It’s going to take a few weeks of limiting their sacks allowed to get the 2021 Chicago Bears Sackwatch back to a respectable place, but only giving up one sack week 4 against the Detroit Lions is a good start.
Their overall game plan was much more conscious of protecting the quarterback this week as opposed to whatever idiotic plan the Bears threw out there two Sundays ago against the Cleveland Browns. Sure there were plenty of film breakdowns done last week showing instances where rookie Justin Fields could have got rid of the ball quicker, but it would have been much smarter to protect their young franchise QB with more six and seven man protections, more play action, more of a commitment to the running game, and more moving pockets.
The Lions aren’t as good defensively as the Browns, but this week the Bears stuck with the run, they used less shotgun, they used more tight ends to block, and even used the I-Formation, all in an effort to keep Fields upright.
As critical as the analysts were of the Bears scheme in Cleveland, they were all mostly in favor of what the Bears did at home against Detroit.
Here’s a play action pass — from the I-Formation — where both backs had pass pro responsibilities before leaking out and tight end Cole Kmet stayed in to block. It’s basically a two man route and Fields has time to deliver a big strike to Allen Robinson.
#Bears— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) October 4, 2021
More schemed concepts in the pass game for QB Justin Fields.
Play-action + in-breakers (below). Vertical throws to Darnell Mooney. And CHI ran the ball with efficiency.
Fields on play-action vs. DET: 5-of-6 passing, 86 yards (14.33 YPA). @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/W0xpJe4vzv
And here’s a straight drop back pass, but running back David Montgomery has a check/release responsibility, and both tight ends stay in long enough to slow up the edge rushers on either side.
I'm in love with everything about this. pic.twitter.com/Ut1GblW0WL— Robert Mays (@robertmays) October 5, 2021
Just that extra little bit of help in the pass protection allows Fields to pop one off deep to Darnell Mooney.
Fields has a touchdown to check down mentality, meaning he’s gonna look for the big play first on many pass concepts before checking it to down for the easy pickup, and while that is so refreshing to see from a Bears QB, it’s also something that could get him in trouble.
He’ll need to work on speeding up his internal clock, and in processing what he sees faster, so that he’s able to recognize when it’s not there to pivot and find his outlet quicker.
The one sack allowed this week is an example of just that.
Sack 16 - 4th Quarter 10:06 - Charles Harris
The Bears were having success with play action, so they dialed another up on first down here in the fourth quarter, but this time Fields was too focused on another deep shot when he should have just took what the defense gave him. Fields already said in his post game presser that this sack was on him, and I agree.
Fields fakes the handoff then settles into his drop, and once he sets the ball should be on the way out. He holds on to it a tick to let the play develop further, but once he decides to not let it loose deep he should have immediately come to his check down and running back Damien Williams in the right flat. It’s a split second decision that he didn’t make, and then the pressure from his left should have been another mental nudge telling him to check it down right now.
As to the block by Kmet coming across the formation, yes you’d like to see him stick with linebacker Charles Harris a bit longer, but these two players are running at each other and physics tells us it’s a tough ask of him. It’s not like Kmet was set and prepared to take on the rush, so my thought is Kmet guessed to take away the edge, but the quick spin by Harris caught him off guard. Kmet is just coming down to get in the defender’s way, and besides, that ball should have been out.
Also, at some point you’re going to see Kmet simply chip that edge rusher on the way to the left flat and have the QB hit him on the move with nothing but green grass in front of him.
Here’s the All-22 shot so you can see what Fields was looking at downfield.
Was there a deep shot there? Perhaps, but the window in the NFL opens and closes quicker than he’s used to from the Big 10. Williams in the right flat was his read when the Lion defender drifts back into his zone, but had the Lion stayed horizontal to defend the flat, then Fields would have had a better window to hit Jimmy Graham on the ten yard out.
Here’s the individual 2021 Sackwatch tally after 4 weeks:
Jason Peters - 4
Justin Fields - 3
Sacks happen - 2.5
Cody Whitehair - 2
Germain Ifedi - 2
James Daniels - 1.5
Sam Mustipher - .5
Cole Kmet - .5
Here’s how the Sackwatch has looked through the years after 4 games.
2010 - 18 Martz
2011 - 15 Martz
2012 - 13 Tice
2013 - 6 Trestman
2014 - 8 Trestman
2015 - 9 Gase
2016 - 11 Loggians
2017 - 8 Loggains
2018 - 10 Nagy
2019 - 9 Nagy
2020 - 8 Nagy
2021 - 16 Nagy