One of the most exciting moments in football is the deep bomb when a play breaks down. The quarterback evades the pass rush and scrambles to buy some time. The wide receivers see what’s going on, ditch their routes and try to get open for a big play. The quarterback has to make a tough throw on the run, and the wideout usually has to reel in the ball in-stride. When they work, those plays go for huge gains or touchdowns, because it puts the defense in a tough spot.
“If a defense is in zone, their eyes are on the quarterback,” said Allen Robinson. “So once he kinda scrambles out and breaks the pocket, the defenders now have to look for the man to figure out where everybody is, because in zone coverage their eyes are on the quarterback… As he starts to scramble now, all those zones shift. You might have people running from the left side of the field to the right side of the field. Or you may have people going deep. Or you might have一 whatever the case may be, as the quarterback moves, the zone starts to move.”
Sounds easy, right? In reality, these broken plays are pretty tough to pull off, because they’re filled with subtle intricacies. Where does the quarterback want the wide receiver to run? Where should the receiver expect the ball once it’s in the air? How do you sense the timing of the play? It’s a lot of “feel,” and not a lot of Xs and Os, and to succeed the QB and WR need chemistry to stay in sync.
The Bears are still building that chemistry, however. Justin Fields has only made four starts. He also didn’t get many first-team reps over training camp and the preseason because the team also had to get Andy Dalton ready to run the offense. So when those broken play opportunities arose in Week 6 against the Packers, Fields often took sacks, threw incompletions and in one case lofted up an easy interception.
One of those incompletions nearly went for another interception, but Packers safety Adrian Amos was barely out of bounds when he caught the ball, so the Bears retained possession. After the play, Fields ran up to Robinson in the endzone to go over what happened, because clearly the two were not on the same page.
“Stuff like that, that’s what you need to be able to see those moments and say, ‘OK, cool, this is what you want,’” Robinson said.
For Robinson, that communication is the best way to improve in those moments moving forward. It’s that communication, right after he and Fields fail to connect, that also gives Robinson confidence they’ll have a better chance to hit on a big play in the future.
“It’s tough to get those looks in practice,” Robinson said. “Sometimes maybe because a play might be blown dead, or throughout training camp, guys are laying off the quarterback. So as he’s making guys miss and stuff like that, when you go through training camp and go through practice, some of those plays may be blown dead. So now being able to get in the game, like, OK, we have these plays that are going on for five, six, seven seconds, as far as understanding what we want to get accomplished once that starts to happen.
“You know, being like, ‘Ok, cool, I felt this. This is what I felt.’ Just communication and being decisive with whatever is going on, moreso than having set rules or it being practiced. You know what I’m saying? It’s about saying, ‘Cool, this is what he likes, this is what we want to get accomplished when this breaks down.’ So if you have a certain route, you might have an idea of, ok, I may do this, or I may do that.”
The Bears will need more big plays to keep pace with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 7, and if they can accelerate their chemistry development it should help.
“If you get an explosive run or pass, you know, that's a fifth of the field, 20-yarders,” Robinson said. “So if you're able to get a couple of plays like that it really shrinks the field down and you're really starting to put the pressure on the defense.”