Now matter which way you slice it, Sunday was a bad game for Justin Fields. Sure, the offensive line did him no favors, allowing him to be sacked seven times. The receiving core is what it has been all year, not very good. The play-calling was questionable. And the decision to leave him in a blowout was frustrating and unnecessary. But it was simply not a good game.
In fact, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel any MORE optimistic about his future when the fourth quarter came to an end than I had before kickoff. And that’s a bummer. With that said, I also don’t feel any WORSE about the long-term prospects for Justin Fields. It was simply a rough day at the office, and we all have them. Let’s take a closer look.
By the Numbers
- 7: Seven was both the number of completions that Justin Fields had and the number of times he was sacked on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Fields’ seven completions were a career-low (for a full game played). Fields was 7-for-21 against the Lions.
- 132: Fields rushed for 132 yards on Sunday, putting him just 63 away from Lamar Jackson’s all-time rushing record for a quarterback.
- 40.8: Fields’ 40.8 passer rating was the lowest of his career for an entire game played. Only his first NFL appearance in relief of an injured Andy Dalton against the Bengals last fall resulted in a lower passer rating for Fields (27.7).
- 3.6: Even when Fields did complete a pass, it wasn’t for much, as he averaged 3.6 yards per completion, his lowest mark since his first NFL start against the Cleveland Browns last fall.
Let’s start on the first drive of the game, an otherwise excellent drive that happened to feature a pair of throws Fields probably wished he had back. On this first one, Fields has Velus Jones Jr. deep down the left sideline in single coverage, and he overthrows him considerably.
Yes, the pass rush was there. It was there all day long. But it’s always going to be there when you face a good or great team. If he’s ever going to take the next step in his development, Fields will simply have to learn to make these throws with the rush bearing down.
Same drive, Fields has Byron Pringle in single coverage and the inside lane to the end zone, and Fields overthrows him. Not only did he overthrow him, but he also sailed it well over the sideline when Pringle took the inside lane on the corner, so the throw wasn’t going to be catchable even if he didn’t sail it out of bounds.
I was dumbfounded when I watched this play live, and I’m even more disappointed watching it from this angle because this is just a massive brain fart by Fields. Aidan Hutchison is playing the first down marker along the sideline before the snap(!), and Fields still throws a lazy ball to the receiver running the over route right at Hutchinson. It’s an easy interception for 97 in blue and a ball Fileds simply can’t throw.
One last incompletion here. The Bears have a 2nd and 10, Fields rolls left and has his receiver’s running overs in the intermediate, a staple of this offense this season, and Fields picks the wrong guy and squeezes it to Equanimeous St. Brown on the sideline near the line for an incompletion instead of hitting Chase Claypool in the intermediate for a first down and some.
Here’s why this clip is important: as I said, this type of play, the rollout with the receivers running overs to the direction of the new launch point, has not only been a staple of the offensive gameplan this season, it’s also something I praised Fields for in recent weeks. So it’s a staple play, designed to Fields’ strengths, and for the most part, the Bears have found success in it this season because Fields has made the right decision on the throw.
But, here we see him make the wrong decision on a play that has become bread and butter for him. And it’s likely because by that point in the game, he had been flung around like a rag doll all afternoon and the internal clock and processing just wasn’t there anymore. So, that is why I have stressed that Fields should not have been in this game if, in fact, Matt Eberflus’ desire to the contrary was in the name of development.
There’s not much developmental value in garbage time snaps after taking a physical and mental beating all afternoon.
Even when you factor in the sacks, the hits, the lack of help, et cetera, et cetera, this was Justin Fields’ worst game of the season, even with the dazzling ground performance in the first quarter.
Fields has to be much better than he was through the air moving forward, regardless of the circumstances that are out of his control. Of course, let’s be clear: the coaching staff did him no favors on Sunday by keeping in that blowout for the so-called sake of development, only to see him take unnecessary hits and snaps with little to no real developmental impact whatsoever.