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How much blame should Justin Fields take for the failed fourth quarter comebacks?

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
December 8, 2022

Sunday’s game against the Packers gave Justin Fields and the Bears another opportunity for a fourth-quarter comeback.

But in the closing minutes of the game and the Bears down by a point, Justin Fields threw his first interception. Three plays later, Christian Watson scored on a 46-yard touchdown. 

Fields was also intercepted on the following drive, and the Packers won 28-19 after two kneel downs. 

Despite the sixth-straight loss and failing at another late-game comeback opportunity, Bears coach Matt Eberflus is still confident that Fields is the guy that can lead his team to a victory and elevate his teammates’ play in those crucial moments 

“Yeah that’s a good point. And I would say yes, I believe that to be true,” Eberflus said. “I know the man inside after being with him for a year and the grit he has and the talent he has. No question he’s going to get it done.”

But Fields’ stats in the fourth quarter this season say otherwise. He has completed 39 of 65 passes (60 percent completion rate) for 386 yards and has thrown three touchdowns. The second-year quarterback also has been intercepted six times (tied for the most with Davis Mills) and has been sacked 13 times (tied for the most with Matt Ryan). 

But how much of the struggles in the fourth quarter and the inability to close out games should be on Fields? Stats are one thing, but there needs to be context as to what exactly happened in each situation.

Let’s take a look at some of the critical plays in the fourth quarter and how they happened. 

Week 13: Bears vs. Packers (28-19)

The Packers started the fourth quarter with an A.J. Dillon 21-yard rushing touchdown. The Bears still had a 19-17 lead, and on the Bears ensuing drive, Cairo Santos had his 40-yard field goal blocked. Then the Packers went on a 13-play drive that ended with Mason Crosby connecting on his 32-yard field goal, giving the Packers a 20-19 lead with just under five minutes left in the game.

Fields started the Bears’ offensive drive by completing a five-yard pass to Cole Kmet. After the play, Kmet got off the ground asking for a flag after De’Vondre Campbell grabbed his face mask. No call. 

Then four plays later, Fields threw his first interception of the game. He was targeting Equanimeous St. Brown on a dig route and Jaire Alexander was in coverage. Fields and Eberflus addressed the play in their post-game press conferences. 

“I’ll go back and look at it,” Eberflus said. “I just know what kind of concept it was. Obviously like him to break it up if he could. But step, you know, come back to the ball, etc. Have to go back and look at it.”

Fields mentioned that it’s an anticipation throw, but Alexander jumped the route and said, “you just like to see the receiver come back to the ball.”

Brown spoke to the media on Monday and he credited Alexander for making a “great play on the curl route.” 

Regardless, the overall execution wasn’t where it needed to be and a huge mistake was made in a crucial moment in the game. 

WEEK 11 @ Atlanta (27-24)

With the Bears down by seven entering the fourth quarter, Fields orchestrated a beautiful 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with David Montgomery’s 2-yard score to tie the game at 24. 

Some of the key plays included Fields connecting with Montgomery on a 32-yard dime down the right sideline on first-and-10, and a 14-yard pick up on third-and-12 after Fields maneuvered through traffic and found Brown. 

Following the Bears’ touchdown, the Falcons put together a 12-play field goal scoring drive. Atlanta went up 27-24 with 1:47 remaining on the clock. Then came the infamous quarterback designed run on first-and-10 from Chicago’s 25-yard line. Fields ended up separating his shoulder on the play. 

On second-and-9, Fields was supposed to hand the ball off to Montgomery on a draw but kept the ball instead and took another hit. Then the drive and ultimately the game ended after Fields was intercepted on third-and-5. He attempted to hit Montgomery on the pass against the Falcons soft coverage.

“He’s just a little late getting to the check down,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said later in the week. “Should have got there a little sooner. But he performed the play correctly, just a little bit too late.”

Maybe Fields’ separated shoulder impacted him on the play. Who knows? But a bad throw combined with questionable play-calling prevented this fourth-quarter comeback from happening. 

Week 10 vs. Detroit (31-30)

Going into the fourth quarter, the Bears had a two-touchdown lead against the Lions. Detroit cut that in half after a four-play, 55-yard scoring drive that ended in a DeAndre Swift touchdown. 

The play before, Jack Sanborn intercepted Jared Goff, but the refs called an illegal use of hands penalty on Jaylon Johnson for jamming a receiver in the chest. Terrible call. 

Fields and the offense took over from their own 25 on the next drive. Two plays in and Fields was intercepted by his former college teammate Jeff Okudah for a pick-6. The game was now tied at 24 with 10:29 left in the fourth quarter. 

But Fields made up for his mistake with his 67-yard touchdown run on third-and-2 on the next drive. Cairo Santos did end up missing the extra point, so the Bears only went up 30-24 with 9:11 left in regulation.

The Lions and Bears both had three and outs on their next possessions, but Detroit scored its final points of the game on an eight-play, 91-yard touchdown drive. Jared Goff completed some key passes on the drive, including a 20-yard connection to Kalif Raymond and a 44-yard completion to Tom Kennedy on third-and-8 with Jaylon Johnson in coverage. 

With 2:16 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bears started on their own 20-yard line down 31-30. A defensive holding penalty on third-and-5 gave the Bears a fresh set of downs. Then there was a big-play opportunity missed when Okudah collided with Cole Kmet, which forced Fields to throw an incomplete pass. 

