What the Heck Happened on that Final Play?

That one hurt.

With the game on the line and a mere 42 seconds left on the clock, everything was lining up for a game-winning Justin Fields to Darnell Mooney connection. A successful link-up would’ve meant a come-from-behind win for the Chicago Bears. And more important than that, it could’ve provided a launch point for this tandem.

But this is the Bears, so we should’ve known what was coming next.

Sigh. It doesn’t get any closer than that.

“Just catch the damn ball”

Fields lofted a throw to Mooney, who had beaten the cornerback. But instead of a game-winning catch, Mooney juggled the ball and by the time he re-gained full possession, he had landed out of bounds short of the end zone.

The play was over. It was a turnover on downs. The Bears were beaten. And our souls were simultaneously sucked out of the bodies of the brave few who didn’t leave after the Bears’ second-to-last possession when a Fields pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette fell incomplete and put an end to what could’ve been a game-changing drive.

It sounds as if Mooney took it hard after the game:

Mooney is right. If he wants to be The Guy, then he needs to make that play. We’ve seen Mooney come down with balls that leave you gasping in disbelief. But he doesn’t do it all the time, which is going to be a point of contention in discussing his status as a WR1 type — particularly now when the margin of error is so thin for this offense.

Did Justin Fields miss a wide-open David Montgomery?

I truly appreciate when analysts provide breakdowns like this:

*Chef’s kiss*

Montgomery was a down-the-line 4th or 5th read on that play. No one is getting to that read that quickly in that moment. And there is no way Montgomery can be the primary option on that play. Look how much ground he has to make up. And with multiple defenders who could react, adjust, attack, and probably stonewall Montgomery short of the end zone. It would’ve been a mess. Don’t get me wrong. I see open receiver in the flat and understand why there is an instinctual feeling to yell “throw it to the open guy!” at your TV screen. But this 2 minutes and 15 seconds of getting a grasp on a quarterback’s reads, options, and play breakdown really puts it into perspective. Moreover, that it takes north of two minutes to properly evaluate a play that takes a mere few seconds to run just really drives home how much goes into a single play.

Frankly, my initial reaction was that I couldn’t believe this was even a point of discussion last night. But, then again, in a game that had all of us in our feels, every little thing about every snap mattered. Especially the last one ran by the offense on what could’ve been a game-winning drive. And more than that, it drives home how little wiggle room the Bears have to operate. The margins for error are small. Every little thing matters. Each detail — pre-snap, post-snap, mid-play, and finish — matters so much in instances like this. And especially for teams like the Bears who are going to be at a talent deficiency and seen as underdogs for most (if not all?) of their remaining games.

What about that other Monty play?

Solak also linked conversation about this play that happened moments earlier, which was a post-game sticking point. His breakdown of why Fields didn’t hit Montgomery on the backside leak:

In the end, none of this makes us feel any better. And while understanding what went down helps us have a better grasp on things, it doesn’t change the outcome of the game. Ideally, the Bears are going through a similar exercise and can put what they learn into action in future games.

written by

Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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