These last five weeks have made one thing clear. Justin Fields is the best runner at the quarterback position in the National Football League.
Now, let’s not confuse that statement with him being simply a running quarterback. Fields is far from being a one-dimensional player. But as a runner, he has been dominating. His 749 rushing yards is sixth-most in the NFL, and Fields’ 555 rushing yards over the last five games is the most by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era.
Fields is different. There is no question about that.
However, Fields’ dominance on the ground has brought into question his overall production in the passing game. Even though he has thrown for eight touchdowns compared to two interceptions the past four weeks.
Against the Lions, Fields threw for 167 yards and two touchdowns, which was just 20 more yards than his rushing total (147 and two scores). In the fourth quarter, Fields finished 2-of-6 for 13 yards and threw a pick-6. But his individual stats are also a byproduct of what the entire offensive unit couldn’t accomplish during crunch time. It doesn’t help when Cole Kmet is taken out on a play that could’ve been a big gain or when receivers run into each other, which throws off the timing for Fields.
Obviously, the passing game is still a work in progress, as it should be with a second-year quarterback in a new offense. But Fields showed continued growth in that area of his game, especially on the first drive coming out of half time. Let’s take a look at what went right to begin the third quarter.
10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, 5:19
On the Bears’ first offensive possession of the third quarter, Fields finished 4-of-5 for 53 yards and ended it with the 6-yard touchdown pass to Kmet.
To begin the drive, the Bears lined up in 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs). Chase Claypool was isolated 1-on-1 just outside of the left numbers. After going in motion, Cole Kmet ended up inside the right hash marks. Darnell Mooney lined up on the line of scrimmage between the right numbers and hash marks, and Equanimeous St. Brown on the outside to the right.
Fields looked to his left at Claypool, but the cornerback covered the vertical route well, so Fields continued through his progression and took his eyes to the other side of the field.
Fields then saw the open throwing lane in the middle of the defense after the linebacker covered Kmet. Fields threw a good ball to Mooney, and the third-year wide receiver went to the ground to secure the catch. The offense gained 16 yards to start the drive.
Next up is the 22-yard completion on third-and-5 to Mooney. Instead of breaking this down with still pictures, I’m going to defer to The QB School’s JT O’Sullivan. He provided plenty of insight on the play. Watch Fields’ eyes as he goes through each read. Clear signs of a quarterback making progress and continuing to learn the nuances of Luke Getsy’s offense.
The last play of the drive to break down is the 6-yard touchdown throw to Kmet. Getsy called an RPO and had Fields go on the move to his right. Two Detroit Lions defenders go in that direction. What made this play work was Fields’ eyes. He looked towards the right sideline as he was running and that manipulated the defenders to pull towards him. Kmet also did a good job of faking like he was blocking. Once Fields saw the defender come off Kmet, he threw a high ball where only his tight end could make the catch.
There was plenty to like from Fields as a passer on the Bears’ first possession of the third quarter. No, he isn’t close to being a finished product and that would be insane to even think about from a second-year player.
But he is continuing to show progress in different aspects of the passing game. Once he becomes more experienced in that area and combines that with his ability to run, then there isn’t going to be much opposing defenses can do to prevent Fields from impacting the game.