On second down, Fields had pressure off his right side and was sacked by Aidan Hutchinson. A 7-yard completion to Montgomery made it fourth-and-8, but Fields was sacked again after attempting to avoid several tackles deep within the pocket. 

Look, Fields’ pick-6 was a critical mistake, and one that Fields will clearly learn from, but he did give his team the lead on the next possession. Santos’ missed extra point proved to be costly. 

Week 9 vs. Miami (35-32)

Fields led the Bears on a 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive to begin the fourth quarter. Still, Miami led 35-32 with just under 12 minutes left in the game. Surprisingly, the Bears defense forced a turnover on downs and Chicago regained possession with 7:40 left on the clock. 

Fields’ 13-yard run was the biggest play on the drive. On third-and-13, N’Keal Harry made the wrong adjustment on his route and Fields threw an incomplete pass towards the left sideline. 

The Bears defense stepped up again on its next possession and forced a three and out. Fields and the offense started on their own 28, down three and had one timeout. 

It’s the last two plays that most people remember. First, on third-and-10, Fields gave Chase Claypool a jump ball opportunity down the left sideline, but Claypool was clearly interfered with yet there was no flag thrown. 

Then on fourth-and-10, Fields stepped up in the pocket, moved right and delivered a perfect pass to Brown, but the ball went right through his hands. 

Tough to blame this loss on Fields, especially when the referees and his own receivers don’t execute on plays in crunch time. 

Week 6 vs. Washington (12-7)

Even though Fields was pressured 24 times and sacked five times in the 12-7 loss against the Commanders, the Bears still nearly won the game. 

The Bears actually had a 7-6 lead to start the fourth quarter. The turning point occurred when Velus Jones Jr. muffed the punt after the defense forced a three-and-out. Washington recovered the ball on Chicago’s own 6-yardline. 

Two plays later, the Commanders scored a touchdown and went up 12-7 with 7:21 remaining in the game. The Bears turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, and the Commanders missed a 48-yard field goal. 

The Bears’ offense took over on their own 33 and had no timeouts with 1:49 left in regulation. The game could’ve ended on the first play after Jonathan Allen strip-sacked Fields, but Montgomery recovered the ball. 

Three plays later, though, Fields broke off his longest run of the game – a 39-yarder to set up a first-and-10 at the Washington 5-yard line. The Commanders called a timeout with 52 seconds remaining in the game. 

On the first two plays, the Bears gained just one yard. Then on third down, Dante Pettis was clearly interfered with in the end zone, but no there was no flag thrown 

With the game on the line, Fields delivered the ball where Mooney could make a play on it. But he juggled the football and was short of the goal line. 

The offensive line gave Fields no chance in this game, but the quarterback still put his team in a position to win at the end. But the refs missed a call and Mooney didn’t catch the ball cleanly. 

Week 5 @ Minnesota (29-22)

The Bears were trailing 21-19 to begin the fourth quarter. Kindle Vildor intercepted Kirk Cousins to give Chicago a good starting field position at its own 48-yard line. 

On second-and-10, Fields had a 52-yard touchdown nullified by an illegal block above the waist penalty from Ihmir Smith-Marsette. The Bears had to settle for a 51-yard field, which put the Bears up 22-21. 

Minnesota responded with a 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took seven minutes off the clock. The defense faced five third downs but couldn’t get off the field. The Vikings converted on the two-point conversion and went up 29-22 with 2:26 left in the fourth quarter. 

The Bears started on their own 25-yard line and had one timeout remaining. Fields completed two passes to Montgomery to convert the chains before being sacked on first-and-10 following the two-minute warning. 

Facing a second-and-21, Fields delivered a pass to Montgomery over the middle and he picked up the first down. Then on first-and-10 on Chicago’s own 46, Fields found Smith-Marsette along the left sideline for a 15-yard gain, and instead of going out of bounds, the receiver made another move inside. That allowed Cameron Dantzler to rip the football from Smith-Marsette.

Two kneel downs later the Vikings won. The Bears eventually waived Smith-Marsette on Oct 18, five days after the matchup with the Commanders.

Week 5 @ New York Giants (20-12)

To begin the fourth quarter, the Giants had a 17-12 lead. 

Eddie Jackson intercepted Tyrod Taylor on the Giants first possession in the quarter. The Bears took over at their own 4-yard line. After Khalil Herbert picked up seven yards on the first two downs, Fields faced immediate pressure up the middle on third-and-3 and threw the ball out of bounds to avoid a sack.

The Giants extended their lead after a 13-play, 54-yard drive ended in a 43-yard field goal. The Bears started on their 25-yard line and picked up 12 yards on first down from Herbert. Again, Herbert got the handoff and got another six yards on the ground. Then, Fields completed a 2-yard pass on second-and-4. But the Giants’ defense stopped Herbert for no gain on third-and-2. Another punt. 

The defense did its job on the next possession by forcing a three and out, but Velus Jones Jr. muffed the punt and the Giants regained possession 2:01 left in the game. Kicker Graham Gano ended up missing his 37-yard field goal.

Still down by eight, the Bears got the ball with 16 seconds left and no timeouts at their own 27-yard line. There just wasn’t enough time on the clock to realistically do anything to win this game. 

The offense wasted their first two offensive possessions and Jones’ muffed punt cost the Bears valuable time. 

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