceptions.

Despite Fields' terrible day at the office, the Bears and Texans were tied at 20 with two minutes. But it would take another hero for the Bears to leave Week 3 with a win.

Facing a third-and-1 at their own 26, Texans quarterback Davis Mills dropped back and threw a pass to the left side that was picked off by linebacker Roquan Smith. Smith returned the interception to the Texans' 12-yard line, setting up Cairo Santos for a game-winning 30-yard field goal.

Final: Bears 23, Texans 20.

It was an eye sore of a game. The Bears left it with more questions than answers. But they left it 2-1, nonetheless.

Here’s what we learned in the Bears’ 23-20 win vs. the Texans:

Sound the alarms

The talk in the week leading up to Sunday was about Justin Fields’ passing attempts against the Packers.

Facing a questionable Texans secondary, the Bears came into the game prepared to let their second-year quarterback rip.

The results were less than ideal.

Fields struggled in a shaky first half that included a horrific interception. Fields had tight end Cole Kmet open down the seam but threw wide of the mark, and it was picked off by rookie safety Jalen Pitre.

After the interception went into conservative mode and ran the ball on three consecutive third downs, much to the dismay of the Soldier Field faithful.

Fields was sacked three times in the first half, his receivers struggled to separate, and he was reluctant to pull the trigger when he had a guy open. Fields finished the first half going 4 for 11 for 45 yards and a pick.

The second half wasn’t any prettier for the passing game.

The Bears entered the fourth quarter with 49 net passing yards. On the first play of the final stanza, Fields looked deep down the middle of the field toward Darnell Mooney, but he sailed the throw and was picked off. It was another throw that wasn’t close on a forgettable day for the second-year quarterback.

Herbert steps up

David Montgomery ran like a man possessed in Week 2 against the Packers.

The fourth-year running back didn’t get much of an opportunity for an encore Sunday against the Texans. Montgomery picked up 11 yards on three carries before leaving the game in the first quarter after suffering a knee/ankle injury.

Montgomery was in pass protection and got rolled up on. He walked to the sideline under his own power but didn’t return.

Khalil Herbert took the bulk of the carries after Montgomery exited and had a good day. He rushed six times for 84 yards and a touchdown in the first half while helping the Bears rush for 186 yards in the first half. That’s their most in the first half since the start of the 1970 season.

Those numbers were a little juiced thanks to a 41-yard run by wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and 47 yards from Fields.

Herbert picked up right where he left off in the third quarter, busting a 52-yard run on the Bears’ first offensive play of the second half. Four plays later, Herbert punched it in from 3 yards out to give the Bears a 20-17 lead.

Hebert did his part Sunday, rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears will miss Montgomery if he is out for an extended period, but Herbert looks like he'll be able to carry the load in his absence.

Cornerback conundrum

Jaylon Johnson’s quad injury laid bare one of the biggest deficiencies of the Bears’ roster. The cornerback depth just isn't there.

With Johnson out, Kindle Vildor and rookie Kyler Gordon played outside in the base defense. When the Bears went to the nickel package, Gordon slotted inside and undrafted rookie Jaylon Jones played opposite Vildor.

But we’re here to talk about Gordon.

A week after being tortured by Aaron Rodgers, the rookie cornerback had another tough game Sunday against the Texans. Gordon gave up several catches, including a 52-yarder to open up the third quarter. The Bears have put a lot on Gordon, asking him to be able to play both outside and in the slot depending on the package.

Gordon did have good moments Sunday. He had a great pass breakup while on the outside and broke up a screen when the Bears sent him on a nickel blitz.

But it’s clear that at this moment, Gordon looks much more comfortable as an outside corner. He has looked sticky in coverage when teams have gone at him on the outside, but the struggles come when he goes inside to nickel. The nickel corner spot is difficult to master. Given how modern NFL offenses operate, the nickel is a spot that can’t be a question mark.

The Bears likely would have been better served leaving Gordon on the outside this season, letting him get his feet wet and gain confidence while keeping Thomas Graham Jr. on the active roster to man the slot.

Gordon has the ability to be a good nickel one day. But right now, it’s a struggle.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The problem for the Bears is they have no other person to turn to at nickel, given the state of their roster.

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