Bears Film Study: In potential QB mismatch, time to throw was great equalizer
In some ways, this is shaping up as a perfect Bears season. Quarterback Justin Fields is flourishing despite a low-quality supporting cast and they're still on pace to land a top-10 draft pick.
Maybe they could end up auctioning off that pick to a team desperate for a QB. But for the time being, the Bears will suffer from the numerous poor draft decisions of the Ryan Pace era.
Fields has been amazing over the past few weeks, but the obvious concern is the lack of running-QB success in NFL history. Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick made it to a Super Bowl, then faded. Robert Griffin III had one brilliant season. Lamar Jackson is still playing well, but hasn't done much in the playoffs.
The running QBs that have succeeded are the guys who can scramble, buy time and make great throws, like Russell Wilson or Roger Staubach.
The Bears should stay focused on limiting the number of times Fields gets hit hard. They'd done a decent job of getting him safely out of bounds, but on Sunday against Detroit, he took 5 hits in the first half, then was sacked on consecutive plays at the end.
Really, the story of Sunday's game was time to throw. Jared Goff could sit and wait for his receivers to get open, which led to lengthy drives.
The Bears were already thin on the edge after trading Robert Quinn. With Al-Quadin Mohammed not playing, they couldn't muster much of anything in the way of a pass rush. The snap counts alone were alarming, with Trevis Gipson playing 89% of the defensive snaps and rookie Dominique Robinson 87%. Robinson actually played a decent game, Gipson not so much.
On Detroit's first touchdown drive, Goff converted a third-and-15, a second-and-13, then hit Amon-Ra St. Brown on consecutive plays to gain 42 yards.
The key play on the go-ahead TD drive was a 44-yard pass to Tom Kennedy. The Bears blitzed LB Nick Morrow on the play, but he couldn't get home. Goff had time to wait for Kennedy to reverse field against Jaylon Johnson and find the middle wide open.
On the other side, the Bears may have to start all over on the offensive line. Their group can do a decent job of run-blocking, but continues to struggle with pass protection. On the fourth-quarter pick-six, nose guard Isaiah Buggs was barely slowed down by Sam Mustipher. Fields should have sailed the ball out of bounds, but he also shouldn't have a 300-pound lineman in his face.
Braxton Jones at left tackle is another leaky spot, but all five Bears linemen were beat on the pass rush at some point.
Follow the script:
There was plenty to like about the Bears' opening script. They started with a misdirection QB read for 28 yards, followed with a power pitch featuring the fullback, then ran a bootleg pass and jet sweep. Total yards gained: 60 in 4 plays.
One thing that would be helpful is a first down drop back, when the opponent isn't loaded up for the pass rush, where Fields can get comfortable and get off a solid throw early in the game. The Bears did do that to open the third quarter and Fields hit Mooney over the middle for 16 yards.
After falling behind at the end, the Bears' final drive was ugly. They won't win playoff games with Fields doing more running than passing, but he needs better blocking and a go-to receiver.
Let's go with a two-play sequence, starting with the final snap of the first quarter. The Bears tried a max-protect pass with just two receivers in the pattern, and still gave up pressure. Detroit outside linebacker Julian Okwara lined up wide, then blitzed, overpowered David Montgomery and brought Fields down.
The next play was third-and-14, so the Bears tried to run three receivers beyond the sticks. But not only were the receivers well-covered, Fields didn't have time to wait for an opening. Cody Whitehair got beat by John Cominsky, then Jones was flagged for holding after Fields left the pocket.
While the Bears need plenty of help on the defensive line, there might be a nice future for the linebacker combo of Morrow and rookie and Lake Zurich native Jack Sanborn. ... The Bears had some legitimate gripes Sunday. But after the possible pass interference against Cole Kmet wasn't called, they made their own bad luck. Kyler Gordon had a clear shot for a sack on Goff, missed, then was called for a late hit after the Lions QB ran for 10 yards.
Also Jaylon Johnson grabbed Amon-Ra St. Brown by the face mask on the play before the illegal use of hands penalty wiped out Sanborn's interception. Maybe the referee on that side was on high alert.