Dolphins @ Bears
Final Score: Dolphins 35, Bears 32
Writer: Mike Miklius (@SIRL0INofBEEF on Twitter)
I’m a little salty about how this one finished, but let’s start at the beginning. Chicago received the opening kickoff and took the ball down to the Miami 14, kicking a field goal. Justin Fields started out strongly, connecting on his first three passes and throwing a nice deep ball to Chase Claypool that became a pass interference call. Miami and Tua Tagovailoa quickly answered, setting up a one-yard touchdown run thanks to a pass interference call against the Bears on a Tyreek Hill deep shot. The game entered a frantic pace of scoring. For the Bears, long, methodical drives ate up more than two-thirds of the first half. The first half was a passing clinic for the Dolphins as Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle were perpetually running open and catching easy passes. Oh, and they blocked a punt and returned it for another score. When the first half ended, Miami was ahead 21-17 and it felt like they could run away with the game at any minute. They scored effortlessly while the Bears seemingly struggled for each yard.
The Dolphins started the second half with–you guessed it–another fast drive that included three plays of 20+ yards. At this point, it was 28-17 and the game was hanging in the balance. Justin Fields answered. On Chicago’s next drive, he broke free for a 61-yard touchdown run after avoiding a couple of early tackle attempts. Miami answered right back with a five-minute drive ending in a 10-yard touchdown from Jeff Wilson. The Bears punted and the Dolphins turned the ball over on downs, leading to another Chicago scoring drive–thanks largely to Justin Fields. The last five plays of the drive were completed passes or QB runs of 14+ yards. That made the score 35-32 with Miami still on top. The Dolphins failed to score on their next drive, again failing on downs. The Bears took the ball 24 yards before punting with three minutes to go. I hated this call, and I don’t understand how a team can play so afraid. The Dolphins easily drove the ball all game long, and this felt like playing to lose. Chicago was spared as the Dolphins quickly punted and Chicago was given one last chance. Justin Fields made a nice scramble to give the Bears a first down. After a short gain and a short loss, Fields took a shot deep to Chase Claypool. Claypool was open and in position but grabbed by the nearest defender before the ball arrived. There was no flag on the play, and this felt like a crushing moment with Soldier Field loudly booing. Fields came back on the next play and made a nice pass to Equanimeous St. Brown that would have secured a first down, but it was dropped and the game was over. Here’s everything I saw.
Tua Tagovailoa: 21/30, 302 Yards, 3 TD | 5 Carries, 1 Fumble (Recovered)
Tua Tagovailoa had a nice start to the day, quickly leading two scoring drives by hitting wide-open receivers with accurate passes. If not for the Dolphins’ punt-block touchdown, the stats would have been even better. Seriously, Miami couldn’t be stopped in this one. When they were icing the game late, I honestly wondered why they weren’t passing instead of running. While Tua played well, I saw a number of bad balls that could have cost the Dolphins. On the team’s first drive, he underthrew Tyreek Hill on what should have been a touchdown. On the Dolphins’ second-to-last drive, Tua had a wide-open tight end on fourth down but badly underthrew him. On the team’s last drive–again with a chance to end it–Tua missed a wide-open Jaylen Waddle deep on what was another possible touchdown. Tua is a good quarterback and one who will continue to thrive with these amazing weapons surrounding him. He is not, in my opinion, a great quarterback. I don’t see great quarterbacks missing this many shots.
Jeff Wilson Jr.: 9 Carries, 51 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 21 Yards, TD
Raheem Mostert: 9 Carries, 26 Yards, TD | 2 Targets
I think we were all curious to see the workload split here given the addition of Jeff Wilson to the Dolphins. Wilson wins round one, looking like a strong runner and good pass catcher. On Wilson’s longest run, he saw a nice hole open and blasted quickly through it. Wilson is a capable runner and someone who should continue to take part in this workload.
Raheem Mostert ended up on the wrong end of this one, regularly running into tough fronts from the Bears. If we throw out the one play Wilson broke, Chicago did a great job bottling up the Dolphins’ rushing attack. When the passing comes so easily, you don’t have to run much. Expect brighter days, but this feels like a split to me.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Tyreek Hill: 8 Targets, 7 Receptions, 143 Yards, TD
Jaylen Waddle: 7 Targets, 5 Receptions, 85 Yards, TD
Trent Sherfield: 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 27 Yards
Cedrick Wilson Jr.: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 23 Yards
Mike Gesicki: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 3 Yards
Durham Smythe: 2 Targets
Tyreek Hill continues his torrid season pace for yardage (1,104 yards after nine games) with another big outing today. Hill effortlessly broke free today and this feels like the type of day that could have easily been over 200 yards easily. Hill had a near-deep touchdown on the team’s first drive, but Tua underthrew it. On the team’s next drive, he caught a 25-yard pass and another that ended the drive with a touchdown. He was again wide open. I know Hill is excellent. I love watching him play. It’s still mind-boggling how much space he regularly finds.
