Fields’ 11 passes vs. Packers don’t tell full story of game plan originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – A quick glance at the box score of the Bears‘ 27-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers would tell you quarterback Justin Fields only threw the ball 11 times. That low number has led to several days of questions about whether or not the Bears trust the second-year quarterback to air it out.
But the 11 passes don’t tell the entire story. Per Pro Football Focus, Fields dropped back 17 times at Lambeau Field, including three sacks and three scrambles. Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Thursday that he called a fairly even run-pass split, noting Fields opted to tuck-and-run on several pass plays.
The problem wasn’t the play-calling but simply the limited number of plays the Bears ran.
“We only had 42 plays. Called 19 or 20 passes,” Getsy said Thursday. “So, that was pretty spot on to how we wanted to play that game. What was the total attempts? 11 or 12 total attempts? His touchdown was a pass play that he took and made something happen. The play right before the fourth-and-1 was a pass play that he took and ran. I think it’s part of it. I know that it’s the NFL, everyone is throwing it 30, 40 times a game.
“But we only had 42 snaps and when you run the ball the way that we did, I think you have to make sure you’re running the ball too. That’s part of it and it’s our job each week as we evaluate the opponent, what gives us the best chance to succeed and where are our matchups favorable to us.”
The Bears marched down the field on their first drive, going 71 yards in seven plays. They took a 7-3 lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by Fields.
But the offense stalled after that. The Bears ran just 10 plays for the rest of the half, going three-and-out on three consecutive drives before kneeling it out.
Running only seventeen plays in a half is simply unacceptable. After running the ball down the Packers’ throats on the opening drive, the offense went away from David Montgomery and found itself behind the sticks due to several execution issues.
On Wednesday, Fields was adamant he didn’t view the low number of pass attempts as a sign the Bears don’t have confidence in him. He believes in Getsy’s offensive vision.
“I have a say into what pass plays I like, what concepts I like,” Fields said. “But in terms of when we’re going to call a play, how many passes, how many runs we’re going to call, that’s Luke’s job and everybody in the building knows that Luke knows what he’s doing. We put full trust in him knowing that he’s going to put us in the best position to win.”
Fields’ usage wasn’t the only offensive decision that drew criticism from the Week 2 loss. Getsy and head coach Matt Eberflus’ decision to run a quarterback power on fourth-and-goal from the inch line in the fourth quarter has also been nitpicked.
Getsy had no hesitation in saying he’d call that play again if he had a do-over.
“We love that play,” Getsy said. “We didn’t execute it properly. For whatever reason, we kind of saw something, we were seeing little ghosts a little bit upfront. They were able to get penetration where we should have had two linemen on one to stop that penetration which kind of got Lucas [Patrick] off a little bit instead of cleaning that gap. And then it would have just been Lucas with 59 in the hole, and then Justin still would have had to run through some contact.
“But, no, we knew. That was our plan. We talked about it all week. We went over every front that they present and we had plenty of time. There was a stoppage in play for the replay, right? We knew what was coming. That was exactly what we wanted, we just didn’t execute it well enough.”
The conversation surrounding Fields’ usage requires nuance, something that generally doesn’t make its way into our debate-filled, social-media-centric world.
It’s fair to say that Fields has only thrown the ball 28 times in two games while also noting that the Bears played the first game in a monsoon. The game plan Sunday called for more pass plays than were attempted in Green Bay. It’s also fair to note that 11 passes, or 17 dropbacks, still aren’t enough in a game where you trail by two scores for 35 minutes.
Yes, the running game was working. Perhaps the Bears should have stuck with Montgomery earlier in the game instead of giving him just two touches in the final three full drives of the first half. Leaning on the run game early on could have opened up more play-action opportunities.
Hindsight is always 20/20.
But if this season is about Fields’ development, the passing game must be more creative. The play-action and bootleg game need to become a more prevalent staple of the attack.
The bottom line is you can say the Bears trust Fields and need to let him do more. Not everything is black and white. This certainly isn’t.
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