Tue, 24 May 2022

Ranking Bears' top 10 plays of 2021 season

Chicago Bears
16 Jan 2022, 00:37 GMT+10

Larry Mayer

I've compiled my list of the Bears' top 10 plays from the 2021 season (see above). NFL Media recently completed a similar task (see at bottom of story), and there are some similarities and several differences.

First, two observations:

• There are six plays in both of our top 10s. I selected each of the first five on NFL Media's list but only one of its second five plays. We're in agreement on three plays, ranking the same ones at No. 1, No. 5 and No. 8.

• I placed an emphasis on game-changing plays. For example, all 10 of my plays are scoring plays or takeaways, and one is both. I also considered the context of the play. For instance, David Montgomery's 41-yard run in the season opener against the Rams was impressive, but the drive resulted in a turnover and the Bears lost the game by a considerable margin (34-14).

Without further ado, here are my top 10 Bears plays from the 2021 season:

(10) Dalton connects with Goodwin

Trailing the Ravens 9-6 late in the fourth quarter Nov. 21 at Soldier Field, Andy Dalton heaved a 49-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Marquise Goodwin on fourth-and-11 to give the Bears a 13-9 lead with just 1:41 to play in the game.

NFL Media rank: Not ranked

(9) Fields connects with Horsted

Justin Fields' first NFL TD pass was a memorable one. Facing the Raiders Oct. 10 in Las Vegas, the rookie quarterback escaped the pocket, rolled to his right and fired the ball into the end zone to tight end Jesper Horsted, who caught the 2-yard TD pass with a defender draped all over him.

NFL Media rank: Not ranked

(8) Gipson's diving interception

Tashaun Gipson Sr. thwarted a Ravens drive deep into Bears territory with a diving interception, plucking the ball off tight end Mark Andrews' chest while they were both on the ground.

NFL Media rank: No. 8

(7) Smith takes it to the house

Roquan Smith intercepted the Bengals' Joe Burrow in the Bears' home opener Sept. 19 and returned it 53 yards for the linebacker's first NFL touchdown. Smith shook off a tackle attempt by running back Joe Mixon and dashed down the left sideline. It was the first of three straight Burrow passes the Bears intercepted.

NFL Media rank: No. 4

(6) Foles connects with Graham

Trailing the Seahawks 24-17 late in the fourth quarter Dec. 26 in Seattle, Nick Foles threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham on third-and-14 with 1:01 remaining. The TD reception was typical of so many others Graham has caught throughout his illustrious 12-year NFL career. The former college basketball player ran into the end zone, turned his entire body back toward Foles, "boxed out" cornerback John Reid like he was battling for a rebound and made the contested catch.

NFL Media rank: Not ranked

(5) Fields caps comeback

Fields gave the Bears a 27-26 lead over the Steelers Nov. 8 in Pittsburgh with a perfectly thrown 16-yard TD pass to Darnell Mooney in the left corner of the end zone with just 1:46 remaining. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh rallied for a 29-27 win on Chris Boswell's 40-yard field goal with :26 to play.

NFL Media rank: No. 5

(4) Fields connects with James

In what I believe to be one of the top touchdown throws and catches in the NFL this season, Fields sprinted to his left and rifled an 8-yard TD pass to diving tight end Jesse James in the corner of the end zone Oct. 31 against the 49ers, just inches out of the reach of cornerback Josh Norman.

NFL Media rank: Not ranked

(3) Grant makes history

Jakeem Grant Sr. showed his speed and playmaking ability when he returned a punt 97 yards for a touchdown Dec. 12 against the Packers in Green Bay. Fielding the ball at his own 3, he ran a few steps to his right, reversed field and dashed down the left sideline.

Grant's punt return was the longest in Bears history, topping a 95-yard TD by Johnny Bailey Dec. 29, 1990 in a 21-10 loss to the Chiefs. It was also the first punt return touchdown in the NFL this season.

NFL Media rank: No. 2

(2) Fields' highlight-reel TD run

The rookie quarterback showed why the Bears were so excited about trading up in the first round of the draft to land him at No. 11 with a dazzling 22-yard touchdown scramble Oct. 31 against the 49ers that electrified the Soldier Field crowd.

On fourth-and-1, Fields had a defender in his face as soon as he dropped back to pass. But he broke a tackle in the pocket, reversed field to his left and eluded four more defenders en route to the end zone. The former Ohio State star conceded after the game that it was a signature moment of his young career.

NFL Media rank: No. 3

(1) Byrd takes flight

Damiere Byrd lifted the Bears to a 25-24 comeback win over the Seahawks with a spectacular catch of a two-point conversion pass from Foles with just 1:01 remaining. Receivers coach Mike Furrey described the play as "one of the most remarkable catches I've ever seen-on film, watching old-school film and obviously in person."

In the back of the end zone, Byrd leaped high to catch Foles' pass, landing on top of cornerback Sidney Jones IV and linebacker Jordyn Brooks. As the three players tumbled to the ground, Byrd held the ball aloft in his left hand while somehow getting his right knee down inbounds an instant before his right hand hit the ground out of the end zone.

NFL Media rank: No. 1

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