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What went wrong on fourth-and-1 for the Chicago Bears in Cleveland?

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
December 18, 2023

LAKE FOREST — The Chicago Bears offense struggled throughout the entire game in Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Justin Fields and the offense generated just 236 yards of total offense. Browns quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 212 yards in the fourth quarter alone. The Bears also finished 4 of 18 on third down and had eight three-and-outs on 15 offensive possessions.

When the offense faced a short-yardage situation (1-3 yards), the unit converted on only two of their eight attempts. One of the most important was the fourth-and-1 to start the fourth quarter.

The Bears defense on the previous possession intercepted Flacco for the third time in the game and gave the offense an opportunity with Chicago possessing a 17-7 lead. Fields lined up under center, faked the handoff to D’Onta Foreman and tried to get to the right edge. Browns cornerback Cameron Mitchell tripped Fields up on the play and he fell just short of the line to gain.

Fields said after the game that he liked the play call in that situation, and if he were to have the play back, he would “get as wide as possible, literally race to the first down marker.”

Although the play didn’t end up getting the first down, Bears coach Matt Eberflus did like the overall execution on the play.

“The communication was fine,” Eberflus said. “It was good. It was man coverage, right? Went jet motion. They bumped the coverage over. The safety’s bumped it over, actually. I think one of em shoulda spun to the middle of the field, but they didn’t. There was no one in the middle of the field. The guy that was on DJ ended up triggering on Justin. Justin saw it. Justin went for the line to gain and Mooney tried to get a piece of him. He got a little bit of him. He ran the route. The execution was good.”

After DJ Moore blocks down on the Browns’ defensive lineman, he turns around in the same direction that Fields is running. If there was more time, Eberflus confirmed that Moore is a receiving option on the play.

“Yeah, there’s an option there, for sure,” Eberflus said. “It’s really a pick play. Darnell’s on the line. He’s pickin’ for DJ. DJ’s running his route and then you’ve got a run-pass option on the edge. It’s a well-designed play. He decided to run it and he got tripped up, he got tripped up at the point. And again, if he had more time and didn’t have that defender, he’d end up triggering and we could throw it over the top to DJ, too.”

Even when the execution wasn’t the issue, the Bears still couldn’t find a way to convert in a critical point in the game. The Bears’ ineffectiveness on short-yardage situations is just one of the many areas that still aren’t working for this Bears offense.

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