Andy Dalton finds optimism in Bears' loss to Rams after NFC North goes 0-4

The Chicago Bears took a beating in primetime, getting carved up by Matthew Stafford and the new-look Los Angeles Rams on the road in a 34-14 loss.

It was the prognosticated outcome, even if Andy Dalton helped the Bears dink-and-dunk their way down the field more than anticipated on the Rams' defense (322 total yards for Chicago's offense).

The good news for Chicago is the loss didn't lose the Bears any ground in the NFC North, as the division went 0-4 on the opening Sunday.

"It's a long season," Dalton said, via SI.com. "I think everybody understands that. And I think if you look at the way the division shook out today, we're still in the same position."

The Green Bay Packers got thrashed by New Orleans, the Minnesota Vikings lost to Cincinnati in overtime and the Detroit Lions fell at home to San Francisco. It wasn't a good day at all for the division. The biggest "winner" of the group is probably the Packers. The reigning champs looked awful on both sides of the ball but should still be considered the favorite in the NFC North, given how the rest of the division looked.

The Bears' game plan was clear Sunday night: With a faulty O-line, get the ball out quickly against the Rams' pass rushers. Dalton didn't complete a single pass more than 12 air yards, per Next Gen Stats. He only attempted three passes of 10-plus air yards, including the opening-drive INT (which was tipped) and a late fourth-and-15 pass that went incomplete at 13 yards.

It was a recipe to keep the game close, but Chicago wasn't going to win -- especially with how much the defense struggled -- unless the Rams beat themselves. Sean McVay's team didn't stub its toe and eventually pulled away.

The most juice for the Bears offense came when rookie QB Justin Fields entered the game. He completed his only two pass attempts and ran for a TD, as Chicago kept the game tight into the third quarter.

"I'm not gonna lie, I was (savoring the moment) during the game, I was like, 'Yo, this is crazy,'" Fields said, per NBC Sports Chicago. "And then at halftime, I was like, 'Yo, this is still crazy.' It was definitely awesome getting out there, and just being on the field. Earlier today I was thinking -- I never thought I'd be in this position, so just me being here was amazing. I'm just grateful for it, for sure.

"It's just crazy. Like, when I was a kid I was kind of a realist, so I never really thought I'd just have the talent growing up and make it in the NFL. So it's just crazy seeing myself here, and just seeing God work. It's just me being here, in this moment."

Nagy brought in the rookie for five plays -- two short passes, the TD run and two handoffs -- three of which came in the red zone.

"We had the plan and we stuck to our plan," Nagy said. "We knew where and when we were going to use him and we stuck to that. And so, we'll see where that goes and how we do it. But I think we all understand that for us, strategically, we'll see where we go with that, without giving anything away."

The goal seemed to be to get Fields' feet wet without forcing him to play behind that offensive line (which saw two left tackles go down with injury) against the Rams' ferocious front. The logic suggested the rookie, who holds the ball too long, could get discouraged if he's pummeled to open his career. Playing it safe in the NFL rarely works out long-term.

With the primetime opener in the rearview, we didn't learn much more about the Bears than we already knew entering the season. Fields remains their best option at quarterback, able to spark the offense and provide a threat with his legs behind the O-line. When Nagy fully concedes the job to Fields remains to be seen with a date with Dalton's former Bengals on tap for Week 2.

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