Justin Fields had two very good scoring drives against the Packers. He just didn’t have enough of them.
“I’m starting to find out that you’ve got to put drives together rather just have a good play here, have a good play there,” Fields said Wednesday. “I mean, because if you have a bad play in college, it’s easy to get that yardage you just lost the next play, where in the NFL, it’s not as easy.”
The Bears had other promising drives in their 24-14 loss to the Packers, but two of them — one at the end of each half — came up completely empty because of sacks taken on the edge of field goal range.
Monday, Nagy praised Fields for three specific sequences of plays, but made it clear that they need to have more. The last of those sequences was an impressive 10-play 80-yard touchdown drive at the start of the fourth quarter when the Bears trailed 17-7.
“We were challenged with some different things within that, whether it was a scramble, whether it was decision making, whether it was a throw,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “Those 11 plays right there, that was one of the better drives of the season. And for sure, I think, Justin's best.”
Nagy counted 11 plays because he was including the 16-yard touchdown run by Khalil Herbert that was nullified because of a questionable holding penalty on center Sam Mustipher. The fact that the Bears — and Fields in particular — were able to overcome that negative play made the drive even more impressive.
After two runs to start the drive, the Bears faced 3rd-and-3 on their own 27-yard-line. As the play started, a lot of space opened up on the left side and Fields started to run that way, likely thinking he could get the three yards with his legs. But linebacker De’Vondre Campbell was in the area and Fields kept scanning the field as he moved to his left. That’s when he spotted Allen Robinson, who had found space within the Packers’ zone defense. Fields identified the passing lane, reset his feet and fired a laser to Robinson for a 20-yard gain. That’s not an easy throw going against the grain, but he made it look easy.
On the very next play, the Bears used motion and play-action to hold the linebackers and get tight end Cole Kmet open for a gain of 21 yards. Just like that, the Bears had 41 yards on two plays.
Two plays later, on 2nd & 8 from the Packers’ 30-yard-line, the Bears ran a naked boot to the right, but nobody was open downfield. With the entire offensive line moving left, however, a wall developed on backside side of the play. When Fields realized no one was open, he scrambled back to the other side of the field and had the blocking to pick up 14 yards.
The very next play was the Herbert touchdown that was called back, giving the Bears a 1st-and-20 at the 26. But Fields completed three straight passes to get in the end zone, the last of which was a five-yard touchdown to Darnell Mooney.
“The very last play, the progression of timing from the five — they zoned us out. He had protection. He made a great throw,” Nagy said.
The Packers tried to get home with four, while dropping seven. The key was tight end Jimmy Graham’s route, because he took it very skinny to screen the linebacker before occupying the safety. That created some confusion and no one picked up Mooney, who appeared to be at least third in the progression based on where Fields’ eyes went.
“To magnify those 11 plays, we were able to go down and we got behind the sticks,” Nagy said. “We were able to overcome some penalties. But the decision-making, the scrambling from Justin, the big catches by the wide receivers and tight ends, the protection by the O-line, the runs when we needed them … to me, that signifies growth for him and for our offense. We just need to do more of that. We need to get more of that in the middle and not wait from the first start of the game to that drive there.”
— Nagy mentioned the middle of the game, and that’s where the drives stalled out, sometimes because of Fields. That’s why his grade ended up at 2.00, which is on the low-end of starting caliber. If that's the low end of his natural rookie ups-and-downs, he's going to be just fine.
— Second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson had a tough matchup against Davante Adams that he embraced. Overall, he did pretty well. If not for the 41-yard catch in the fourth quarter, Adams would have finished with three catches for 48 yards, which would have been more than respectable for Johnson. The problem is, the 41-yarder was on him and he compounded it by not hustling after Adams got by him. He anticipated safety Eddie Jackson would make the tackle, and he almost didn’t. Had Adams gone the distance, Johnson and Jackson both would have been to blame.
— Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack are forming the best pass rushing duo in the NFL right now. Both have grades of 4.33 on the season, which is just a tick below blue-chip territory. The only thing holding them back is their Week 1 game in Los Angeles. There’s a lot of season left though and both of them are playing near All-Pro levels right now.