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Sometimes the film looks better than you thought. Other times it looks worse. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to celebrate from the Bears’ 27-10 loss in Green Bay Sunday night, especially when it comes to QB1.
The Lead: Can’t blame lack of talent this week
Justin Fields’ evaluation as an NFL quarterback is far from complete. He still only has 12 career starts.
That being said, his 12th NFL start left behind some concerns, especially because the (valid) argument that he doesn’t have enough help didn’t carry much weight Sunday night. He had protection. He had open receivers. He didn’t pull the trigger enough.
Let’s go through three specific plays:
Play 1: First sack of the game
Justin Fields does everything well on this play except for one thing: Get. Rid. Of. The. Ball. Right tackle Larry Borom gives up pressure from Rashan Gary right away, but recovers well enough to allow Fields to step up in the pocket, which he does. This is a step in the right direction, because Fields hasn’t always done that. Gary takes a quick swipe at the ball as Fields steps up, but the quarterback is holding it tightly with both hands — another positive. As Fields steps up, he has two receivers open: Cole Kmet right in front of him and David Montgomery in the flat. In between those two options is a linebacker in conflict. Fields has to throw the ball at that moment, and if he flips it to Montgomery, the running back has a ton of room to run because the cornerback had been run out of the play by a wide receiver. Instead, he holds onto the ball and takes a sack. Can’t happen.
Play 2: When Fields goes past the line of scrimmage
Once again, the protection gives Fields the opportunity to step up in the pocket as right guard Lucas Patrick makes a diving block to recover from a well-executed Packers’ stunt. This is when Fields starts his scramble up the middle. This time, he has three options:
1. Pull up and hit Equanimeous St. Brown, who is already coming open over the middle.
2. Flip the ball over to his left where David Montgomery is left wide open by the defender running at Fields.
3. Run it for a minimal gain on 3rd & 10.
Fields never looked Montgomery’s way, picked option 3, then saw EQ late and decided to abort his run and throw to the receiver, apparently not realizing he was already two yards past the line of scrimmage. Another big play opportunity missed.
Play 3: The EQ Mailbox
This is the first third down of the third quarter, when St. Brown changed his route from a curl to a go (as he’s taught to do when he beats the corner deep) and put up his hand (“mailbox”) to notify Fields he’s open deep. Fields doesn’t pull the trigger and instead checks it down.
I want to focus on the other side of the field though, where Fields’ first read — Dante Pettis — is open on the comeback if Fields rips an anticipatory throw right away. Easy first down. What’s concerning to me here is that there’s an underneath defender in conflict, meaning that if that defender sits on Pettis’ comeback, Fields should be looking to throw to Darnell Mooney in the flat. That should be a relatively easy 1-2 read, in my opinion. Fields appears to read that defender, but doesn’t make either throw. That’s when he looks to EQ on the opposite side, who is open for a possible touchdown. He doesn’t make that throw either. With plenty of time in the pocket, he finally checks the ball down to Montgomery, who can’t pick up the first down on 3rd & 10.
There’s been a lot of talk about how Fields doesn’t have enough weapons or enough protection on the offensive line. I don’t disagree with those assertions, but if we’re being honest, those excuses didn’t hold up on Sunday night. Fields had open receivers and, for the most part, had time to throw the ball. Too often, he didn’t throw it.
A few nuggets from rewatching both the TV copy of the game and the coaches’ film:
- Let’s hope this game ends up being Kyler Gordon’s worst as a pro. He got picked on by Aaron Rodgers and wasn’t able to make corrections during the game. Gordon bit on almost every fake and didn’t do a good job on contain responsibilities in the run game. I appreciated that head coach Matt Eberflus, who talked to Gordon Monday, didn’t shy away from his rookie’s struggles:
“A good pro doesn’t make the same mistake twice,” Eberflus said. “They get better and they improve and that’s how they become a better pro in Year 4, Year 5 and then become an All-Pro.”
A good reminder that this was just Game 2 of Year 1.
- I’m not sure what to make of Roquan Smith’s poor performance in Green Bay. CHGO analyst Corey Wootton is worried Smith might be out of position at the WILL linebacker position and should move back to the middle. I’m willing to give Smith another game or two before I make that conclusion, but I will say this: He looks slower and more hesitant than he used to. Maybe those training camp/preseason reps he missed would have helped.
• Two games in, and Teven Jenkins continues to look good at right guard. Maybe it’s time to end that rotation with Lucas Patrick?
Week 2 Tiers
Here’s how key Bears players graded out this week after watching the coaches’ film. Take note of the number of starters who ended up in the bottom tier. It’s hard to win games that way.
Blue Chip Tier: David Montgomery, Justin Jones, Trevis Gipson.
Long-term starter tier: Braxton Jones, Cody Whitehair, Teven Jenkins, Khari Blasingame, Jaylon Johnson, Cairo Santos.
Bottom tier: Justin Fields, Cole Kmet, Larry Borom, Roquan Smith, Kyler Gordon.
Next up: Houston Texans
In many ways, the Texans are a mirror image of the Bears. They are a young, reloading team that plays hard with a second-year quarterback leading the offense. Davis Mills doesn’t have the same raw ability as Fields, but he’s better than most realize. He was a highly sought-after recruit, but ended up only playing 14 games at Stanford over four years due to a variety of different reasons (including the COVID-19 pandemic). I’m not surprised he has had some early success in Houston.
Meanwhile, the Texans’ running game is getting a boost from fourth-round rookie Dameon Pierce. Considering the issues the Bears have had stopping the run, Pierce could be a problem Sunday.
Eberflus’ relationship with Lovie Smith goes all the way back to when Smith was the St. Louis Rams’ defensive coordinator. Eberflus was the defensive coordinator at Missouri at the time and the two connected. When Smith became the Bears’ head coach, he invited Eberflus to come visit Halas Hall.
“Matt and I, we’ve talked football for long periods of time. I know his general belief on how defensive football should be played,” Smith told CHGO in March. “We don’t change what we believe from year-to-year. Absolutely. I think playing hard from snap-to-snap is a foundational piece that we believe in.”
This might not be one of the marquee games in the NFL this weekend, but it promises to be a tough, physical game. I’d be surprised if it isn’t decided in the fourth quarter.
Regardless, I hope you’ll come hang out with us at the first ever CHGO Bears tailgate Sunday morning from 8 a.m. to Noon. You can buy tickets here. And, of course, we’ll get you ready for kickoff with our pregame show at 11 a.m.
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