It didn’t happen immediately, but the Bears’ highly-anticipated preseason opener against the Dolphins Saturday at Soldier Field ultimately lived up to the hype.
After five straight three-and-outs to start the game, the Bears offense generated a field goal and two touchdowns on its next three drives, turning a 13-0 deficit into a 17-13 lead en route to a 20-13 win.
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields engineered the three scoring drives. The first-round draft pick set up Cairo Santos’ 53-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and accounted for touchdowns on the Bears’ first two possessions of the second half on an 8-yard run and a 30-yard pass to tight end Jesse James.
Fields played six series in the second and third quarters, completing 14 of 20 passes for 142 yards with one touchdown and a 106.7 passer rating and rushing for 33 yards and one TD on five attempts.
The Bears offensive line did an excellent job throughout the game, enabling the offense to find its groove after a sluggish start.
The Bears defense allowed only one touchdown and produced two takeaways.
The Dolphins took a 3-0 lead on Jason Sanders’ 21-yard field goal with 8:08 left in the first quarter. The key play on Miami’s 7-play, 60-yard drive was Tua Tagovailoa’s 50-yard pass to tight end Mike Gesicki, who beat linebacker Alec Ogletree. Three plays later, Ogletree redeemed himself by dropping running back Malcolm Brown for a two-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1.
On their next possession, the Dolphins reached the Bears’ 14. But safety DeAndre Houston-Carson thwarted the drive by stepping in front of tight end Adam Shaheen and intercepting Tagovailia’s pass over the middle one yard deep in the end zone.
Fields then entered the game with 12:11 left in the second quarter. The highly-touted first-round pick completed his only two passes for 10 yards on his first drive, but the Bears went three-and-out in large part because Javon Wims and Elijah Wilkinson drew back-to-back false start penalties.
Starting quarterback Andy Dalton exited after playing two series and completing 2 of 4 passes for 18 yards.
The Dolphins increased their lead to 6-0 on Sanders’ 35-yard field goal with 4:23 left in the second quarter. Miami settled for the kick after nickel back Duke Shelley broke up a pass intended for receiver Robert Foster on third-and-four from the 17.
After the Bears’ fifth straight third-and-out to start the game, Miami scored the first touchdown on Jacoby Brissett’s 23-yard pass to running back Salvon Ahmed down the right sideline, beating linebacker Caleb Johnson with :45 left in the half.
Fields followed by completing 5 of 6 passes for 42 yards, setting up Santos’ 53-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, drawing the Bears to within 13-3.
“I thought it was great to see the resiliency of the offense in general of being able to go down there [and produce points],” said coach Matt Nagy. “Getting that field goal probably propelled us mentally going into halftime.”
Fields showed his tremendous athleticism on the Bears’ first drive of the second half, fending off a tackler in the pocket and sprinting around left end for an 8-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 13-10 with 9:45 remaining in the third quarter.
“It was awesome,” Fields said. “Definitely a dream come true; first NFL touchdown and have my teammates celebrate, it was a nice moment. All glory to God and hopefully it was the first of many for sure.”
Fields continued to shine on the Bears’ next possession. He showed his blazing speed on a 21-yard dash and then lofted a 30-yard touchdown pass to a wide open James, who caught the ball at the 5 and backpedaled into the end zone, giving the Bears a 17-13 lead with 3:52 left in the third quarter.
Fields was removed from the game in favor of Nick Foles early in the fourth quarter.
The Bears defense generated its second takeaway as a hit by safety Marqui Christian on tight end Chris Myarick caused a fumble that Dionte Ruffin recovered at the Bears’ 25.
Backup kicker Brian Johnson later booted a 44-yard field goal, widening the Bears’ lead to 20-13 with 4:18 remaining in the game.