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Thinking about the Bears’ offense last season usually involves some eye rolling, shaking of the head and constantly asking simple one-worded questions like, “Why?”
And, unfortunately, Justin Fields had to experience all of that first hand throughout his rookie season. Despite the less than ideal circumstances he endured, the former No. 11 overall pick still created highlight plays that have made Bears fans hopeful for the future.
Before we officially move on to Year 2 for Fields, let’s take a look at some of the quarterback’s best and worst plays from last season. To do this, we will narrow it down by using Pro Football Focus’ grading scale and highlighting three plays from his highest and lowest graded game.
(Also, credit to NFL Game Pass for each of the plays displayed in this article.)
Best Grade: (90.5 OFF) Week 9 @ PIT
If there is a reason to be optimistic that Fields can be the franchise quarterback Chicago has been longing for, that reason comes from the performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even though the Bears lost, 29-27, at Heinz Field on Monday Night Football, Fields did everything he could to help his team win the game.
Fields finished the game 17 of 29 for 291 yards, threw one touchdown and an interception. He also added 45 yards on eight carries.
The difficult part was pinpointing just three of Fields’ top plays. But one of the first to stand out was this 25-yard completion to Cole Kmet on first-and-10 from the CHI 48.
Fields lines up under center, fakes the handoff to Khalil Herbert and begins to roll to his left. Once he sees Kmet open on the corner route, Fields quickly sets his feet, flips his hips and delivers a well thrown ball on first down.
To start the fourth quarter, Fields makes arguably his best throw of the season. No need for much explanation on this 28-yard strike in the middle of the field to tight end Jimmy Graham.
And the last play, even though I could’ve added several others, is Fields’ 16-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney with just 1:46 remaining in the game. Fields feels the pressure coming off the edge, escapes to his left, locates Mooney and effortlessly hits his target on the move.
Worst Grade: (49.6 OFF) Week 14 @ GB
So, the Week 14 game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football wasn’t Fields’ lowest-rated game. Remember Week 3 in Cleveland? How about the 38-3 loss against Tampa Bay? Fields finished with a 46.8 and 36.5 grade in those games.
Fields definitely made some bad plays in each of those contests, but the offensive line play and game plans didn’t provide any help for the young quarterback. The primetime game in Green Bay was Fields’ third-worst rated game. Fields ended the game 18 of 33 for 224 yards, and had two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also led the Bears in rushing with 74 yards on nine attempts.
On the Bears’ first play of their second possession in the first quarter, there is a two-man route concept. Allen Robinson runs a 15-yard out while Darnell Mooney runs a deep corner. Fields takes a nine-step drop from under center. Instead of throwing the ball deep initially, Fields waits.
By the time he lets the ball go on his second throwing motion, the safety closed the distance and is able to make a play on the ball. Now, even if Fields threw the ball on his first attempt, it still would’ve been a tough pass to complete.
Later in the same drive, on a third-and-5 from the GB 5, Kmet is unable to make a contested catch in the end zone. Fields threw a pass that should’ve been caught but it’s the overall decision on the play.
Look at Robinson and how wide open he is on the play.
After the game, I asked Fields if the Packers were doing anything in particular to take Robinson out of the game. Here was his response.
“I think on a couple of third downs they were, you know, manning him up and then putting a safety over the top,” Fields said. “And, you know, I missed him on one. I think it was the first or second drive on one touchdown. He was in the back of the end zone wide open so that was my fault. But just like I said before, learning from mistakes and making sure it doesn’t happen again.”
If you remember this game, then you probably know what play is next. On third-and-4 with just over five minutes left before half time, Fields is intercepted by Rasul Douglas and the Packers’ cornerback went all the way for a pick-6.
Fields said he would’ve liked to put the ball “more outside” when throwing the out route to Mooney. But Douglas just made a great read and capitalized on the mistake.
Fields clearly wasn’t put in the best position to succeed during his rookie year, but he still showed glimpses of what he can become. And the expectation from the Bears’ organization and from Fields himself is that those glimpses become more consistent now that he is in Year 2.
Still, like his rookie season, Fields will have obstacles to overcome in 2022. He is still learning offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s offense, which should help Fields in the long run. The offensive line still remains a mystery, and the same can be said for the wide receiver room outside of Darnell Mooney.
If Fields can show more consistent improvement this season, then the organization and the Bears fanbase should feel confident about the quarterback position moving forward.
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