CARDINALS CORNER

Arizona Cardinals get run over by Justin Fields, Bears in Week 16 loss

Dec 24, 2023, 5:39 PM | Updated: 8:30 pm

Justin Fields runs against Zaven Collins...

Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears carries the ball during the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field on December 24, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

A lot of the talk ahead of the Arizona Cardinals’ Week 16 matchup against the Chicago Bears centered around the home team’s run defense.

But maybe the onus should have been placed on Chicago’s run game.

With the help of a dominant ground attack, the Bears took control of Sunday’s tilt from the jump in their 27-16 win over the Cardinals.

Led by running back Khalil Herbert and quarterback Justin Fields, Chicago ripped off 250 yards — the most given up by the Cardinals this year — and two touchdowns on 39 carries in the victory. That’s a 6.4-yard average per carry and Arizona defenders got a front row seat to it all.

It was clear getting the run game established early on against a porous Cardinals run defense was a key component to the Bears’ game plan. In Chicago’s three first-half scoring drives (25 plays), the Bears ran the rock 15 times and capped off two of them with rushing touchdowns.

A look at what else went wrong and what went right in Arizona’s 12th loss of the season:

Have a Field(s) day, Justin

Fields’ ability to create on the ground didn’t just impact Chicago’s ground game.

On multiple occasions, Fields was able to escape Arizona’s pass rush before delivering off-schedule shots down the field to extend drives or find paydirt.

In addition to ripping off 97 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries, Fields completed 15 of his 27 pass attempts for 170 yards and a score.

It was a textbook game for Fields, though he did throw his ninth interception of the season.

Too wide open (again)

One of the biggest issues for the Cardinals defense against the San Francisco 49ers was the multiple wide-open looks quarterback Brock Purdy (and backup Sam Darnold) had throughout the matchup.

The same issue reared its ugly head for the defense once again, highlighted by a one-yard touchdown by veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis.

Head coach Jonathan Gannon has squarely put the blunders on the coaching staff in the past, but at the end of the day, it’s on the players to execute.

Matt Prater is just that dude

One of the only bright spots for the Cardinals on Sunday was kicker Matt Prater.

With his 55-yard field goal, the kicker notched his 80th of at least 50 yards, extending his lead over Sebastian Janikowski (58).

He’s also that much closer to tying the single season mark of 11 field goals of 50 yards or more set by Daniel Carlson in 2022. Prater currently has nine on the year.

If there’s a kicker more accurate than Prater from 50-plus yards, show him to me.

Light the (Greg) Dortch!

The other big bright spot was easily wide receiver Greg Dortch.

When he’s given an opportunity, he usually seizes it. Sunday was no different, with the wideout accounting for 45 yards and a touchdown on two catches.

He also returned three kicks for 87 yards despite entering the matchup as questionable with a shoulder issue.

Jonathan Ledbetter injured

Another negative to Arizona’s loss was the early exit by defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and did not return.

He recorded two tackles before going down with the issue.

Ledbetter has started 12 games for Arizona this season and is the team’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for 2023.

This season, Ledbetter has 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss and four QB hits.

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