The Miami Dolphins came away with a 35-32 victory over the Chicago Bears earlier today. The game featured the Dolphins using their explosive offensive to score quickly, while the Bears were more methodical and ate clock throughout the game as they looked to keep up with the Dolphins. Chicago quarterback Justin Fields ran all over Miami’s defense and kept his team in the game.
Miami moved to 6-3 on the season with the win, while the Bears dropped to 3-6 following the loss. Before kickoff, we took a look at five storylines to watch throughout the game. Now that the contest is over, it is time we take a look back at those items and review what happened with each of them.
Will the Bears miss Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn?
Chicago’s defense is not the defense of the 1985 team, nor is it the Brian Urlacher era defense. The Bears have struggled to stop teams this year, especially on the ground where they are allowing 156 yards per game, the second most in the league. They have now traded away their top two stars, and are hoping they can still get production, especially when it comes to pressuring opposing quarterbacks. The Bears will now have to shuffle their defensive alignment and will be turning to rookies to make up for Smith and Quinn no longer being on the roster. Rookie linebackers Sterling Weatherford and Jack Sanborn, both signed as undrafted free agents, likely see an increase in their playing time, especially in the middle of the defense with one of them probably becoming the starting middle linebacker. Defensive ends Trevis Gipson, a 2020 fifth-round pick, and rookie Dominique Robinson, a fifth-round pick this year, have to pick up the pass-rushing slack.
The Dolphins’ offensive line has not be spectacular this year, but they have been solid, which is much improved over their 2021 performance. They will now be tested by some younger players looking to prove they can fill the hole left by the trades Chicago made. Will the trades prove too much for the Chicago defense?
Revisit: The Dolphins gained 379 yards on the day, averaging 7.2 yards per play, and scored 35 points, but it is not clear that the defense missed Smith and Quinn. They could have used more pressure, never sacking Tua Tagovailoa and only getting two hits on him, but they only had one sack and two quarterback hits last week against the Dallas Cowboys, and they had Smith still then. The Dolphins only had 77 yards rushing, compared to 200 yards last week by the Cowboys, so either the Bears found something that worked this week, or Miami just continued to be a pass-first, pass-often kind of offense. It is hard to say either way that the Bears did or did not miss the two defensive stars they traded away.
Can Miami’s defense contain Justin Fields’ running?
If there is anything that gives Dolphins fans nightmares, it is the specter of running quarterbacks gashing the defense over and over. It has been a problem for several years, and there is a potential for it to show up this afternoon. The Bears have started allowing quarterback Justin Fields to run more, both as a scrambling quarterback and on designed runs. Miami’s defense will have to contain the 2021 11th-overall draft pick.
Fields rushed for 48 yards over the first two weeks of the season. He has hit at least 47 rushing yards every week since Week 3, and he has had at least 60 rushing yards each of the last three weeks. He has also rushed for a touchdown the past two weeks. The Bears are going to look to make the Miami defense prove they can stop Fields’ running, and they are going to look to use the threat of his running to open up passing lanes. Add in the success running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert are having this year, and Miami needs to come prepared.
Revisit: Absolutely not. The Dolphins put a spy on Fields throughout much of the game, but they could not contain him. His season-high had been 88 yards and his career-high, set last year, was 103 yards on the ground. He picked up 178 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown on Sunday. Miami faces Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills twice a year, and they have plenty of experience trying to stop Lamar Jackson as it seems they play the Baltimore Ravens nearly every season, yet they continually struggle to slow rushing quarterbacks. They did not stand a chance on Sunday if Fields was able to break containment. Even when it was a sure sack, with the defender able to wrap up the quarterback, Fields would somehow escape and turn it into a 13-yard scramble. It was frustrating all day and it kept the Bears in the game all day.
Will Bradley Chubb have an impact on the game?
