The Chicago Bears dropped a heartbreaker back on Monday Night Football to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but there’s been a positive buzz circulating the team because of the performance of rookie quarterback Justin Fields. Moral victories won’t get you in the playoffs, but form a fan perspective seeing so many national analysts heaping praise on Fields has us feeling good for the future.
His highlights have been all over social media, but what would taking a deeper look inside the numbers from the Steelers game tell us about how he performed? The stat sheet read 17 of 29 passing for 291 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, an 89.9 passer rating, and 8 rushes for 45 yards.
But what about the Next Gen Stats?
Our friends over at Zebra Technologies, the people behind the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, sent me a few interesting Bears related nuggets, and the most interesting had to do with Justin Fields.
Here’s some of what they had...
Justin Fields regularly pushed the ball downfield, completing 9 of 16 passes that traveled 10+ air yards for 225 yards and a TD (+9.6% Completion Percentage Over Expected). He averaged 15.7 air yards per attempt, the 2nd most in a game this season. Fields is now 2nd overall this year with an average air yards per attempt of 10.
Fields’ 50-yard completion to Marquise Goodwin traveled 52.5 yards in the air, marking the longest pass by air distance of his career and the 1st of over 50 yards. He was less aggressive with his targets on Monday Night Football, as he threw into a tight window on 13.8% of his passes compared to his season average of 19.3% (4th highest).
Fields was running at 14.4 mph at the time of his TD throw to Darnell Mooney which had a completion probability of 28.4%, the 15th most improbable completion of the week. Fields had another pass that was within the top 20 most improbable completions of the week (8th), a 28-yard reception by Jimmy Graham which had a completion probability of 24.3%.
Fields did have an unfortunate interception, and that was noteworthy as well.
Cameron Heyward picked off Justin Fields on a play where the ball was in the air for just 0.1 sec, the least amount of air time on an INT in the Next Gen Stats era. The record was previously held by Jamie Collins, set on Sunday vs. Carolina (0.17 sec). In fact, these are the only 2 INT that had < 0.25 sec of air time since 2016.
The Bears got their RB1 back for the game, and here’s their statistical nugget about him.
David Montgomery re-established himself as the Bears’ lead back this week, as he played a season-high 85% of snaps (49 snaps). Khalil Herbert played 17% of the snaps (10 snaps) against the Steelers.
Montgomery had a nice overall game, but I’d like to see the backfield split with some more playing time for the rookie Herbert. In Pittsburgh the Bears gave Montgomery 15 touches to just 4 for Herbert. The rookie adds some juice to the offense and he’ll keep D-Mo fresher.
Here’s a Next Gen Stat about Pittsburgh’s quarterback and also the Bears defense.
Ben Roethlisberger’s 10-yard TD pass to Pat Freiermuth marked the smallest window on a TD for Roethlisberger since Week 9, 2016 (0.5 yards). The throw had a completion probability of 25.4%, the 10th most improbable completion of the week. Roethlisberger and Freiermuth connected on another TD on a play where Big Ben held the ball for 4.8 sec. The pass was Roethlisberger’s longest time to throw on a TD pass since Week 11, 2018 vs. Jacksonville.
That first TD they reference was against corner Kindle Vildor on a play where Vildor was also flagged for interference. That other one was the play when the Bears’ defensive line stunt got three players all caught up in the same area, which made the Steelers’ pass protection far too easy.