Putting a rookie quarterback behind an offensive line that struggles in pass protection, and in an offensive scheme that isn’t quite sure how to protect the passer, is a perfect storm for what we’re seeing transpire with the Chicago Bears this season. The Bears lead the league both in sacks allowed (26) and in sack percentage (12.6), and they are on a pace to have the worst sack percentage in 15 years. The 2006 Oakland Raiders were sacked 13.0% of the time with rookie Andrew Walter starting 8 games at quarterback and Aaron Brooks starting the other 8 in his final season in the NFL.
Rookie Justin Fields has been taken down on 14.4% of his passing attempts so far this season, and you need to go back even further to find the quarterback with a worse sack percentage that that. In 2002 rookie David Carr was dropped 14.6% of the time while playing for the expansion Houston Texans, and the 76 sacks he took that year is the all-time high. You never want to have your rookie QB mentioned in the same breath as the older Carr brother, so hopefully the Bears and Fields can get things figured out.
These two Tweets from Next Gen Stats show how quickly the pressure is getting home on the Bears this year.
The Bears cross the 50% pressure probability threshold at 3.8 seconds after the snap since Week 3, a full half second earlier than the NFL average (4.3 seconds).— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 25, 2021
Bears Pressure Probability by Time to Throw
2.5s: 9.2% (NFL Avg: 5.9%)
4s: 61.1% (NFL Avg: 39.8%)#DaBears
Fields has been to blame for his fair share of sacks allowed this season, but the offensive scheme, avoidance of play action, and outright ignorance by failing to help with extra blockers and/or chip help has attributed to plenty as well.
This year’s pass protection has been troubling as evidenced by this list.
Historical Sackwatch after 7 games:
2010 - 31 Martz
2011 - 21 Martz
2012 - 25 Tice
2013 -11 Trestman
2014 - 17 Trestman
2015 - 13 Gase
2016 - 13 Loggains
2017 - 17 Loggains
2018 - 16 Nagy
2019 - 19 Nagy
2020 - 15 Nagy
2021 - 26 Nagy
Now let’s dive into the latest 4 sacks the Bears have allowed.
Sack 23 - 1st Quarter 14:20 - Antoine Winfield Jr.
On the second play of the game, the Buccaneers dialed up a perfectly timed blitz that caught the Bears by surprise. The Bears have two tight ends on the right and they were trying to give the illusion that they were running to that side, but look at the offensive line. They aren’t really selling an inside zone run, so the linebackers just immediately drop back expecting a pass.
It’s a tough ask for running back Khalil Herbert to give the fake to his right then pop back to the left for the blitzer, but when the defense is blitzing like how Antoine Winfield Jr. is blitzing, then Herbert is supposed to skip his fake and go immediately to pass protection. But don’t take my word for it, take Olin Kreutz’s and Jason McKie’s. The two former Bears both Tweeted out that Herbert was to “abort” the play action and focus on Winfield coming free off the edge, and I agree with the two ex-pros.
Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles blitzes a lot, and with a rookie Bears’ backfield he was going to test them.
Also I’m not sure what left tackle Jason Peters is doing. It’s almost like he was expecting left guard Cody Whitehair to be there for inside help, but Whitehair went to his A-Gap to help his center with the powerful Vita Vea at the nose.
If Winfield didn’t get to Fields so fast, then Peters’ guy (Shaq Barrett) may have, but this one is on Herbert.
Sack 24 - 1st Quarter 2:13 - Shaq Barrett
These next two sacks allowed are going to be very easy to break down. This is second year pro Lachavious Simmons at right tackle making his first ever start, and it’s coming in his second ever appearance in a game. Simmons got the surprise start because Elijah Wilkinson was put on the Reserve/COVID-19 list earlier on Sunday.
Simmons is simply overmatched by Barrett’s speed off the edge. Maybe a tight end or a chipping Herbert could have helped him out here.
Perhaps Simmons could have taken a better angle to cut Barrett off, but considering he got ZERO right tackle reps all week in practice he was probably just concerned with having his kick step basics down.
Not getting your second string right tackle some reps during the week is coaching malpractice. And whether that falls on head coach Matt Nagy, offensive line coach Juan Castillo, on another offensive assistant, it’s inexcusable.
Sack 25 - 2nd Quarter 10:27 - Jason Pierre-Paul
Simmons was beat with speed again on this one, but this time Jason Pierre-Paul wanted to get in on the fun. Pierre-Paul isn’t quite as fast as Barrett, so he needed to rip under Simmons’ arms to ensure he cleared the block. It was just too easy, and this was the last play the Bears had Simmons out there.
Alex Bars entered the game on the next series for the Bears, but by this time the game was already out of hand at 21 to 0. The Bucs didn’t blitz as much against Bars, nor did they run many stunts at him, but he still performed much better than Simmons did. I graded the right tackle play from each player and talked about it on our latest Bear & Balanced podcast.
Sack 26 - 2nd Quarter 2:00 - Jason Pierre-Paul
This is a tough one, because it was a 4th and 4 at the two minute warning, so Fields was just trying to get a first down to keep the drive alive. Fields starts off reading the right side, and the Buccaneers have everything covered up. He sees a lane open up in front of him, but when he takes off left tackle Jason Peters loses his leverage against Pierre-Paul.
Peters has no way of knowing his QB is going to dart forward, so there’s no possible way for him to know to cut JPP off from coming back inside. The same thing happens to Bars on the right side, with his guy slipping the block and having an angle to pursue the quarterback. Fields was an inch away from escaping the grasp, which would have resulted in a first down.
Good coverage by Tampa Bay coupled with nice hustle from Pierre-Paul puts this one in the sacks happen category.
Here’s the individual 2021 Sackwatch tally after 7 weeks:
Justin Fields - 6
Sacks happen - 4
Jason Peters - 4
Cody Whitehair - 3.5
Germain Ifedi - 3
Lachavious Simmons - 2
James Daniels - 1.5
Khalil Herbert - 1
Sam Mustipher - .5
Cole Kmet - .5
With more than one sack on Sunday against the Bears, Pierre-Paul joined a big club of Chicago opponents this season that have accomplished the feat.
The #Bears have allowed more than 1 sack to 7 different players this season.— Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. (@wiltfongjr) October 26, 2021
W1, Rams: Justin Hollins 2
W2, Bengals: Trey Hendrickson 1.5
W3, Browns: Myles Garrett 4.5, Jadeveon Clowney 2
W5, Raiders: Yannick Ngakoue 2
W6, Packers: Kenny Clark 2
W7, Bucs: Jason Pierre-Paul 2