The Dolphins made two trades ahead of the deadline on Tuesday, acquiring running back Jeff Wilson, Jr., from the San Francisco 49ers and linebacker Bradley Chubb from the Denver Broncos. Wilson will serve as depth behind Raheem Mostert, but he could see some playing time as he reunites with Mostert and Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, both of whom were in San Francisco last year, with McDaniel working as the offensive coordinator for the 49ers. His familiarity with the system could allow him to have a role.
It is Chubb who will be more interesting to watch, however. How quickly will he be able to get up to speed with the defensive scheme and play calling? “Yeah, they’re going to play,” McDaniel said of both Wilson and Chubb. “To what exact degree, that depends on multiple variables. We started putting the game plans together before they were on the team. Things move fast. They’re both professionals. They’re both ready and comfortable within the plan and within their roles. It will be somewhere between zero snaps and what they’ll normally get in a given week, just somewhere in that range. But it’ll be more than zero snaps.”
McDaniel said it is not as simple as telling Chubb to go get the quarterback, but that the team will put him in a position to have success and to “play fast” against the Bears. We will have to watch to see how much of an impact he could have in his first game with the Dolphins.
Revisit: Chubb was definitely a piece of the defense on Sunday and he had moments where he showed why Miami acquired him. He only recorded one tackle, but he was in the backfield a lot. He had one near sack, the aforementioned scramble when Fields escaped a sack and gained 13 yards. He was not a dominating force, but given he has been with the team for five days, thinking he would be was extremely optimistic. It is probably just impressive that he was on the field, was effective, and was never a liability in coverage or missing an assignment or anything.
On a side note, running back Jeff Wilson, Jr., the other trade Miami made this week, seemed to fit in perfectly with Miami’s offense. He was already familiar with the offensive system, given Miami Mike McDaniel was Wilson’s offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers last year, so it is not a surprise he was able to contribute right away, but he led the Dolphins in rushing yards with 51 and was tied with Raheem Mostert with nine carries.
Can Tyreek Hill remain on a record-setting pace?
Miami wide receiver Tyreek Hill already has 961 receiving yards on the season. That gives him an average of 120.1 yards per game and on pace for 2,042 yards this season, which would make him the first 2,000-yard receiver in league history. To reach Calvin Johnson’s 2012 total of 1,964 yards, Hill needs to average 111.4 yards over the remaining nine games on Miami’s schedule. In a game in which the Bears could be searching for their pass rush, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Hill could put up gaudy numbers, something that would help Hill remain on pace to set a new NFL record.
Revisit: Yes, he will stay on schedule for the record. Hill had 143 receiving yards on seven receptions with a touchdown. He needed 111.4 yards to stay on pace. He is now at 1,109 yards on the season, meaning he needs 855 yards to break the record or an average of 106.9 yards over the remaining eight games on Miami’s schedule.
Will Miami’s secondary continue to find success despite injuries?
The Dolphins’ “next-man-up” secondary has been surprisingly successful this year. With injuries all over the place, cornerback Xavien Howard trying to play through injuries to both groin muscles, cornerback Byron Jones has been on the physically unable to perform list all year as he recovers from an offseason ankle injury, cornerbacks Trill Williams (torn ACL) and Nik Needham (torn Achilles) are on injured reserve, safety Brandon Jones is on IR with an ACL tear, and cornerbacks Keion Crossen (knee) and Kaden Kohou (oblique) have been slowed and missed practice and game time with injuries. Yet, somehow, the team keeps making plays.
Noah Igbinoghene and Justin Bethel have stepped up, playing much larger roles than expected. Howard has done his best to keep the injuries from slowing him down, and the rest of the group has rotated in and out as injuries heal or reoccur. It is not ideal, but it has been working. Will it continue to work this week?
Revisit: The Dolphins only allowed 116 yards passing on Sunday, but part of that was allowing 252 yards rushing. They seemed fine throughout the game. No major mistakes, but they could have played better as well. Xavien Howard looked like he had his first interception of the year, but it was negated because he was called for defensive pass interference prior to making the play. The secondary continues to shuffle players as they deal with injuries, and they continue to be solid.