Over their last two games, the Chicago Bears have suddenly morphed into a run-heavy offense, all while their rookie quarterback has played well despite not throwing the ball a ton.
In wins against the Lions and Raiders, Justin Fields attempted a combined 37 passes, while the Bears handed the ball off to their running backs 68 times. The offense hasn’t necessarily been explosive, but it’s been efficient enough to complement a good defense and win games.
“I’m simply doing whatever I need to do to help my team win,” Fields said this week. “If that’s hand the ball off 80 times during a game or throw for however so many yards, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not worried about comparisons between touchdowns, stats. I’m worried about winning. That’s it.”
With Fields’ talent, it is not surprising there’s been a call to allow him to throw the ball downfield more often. The rookie was able to complete five passes of at least 20 air yards against the Lions in Week 4, but that number dropped to zero in Week 5.
“I felt that after the game, but I just blame me for that. Seriously,” Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Thursday. “When the game is going that way, that’s just how we thought to win the game. I’d rather have 500 yards, but winning is more important.”
Patience, friends, because there are signs that the stat sheet could be filling up for Fields in the near future. This might surprise you, but according to Next Gen Stats, Fields actually leads all NFL quarterbacks in deep pass percentage.
Fields has also been very efficient over the last two games when he has thrown the football. He just hasn’t been asked to do it a ton — and that’s OK when you’re also running the ball well and winning games.
“We would always like to have the ability — I’ll use the word balance — but balance of being able to spread the field,” Lazor said. “Quicker throws, medium-range chunks, deep throws down the field in the pass game. The way the defense plays might dictate the way you’re going in if you’re heaver in one area or the other, the way we want to attack them.”
But the Bears’ run-heavy tendencies are now on film and it’s only a matter of time before Fields is asked to carry more of the load. It’s possible that even happens this weekend against the Packers at Soldier Field, especially if the Bears aren’t playing with a lead like they have the last two weeks. The score and situation usually impacts the level of aggressiveness on offense.
“We have a big call sheet. We have a lot,” Lazor said. “Some of them you think are staring at you on the sheet, but then you look up at the scoreboard and you see the time clicking, ticking down and … you have to do what's best to win that game at that moment. So I think we have them ready to roll. And I'll tell you if we need them, Sunday.”
The trust factor with a rookie quarterback is huge, and there’s no question the Bears are being somewhat cautious with Fields right now. But the coaching staff also loves his aggressiveness and the big plays are going to come as he gets more comfortable. There were already plenty against the Lions, Lazor particularly enjoyed the touchdown pass against the Raiders when tight end Jesper Horsted was barely open in the end zone.
“A lot of guys come out of college and they look for their receivers to be wide open and (Horsted) wasn’t wide open,” Lazor said. “He was more NFL open and he still gave him a chance. That’s the big thing I took from it. That was just good.”
The advanced numbers — and the tape — indicate there’s a lot more good coming from Fields, especially downfield.