The Chicago Bears capped off the holiday weekend with a 27-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Christmas Eve. Led by young quarterback Justin Fields, the Bears relied on a punishing ground game and opportunistic defense to overcome several key injuries and put together one of their most complete performances of the season.
Backs Pick Up Slack for Missing WRs
Heading into the game short-handed with top wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Chase Claypool sidelined, the Bears rode running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert to move the chains.  The duo combined for 136 yards on 5.1 yards per carry, with Herbert punching in a late touchdown to help seal the win. 
Montgomery in particular came up huge in the passing game, hauling in three catches for 42 yards and proving a valuable check-down option for Fields. While the Bears clearly missed having a deep threat, their backs answered the bell and helped make the offense more multidimensional on a day the passing game struggled.
|Bears Week 16 Rushing Leaders
|Yards Per Carry
Defense Stifles Arizona Ground Game
Facing a Cardinals team dealing with its own injury issues at quarterback, the Bears defense clamped down and held Arizona to just 29 rushing yards on 12 attempts (2.4 yard average).  With backup Colt McCoy starting under center, the Cardinals wanted to control the game on the ground but barely mounted any threat running the ball.
Veteran defensive end Robert Quinn and second-year lineman Dominique Robinson were particularly disruptive, living in the Arizona backfield with a combined six tackles for loss.  Quinn’s resurgent season continued, as the 32-year old showed he still has gas left in the tank for Chicago’s rebuilding defense. With Arizona rendered one dimensional, the Bears kept McCoy and the passing game largely in check outside of a few big plays.
Fields Shows Growth Despite Missing Weapons
The showpiece of Chicago’s ongoing rebuild, quarterback Justin Fields displayed development as a passer despite working with an undermanned receiving corps. Fields went 12 of 24 for 111 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, while chipping in 36 rushing yards and another score on the ground.  He managed the game well and avoided drive-killing mistakes, even as playmakers like Darnell Mooney, Claypool and St. Brown watched from the sidelines.
Several weeks removed from a separated shoulder, Fields showed command of the offense and made good decisions distributing the ball. Backup tight end Trevon Wesco scored his first touchdown of the season, hauling in three catches to help replace some of the missing production at receiver.  While not flashy, Fields ran the offense capably and protected the football.
Head coach Matt Eberflus credited Fields for his decision making and command of their scheme against Arizona’s creative defensive looks. The Bears clearly simplified the passing game, but Fields excelled working through progressions and getting the ball out quickly to his checkdown targets. He continues displaying growth and took another step forward despite not having close to his full complement of weapons.
Opportunistic Defense Strikes Again
Despite entering with just 16 takeaways on the season, the 30th ranked unit in the NFL, the Bears defenses once again came up with back-breaking turnovers.  In a close game that hung in the balance for much of the second half, the Bears put things on ice when cornerback Jaylon Johnson punched the ball loose from Arizona receiver Greg Dortch midway through the fourth quarter.
Safety Eddie Jackson pounced on the fumble and took it back 21 yards, giving Chicago a crucial short field that led to Herbert’s touchdown plunge. For a defense sorely lacking difference makers, Jackson has been a revelation late in the season and shows signs of returning to his 2018 All-Pro form. The Bears now have 17 takeaways, getting a much-needed boost for one of their biggest weaknesses.
Outlook Moving Forward
Having been eliminated from playoff contention long ago at 3-11, the final two games remain about assessing young talent and building momentum heading into 2023. While still a work in progress in his second season, Fields continues trending in the right direction despite Chicago’s obvious holes at wide receiver and offensive line. The run game and defense also showed hopeful signs of life, even with several projected starters sidelined.
The Bears face a short week before hosting the Detroit Lions next Sunday. With Fields taking steps forward despite limited weapons, his continued growth and health remain paramount the rest of the way. Given the promise shown from several young defenders like Johnson, Jackson and Robinson, the game also offered hope for Romeo Okwara, BoJack and others returning from injury next season.
While the result won’t drastically alter the team’s rebuilding plans, the Bears 27-16 win showcased enough from core players to maintain optimism better days lie ahead. If the injury-riddled group can string together an upset or two to close 2023, it would give Chicago’s key young talent invaluable momentum and confidence rolling into a crucial offseason.
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