Justin Fields, DJ Moore lead Bears win first game of 2023


The Chicago Bears sideline was filled with bear hugs, jubilant looks and long sighs of relief Thursday night. There were nearly three minutes left in the game, but wide receiver DJ Moore had just caught a short pass on the far sideline and passed it 56 yards into the end zone to give the Bears a three-point lead and nearly end the game.

Chicago ended its 14-game losing streak in convincing fashion on Thursday Night Football, defeating the Washington Commanders 40-20 and avoiding its first 0-5 start since 1997.

“Honestly, it’s a feeling you don’t want to end,” quarterback Justin Fields said after the game. “We’re just going to capture that feeling and hopefully come back next week and have the same feeling after the game. It’s a feeling you want to have after every game and it’s a feeling we haven’t had in a long time. It’s nice to be able to Show up with everyone in the locker room.”

It was the most points Chicago has scored under head coach Matt Eberfus and offensive coordinator Luke Gacy.

Moore set a career high with 230 yards and three touchdowns. According to next generation statistics, exceeding expectations by 141 yards, the most since 2018. Moore’s 230 yards were also the second-most receiving yards ever by a Bears team. Fields has a perfect passer rating against Moore this season. So far, he has completed 27 of 34 passes to Moore for 531 yards and five touchdowns.

After halftime, Fields threw three touchdown passes to give the Bears a 27-3 lead, and people were still feeling uneasy. After all, Fields threw three touchdown passes and a perfect passer rating in the first half against the Denver Broncos last week. In fact, it was the first time in Bears history that a quarterback threw three consecutive touchdown passes in the first half. Josh Allen is the only quarterback to throw for three touchdowns in a half this year, and he’s only done so once.

The Bears’ 307 yards of offense in the first half were their most in a first half on a road game since 1989. This is the first time since 1989 that the Bears have led by 14 points or more at halftime in back-to-back games in Weeks 10 and 11 of 2018.

The offense continued last week at Soldier Field. Fields has more game moves, more designed runs, and quicker decisions. The offensive line’s return of Teven Jenkins (in part) proved to be a catalyst, although center Lucas Patrick left the game with a concussion after the Bears’ third possession. Fields found Moore all over the field and in short and midfield areas. He threw the ball where only Moore could catch it.

The Bears even called three quarterbacks each on fourth down, this time actually their 6-foot-3, 230-pound quarterback, and converted all three.

Offensive coordinator Luke Gacy even lured Washington at one point. The Bears had great success running the ball in the first half with Khalil Herbert, which helped set up the aforementioned designed run for Fields himself. Even when Herbert and running back Travis Homer both went down in the second half, Gacy was able to adjust and the Bears held on and seemed to grow together in real time.

“I feel like we’ve grown as individuals and my relationship with him,” Gacy’s Fields said. “I’m very close with him and his family. I think over the last few weeks we’ve found our identity in the offense. It’s always good to have that. Once you do that, once you get guys They get going and get into it and the rhythm of each game starts from there. Hopefully we can keep that momentum going and keep it going until the end of the season.”

Last week felt more like a fluke, especially considering the Bears gave up a multi-score lead, while Chicago extended some leads and showed consistency in this game, which is encouraging. They started building something more sustainable. This is not one step forward and two steps back. This time, the Bears took a three-point lead and held on to it. They may have played four quarters of a game for the first time this season.

The offense is developing its identity while the defense is finding its identity. Chicago had the lowest pressure rate of any team entering the game, and it wasn’t particularly close. The Bears’ defense couldn’t hold on to the lead in Week 4. But in Week 5, they did, thanks to increased pressure on multiple levels of defense.

Cornerback Greg Stroman Jr. screamed into the backfield on a corner blitz, completely unblocked, and was sacked. Linebacker TJ Edwards had his first sack for the Bears. Chicago was ultimately sacked inside forward by Raheem Green. Yannick Ngakoue was sacked for the second time in Chicago.

On a day when the team lost one of its most beloved icons, Dick Butkus, the defense came alive in ways that a master of chaos would be proud to see. They more than doubled their sack total this season. The Bears only managed two points at the start of the game. By the end of the night, Chicago had sacked Washington quarterback Sam Howell five times as if Butkus himself was on the field with them.

“We played for him tonight, so this game was for him tonight,” Fields said of the late Dick Butkus. “I’m glad we got the dub.”

The same goes for other parts of Chicago.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for Fox Sports. Kamen previously played for the Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Buccaneers, including 2020, when she added the title of Super Bowl champion (and Boat Parade participant) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter: @CammyV.

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