Jaylen Waddle was close behind Hill in every stat, and his touchdown was a great play. It appeared Waddle had been underthrown, and it looked like one of the Bears’ safeties might make a play on it. Waddle adjusted and hauled in the catch for an important score. Waddle nearly had another score at the end of the game. On a third and long, Tua looked Waddle’s way but was off-target with his pass. A good throw would have likely meant a 60+ yard touchdown on top of Waddle’s day. If you haven’t watched this duo play yet, do yourself a favor and check them out.
Justin Fields: 17/28, 123 Yards, 3 TD | 15 Carries, 178 Yards, TD
No, that’s not a typo. Justin Fields set the single-game rushing record for quarterbacks with 178 yards on the ground today. Justin Fields is an electrifying runner who knows how to turn dead plays into first downs and gains into huge gains. While he had some designed runs, most of Fields’ rushing yards came from scrambles. His highlight play–they were all great if I’m being honest–was the 61-yard run up the middle. Fields was on a designed run and easily had the first down. He then juked two defenders with one move, and it was free and clear from there. Fields needs to be put in the Lamar Jackson category of big quarterbacks who know how to run.
The question will be how well he can pass. Most of Fields’ passing was good today. He developed a quick rhythm, easily moving the Bears down the field on their first drive. The second drive was mostly short passing, allowing Fields to get into a rhythm. He did air-mail one pass on the drive, but his playmaking–along with clever play-calling–helped Chicago score their first touchdown of the day. His best throw of the day was the touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney, but we’ll talk more about that below. Fields’ worst throw of the day came in the second half and was saved by offsetting penalties. Fields was forced to scramble and made a bad decision that was quickly picked off downfield. The play was called back, and the record is clean. Overall, I would grade Fields as an A+ runner and a still-developing passer who is clearly getting better. He can still take too long to make decisions, but he’s getting better with each passing week.
David Montgomery: 14 Carries, 36 Yards | 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 8 Yards
Khalil Herbert: 7 Carries, 23 Yards
Chicago had a hard time on the ground today when the runner wasn’t named ‘Justin Fields’. David Montgomery started the game and looked solid early. His first carry went for eight yards in typical hard-fought fashion. That was about it. Montgomery was bottled up, struggling to find room for anything from there on out. Montgomery fans should be happy he saw more carries and the only backfield targets.
Khalil Herbert is fully back in ‘handcuff’ range after nearly being blanked today. Like Montgomery, Herbert ran into defenders and didn’t have space to get moving. Expect more from the Bears’ high-powered rushing attack next week.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Cole Kmet: 2 Carries, 9 Yards | 6 Targets, 5 Receptions, 41 Yards, 2 TD
Chase Claypool: 1 Carry, 4 Yards | 6 Targets, 2 Receptions, 13 Yards
Darnell Mooney: 1 Carry, 2 Yards | 8 Targets, 7 Receptions, 43 Yards, TD
Dante Pettis: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 12 Yards
N’Keal Harry: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 6 Yards
Equanimeous St. Brown: 2 Targets
While the totals were again low, this is the kind of outing that gives me hope for the future of the Bears’ passing attack. Darnell Mooney had the passing play of the day with his touchdown–a beautiful catch and throw from the Fields-Mooney combo. Darnell Mooney was lined up in the slot and ran a corner route. Fields hit him in stride, despite tight coverage, and Darnell Mooney made a beautiful catch. This is the Darnell Mooney we all hoped for before the season, and it’s nice to see flashes of what could be here. Mooney is putting up improved numbers and I’m good with counting on him as a flex option with room to improve if the passing attack can keep maturing.
Chase Claypool has the biggest box score vs impact differential that I saw, and his day could have been so different if two plays broke differently. Early on, Claypool was targeted deep and could have been looking at 30-40 yards if he wasn’t interfered with by a defender. He had another deep ball late that would have gone for another 30+ yards if he again wasn’t wrapped up before the ball arrived. Claypool looks like he’s going to have an impact here, and he’s someone I could see being valuable down the line. Just watch for now as this offense continues to develop.
Cole Kmet was clearly part of the game plan, and he benefited from great play-calling. His first touchdown came on play action. Justin Fields made a great fake before bootlegging out to his right. There was one defender left trying to cover Kmet and Fields, and it was an easy touchdown pass. Kmet’s second score was another red zone target–exactly what we want to see for him. This should not be seen as the breakout of the next Travis Kelce. That being said, the offense is improving and I see a rising tide lifting all the boats here.