Fields Film: Another Week, Another Electric Performance for Justin Fields

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Fields Film: Another Week, Another Electric Performance for Justin Fields

Chicago Bears

No, things weren’t perfect this weekend — one of Justin Fields’ worst throws of the season ended in a pick-six to Jeff Okudah — but his overall performance against the Lions was yet another step in the right direction for QB1. Let’s talk about it.

On Sunday, Fields completed 12 of 20 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Sure, 20 attempts were the lowest total for Fields since the Houston game in Week 3. But Fields was working within the gameplan, which featured a heavy dose of the run despite the Lions being one of the worst pass defenses in the league. And guess what? The game plan worked. The Bears racked up 258 rushing yards and became the first team in NFL history to string together five straight games with 225-plus rushing yards.

But why the lack of passing attempts? Well, the offensive line had one of their worst pass-pro games of the season this week, though, with plenty of this popping up on the all-22:

If Fields has to scramble out of danger as often as he did on Sunday when it seemed like Michael Schofield and Rielly Reif were just there in spirit, the passing attempts will be limited.

There are plenty of things to feel good about this week, but if I had to point to one thing that I want to see improve. Even despite the porous offensive line and the head-scratching lack of Chase Claypool’s involvement in the passing game, the thing I want to see improve is Fields making more throws when it matters.

First, we’ve got the Okudah pick six, an absolutely unacceptable throw by Fields, and I’m sure he knows it.

Here we have Fields on a 2nd & 5 out of the two-minute warning. Fields has Claypool one-on-one with Okudah on the right side, and you can see that Okudah is all alone. The Lions are playing with one safety on the other side of the field, where the Bears had three wide receivers bunched up. Fields straight up underthrows this ball and gives Okudah a good look at another interception.

If he gets the ball over Claypool’s right shoulder, it looks like a potential catch for the big-bodied wideout. If you’ve listened to pundits on the AM airwaves talking about throws Fields has to make to take the next step in his development, that’s a perfect example. Claypool one-on-one down the sideline with a significant size advantage is a ball you’ve got to get where it needs to go.

But let’s keep in mind that Claypool is still new to the offense. And maybe Fields wanted to go back shoulder, but Claypool had another idea. These guys have more learning to do together in the coming weeks, and I wouldn’t worry about this one too much.

All right, now let’s get to the good stuff.

Let’s examine the game’s opening play and tip our hats to everyone involved. This play was possible because of the scheme and the effectiveness of the Bears’ league-best rushing attack. In 21 personnel with Khari Blasingame to the right of Cole Kmet, the Bears have seven at the line of scrimmage and David Montgomery to Fields’ left in the shotgun. Fields has Equanimous St. Brown in motion to the right pre-snap.

Everything about this screams run right. Everything but Fields. This is a read option play, and Julian Okwara is the read, and Fields sees that he’s frozen but leaning towards the play and Fields pulls it and blows by Okwara for a 28-yard gain.

For as much concern as there has been about Fields running too much, plays like this are schemed runs. This is not Fields scrambling away from danger, of which we’d certainly like to see less. Starting the game with a 28-yard scamper on a beautifully designed play is new for the Bears. And I like it.

This play was successful because it’s something they run multiple times a game. Here’s the same exact play later in the game. This time Fields sees Aidan Hutchinson waiting on him, and he gives it to Montgomery.

Let’s look at the 50-yard touchdown pass to Kmet. This was a play that I saw some on Twitter chalk up to a broken play. Or insinuating that Fields got lucky.

That’s not correct. Not only was it a designed play, but it was also something that the Bears ran multiple times in practice this week and ran out of the same look they used the play previously for a run play.

The play before, the Bears lined up in 13 personnel — three tight ends — and ran the ball. On that touchdown play, they ran the same look on the heels of a nine-yard gain on the ground. The Lions sold out on the expected run play, only to lose track of Kmet in the process.

Fields said that they ran that route “after practice like three times after Wednesday or Thursday.”

Kmet offered up more on Monday:

“We had it in a walk-through rep, so we didn’t have a live rep in practice with it, so we were like let’s get this after practice,” Kmet said, via The Athletic. “So I run one: wind kind of takes it. I run two: I didn’t really run it right. I run three: and the wind takes off again. I run another one, and it’s like, ‘All right, I can’t be doing all these routes.’”

While they didn’t hit any of them during practice, Kmet said that they told each other that they would hit that route during the game. And they did.

Beauty. That’s growth from both Fields and Kmet on full display. Before we take a look at some more touchdowns, I have to throw this out there while we’re talking about growth from Fields.

On this completion to Darnell Mooney, Fields makes his way through his progressions in a relatively timely manner. I would like to see it a second or two quicker. But Fields finds his third option, Mooney, and delivers a strike through the zone coverage. Again, while we would like to see the ball get out a tick quicker, we’ve got him scanning and finding his third option and then making the throw into zone coverage. Those are two bugaboos for him this season.

Remember the screenshot in the tweet at the top of the story? That was from the first touchdown of the game, a magician-like scramble for Fields.

I’ve got three takeaways from this play to share quickly, because they’re pretty straightforward:

  • If Fields makes the throw instead of the pump fake, that’s a pick-six. Smart decision by Fields.
  • Remember when I said that Mark Schofield and Riley Reiff were only there in spirit? Now you see why … look at the right side of the line; I don’t know what they’re doing, but it left Fields staring down three Lions pass rushers.
  • Fields is a friggin’ magician.

The first Fields-Kmet touchdown of the day deserves another tip of the hat to Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy. We’ve got a play-fake left and Fields moving the launch point right. It looks like the read option we discussed earlier, but it’s slightly different. It worked to perfection because once Kirby Joseph (31 in white) saw Fields outside the tackle box, he locked onto him and never tried to cover Kmet. The throw was high, but Kmet brought it down.

While we would like to see Fields have more success through the air, he hasn’t just been good in recent weeks — he’s been electric.

Fields’ 467 rushing yards in the last four games is second only to Derrick Henry. Fields’ 749 rushing yards on the season are tops in the NFL among quarterbacks and sixth overall. Fields’ 7.2 yards per carry are second only to Lamar Jackson (7.4), and while his passing yardage hasn’t been anything to write home about, Fields’ eight touchdown passes in the last four games are tied for second in the league.

I’ll put this as simply as possible: the development of Fields as a passer is showing up in the numbers. Here’s a look at his growth through the air this season:

The results and the Madden numbers will come eventually, but make no mistake, Justin Fields is not just “scrambling around” like the one-trick pony the box score mongers are trying to label him. He’s making substantial strides across the board, plain and simple.

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.