Bear Down, Nerd Up: What exactly is Jimmy Graham doing here?

The Bears opened their season at Los Angeles for the first time since 1950 on Sunday. Considering how things went, they’re probably OK with letting another 70 years pass before their next opener in the city of angels.

The offense was not good. The defense was much worse. Two days later, the Bears are probably still seeing Matthew Stafford chucking deep balls in their sleep.

They will want to wash their hands of this one. But before we let them, let’s take a look back at what made this week unique for the Bears. Welcome back to “Bear Down, Nerd Up,” our weekly statistical breakdown of the Bears.

No two games are ever the same in the NFL. So what stood out about this one?

Snap decisions: Veteran tight end Jimmy Graham played only 14 of the Bears’ 69 offensive snaps (20%) in Sunday’s game.

Second-year tight end Cole Kmet, as expected, saw the most action among Bears tight ends with 51 snaps (74%), while Jesse James saw nine snaps (13%).

Compared to Kmet, Graham hardly saw the field. Bears fans might be scratching their head a little bit looking at Graham’s salary compared to his snap count.

Before they restructured his contract just weeks ago, the Bears could’ve saved about $7 million by cutting Graham over the offseason. That money could’ve been used to invest in, say, a veteran offensive tackle or a veteran cornerback – two areas where the team is clearly lacking.

Instead, they restructured his contract to lower his cap number to $5.3 million, according to OverTheCap.com, but tacked on several void years. There’s no doubt Graham has had a decorated career in the NFL, and there’s no arguing that he was a touchdown machine in 2020. But is it going to be worth the return on investment in 2021?

Graham was brought here to be the bridge until Kmet was ready for a full workload. Kmet is handling nearly a full workload now. Yes, Graham is always going to be a valuable asset in a locker room. But one could make the argument that money might’ve been better spent elsewhere.

The 34-year-old did have a historic moment Sunday, catching the 700th reception of his career in the third quarter. He became the sixth tight end to do so. The others are Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Shannon Sharpe and Greg Olsen.

Graham joined Hall of Fame tight ends Gonzalez and Gates as the only three tight ends to have more than 700 career receptions, 8,000 receiving yards and at least 80 touchdown receptions.

Stafford at it again: Stafford has had a number of really good games against the Bears, a team he has now faced 21 times. But Sunday night might’ve been the best of them all.

His 156.1 passer rating was his a new career best. With that, it was also – not to state the obvious – the best he’s ever performed in that metric against the Bears. His previous high against Chicago was 120.2 in a game on Nov. 19, 2017, at Soldier Field. His 76.9% completion percentage was also his best ever against the Bears. His 12.3 yards per attempt were also a career high.

Running wild: Running back David Montgomery seemed to pick up right where he left off at the end of the 2020 season. He ran for 108 yards on 16 carries Sunday.

He became the first Bears running back to rush for 100 yards or more in the season-opener since Matt Forte did so against the Packers in the 2015 season-opener. Forte totaled 141 yards on 24 carries in that game, a 31-23 loss to the Packers.

Montgomery scored a rushing touchdown in the final minute of the first half. In doing so, he extended a streak of seven consecutive regular season games with a touchdown dating back to Week 12 of last season.

Montgomery, who left the game for a brief period with a finger injury, doesn’t sound concerned about his number of touches in the game.

“I just want to be available for my teammates,” Montgomery said. “However we need to get a win or win in general, I’m down to do. If it’s me not getting the ball and just blocking, let’s do it.”

Speaking of rushing touchdowns: Justin Fields’ rushing touchdown late in the third quarter was a special moment for the rookie.

It was also a milestone for the Bears. It marked the first rushing touchdown for a Bears rookie quarterback since at least 1960.

Fields executed a perfect read option, beating the Rams linebacker Leonard Floyd around the edge to find the goal line.

“That’s just a regular read-option,” Fields said. “So it’s basically reading the end. He froze up a little bit and I thought I could beat him around the edge, so I just tried to get the ball in the end zone.”

Big plays: Props to colleague Kevin Fishbain over at The Athletic for digging this one up.

In giving up two touchdowns of 50 yards or more on Sunday, the Bears defense has already allowed more such touchdowns than it did all of last season, when it allowed one. It also allowed one such touchdown in all of 2019.

It felt like the big plays kept coming Sunday, and that’s because they did.

“There’s probably a lot that goes into it,” head coach Matt Nagy said Monday. “And that’s something that I have a lot of faith in [defensive coordinator Sean Desai] — and our players — in understanding that you go up against a potent offense and a pretty good team like the Rams, you better know what you’re doing on every single play.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.