LAKE FOREST — Justin Fields had time in the pocket and Roschon Johnson was running down the middle of the field wide open. Fields appeared to look in Johnson’s direction, who ran a seam route between the numbers and the right hash from the backfield.
But instead of rifling off a touchdown pass, Fields was sacked and the offense was forced to settle for a field goal at the end of the first half.
“We just gotta execute better there,” Fields said after the game. “I think I gotta go back and look at it but just gotta execute better. I think the O-line did a good job protecting those last few plays. Just gotta execute.”
Overall the execution needed to be better in the Bears’ 27-17 loss to the Buccaneers, but what was the cause for the execution to be off in the first place?
Especially considering how nobody on Tampa Bay’s defense covered Johnson?
Bears coach Matt Eberflus explained the play during his Monday press conference.
“We were getting on the ball quick to keep them in the personnel,” Eberflus said. “So that’s what we were doing there. And the play is really a four-out strong type of play. It’s designed to really spread out the field. We have to do a better job with our spacing there, you know, with our receiver spacing. There was a little bit of an issue there with the spacing part of it and we’ve got to do a better job executing there.”
Eberflus reiterated that the receiver spacing was the reason Fields was hesitant to throw the ball and ultimately took the sack.
Here is what that “spacing” issue looked like.
Look, nobody knows exactly how Fields is being coached, but that play appears to be an opportunity that can’t be passed up. Maybe the routes and spacing weren’t exactly how they were in practice, but when do things ever go according to plan in the NFL?
Sure it happens at times, but Fields shouldn’t need things to be picture-perfect to capitalize on a defense’s mistakes. He made countless plays that were off script during the 2022 season.
It almost feels like Fields is being overcoached and being too mechanical in how he operates and thinks about a play. The third-year quarterback needs to, in a sense, loosen up and the coaching can play a big part in making that happen.
Regardless, Fields needs to become more consistent and open to throwing the ball down field when the defense gives him an opportunity. Already through two weeks, there have been too many plays left on the field.
And if the Bears want to have any chance of breaking their 12-game losing streak dating back to last season, it will start with the quarterback making the plays that he should.
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