Film study: How can Bears complement Fields' running skills?
Now that the rest of the NFL world is up to speed on the type of weapon Justin Fields can be, the next step is for the Bears to figure out how to actually win games without having to rely on the QB to set a rushing record. Fields runs accounted for roughly half the team's total yards.
First of all, there is no reason to curtail Fields' running. The designed run plays where Fields runs a one-man sweep have been fantastic because they force defenses to play sideline-to-sideline, have created some nice gains and Fields almost never gets touched because he can run out of bounds. Until teams find a way to stop it, the Bears should run that at least five times a game.
Problems on first and second down left Fields in third-down scramble mode too many times on Sunday. Play-calling remains key here. As everyone already knows, Bears receivers often struggle to get open and the line doesn't give Fields a lot of time to throw, so quick throws, rub routes and crossing patterns need to remain a staple.
Sure, it's a little depressing if GM Ryan Poles thinks Chase Claypool is better than any receiver the Bears could sign in free-agency. Maybe the former Steeler will thrive with a change of scenery, but for now the Bears shouldn't forget about Dante Pettis, who was starting to emerge as Fields' big-play target.
Against Miami, Pettis got a target, Claypool was targeted 6 times. Pettis gained 12 yards, Claypool gained 13. The point is make Claypool prove he's an upgrade before pulling Pettis off the field.
The Bears saw a lot of five-man fronts from the Dolphins and had trouble getting the non-QB run game going. The Miami debut of ex-Bronco Bradley Chubb got the attention, but the Dolphins have a couple of budding stars in linebacker Jaelan Phillips and nose tackle Raekwon Davis. The Bears offensive line typically fares better when run-blocking than pass-protecting, but even with extra tight ends, they had trouble moving the Dolphins.
The problems with the passing game remain the same. Sometimes there's no one open, sometimes Fields gets jumpy in the pocket (with good reason), sometimes he doesn't see the field.
One interesting example is from Fields' 61-yard touchdown run. He really should have thrown to an open Darnell Mooney over the middle for a first down. But feeling some heat, Fields stepped up in the pocket, saw Mooney a bit too late and thought about throwing, then changed his mind and took off for the end zone. Credit Mooney for hustling to throw a block that helped Fields hit pay dirt.
Rush to judgment:
I've seen a few different complaints about the Bears' lack of pass rush, but there were several times when the Bears forced Tua Tagovailoa into incompletions. Pro-football-reference.com gave the Bears 3 pressures and I'd say they missed at least one. I'd credit Justin Jones with 2 pressures. The pass rush helped keep Miami off the board just before halftime, when the Dolphins missed a field goal.
The Dolphins' first play of the third quarter was a good illustration of what opponents have to deal with. Tagovailoa delivered the ball two seconds after the snap and hit Tyreek Hill well downfield for a 22-yard gain. Two great receivers, a decisive QB and solid scheme are a tough combination. Hopefully Poles sees this in the Bears' future.
An argument could be made for the Bears defense playing reasonably well on Sunday. One of Miami's touchdowns came on a blocked punt and the Bears got three straight defensive stops late in the game to give themselves a chance.
Tagovailoa completed 21 of 30 passes for 302 yards, and it wasn't even a special day for him. It was his fourth-best completion percentage of the season, his third-best yardage total, he's thrown 101 passes without an interception in the last three games and the Dolphins are 6-0 when the former Alabama star plays a full game. Not bad.
This is a bit of a deep cut, but the choice here is a 28-yard run by Jeff Wilson on the second play of the second half. The Bears started with eight in the box, so they should have be well-equipped to stop the run. But this was a designed cutback and the Bears didn't recognize it.
The three linebackers and safety Jaquon Brisker slid in unison, reacting to Miami's motion. But on the handoff, Nicholas Morrow actually left his lane, rushed in front of teammate Jack Sanborn and both got caught up in the wash. Meanwhile, the Dolphins sent tight end Durham Smythe across the formation to put a wham block on defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad. Smythe didn't connect with Muhammad or Brisker, but neither was in position to make the play. Brisker eyed Smythe like he was ready to cover the tight end if he went out for a pass, meanwhile Wilson was steaming past him 10 feet away.
In his first NFL start, Sanborn seemed to do fine. Maybe Roquan Smith would have gotten more than 7 tackles, but Sanborn was usually in the right spot. As mentioned above, there's likely some chemistry to be developed among the linebackers.