Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings was the best the Chicago Bears' pass protection has looked this season. They still gave up a couple of sacks, but Justin Fields was only hit three times, and he mostly played the game with good awareness of where the pressure was coming from. He was smart with the football, and he took what the defense gave him.
Fields is now five games into their new offense, and he seemed the most comfortable he's been all year, and when asked if that was the case, he agreed.
"I would say so," Fields said via the team's site. "I mean, just trying to stay calm, I think. When I first got here, you see big guys flying around, D-linemen going fast. You just think you have to speed everything up. But I'm just starting to figure out you've got to play within your own rhythm and the way you know how to play and staying calm in the pocket."
Passer rating is not the be-all-end-all stat, but the 118.8 that Fields put up in Minnesota was the first time he ever hit three digits in his young career.
This game’s 2nd half revival by the Bears was one of the games that had those who utilized arbitrage betting tips, hanging on the edge of their seats.
Here's how I had the two sacks allowed by the Bears this week.
Sack 17 - 2nd Quarter 14:36 - Danielle Hunter
The Vikings' defense does a good job in coverage on this 3rd and 11 play, and Fields has nowhere to go when the pressure gets to him after about 2.5 seconds. ESPN's Pass Block Win Rate is 2.5 seconds, so if this play officially got to that magic number, then all the Chicago o-linemen got a "win" on this. Fields scans the defense from right to left, but he doesn't like what he sees, so he tries to evade the simultaneous pressure he feels from his left and up the middle.
But before getting into the pass pro, look at the Bears' routes. There are three primary receivers out in the pattern, with the tight end and running back sneaking out late, but the spacing of the wide outs didn't do Fields any favors. The coverage was tight, but it wouldn't surprise me if someone ran the wrong route.
As for the protection, left tackle Braxton Jones met D.J. Wonnum (#98) and moved him around the pocket. Ideally, Jones could have taken him a bit deeper, but he pushed him back enough to give Fields a chance to step up.
Ross Blacklock (#96) works to the outside of right guard Teven Jenkins, and he was able to do so because Jenkins overcommitted to stopping the bullrush. Jenkins anchors, and he wasn't ready to move his feet, but he recovered nicely and pushed him in the backfield to give Fields a chance to step up.
Blacklock collides with Wonnum as Fields escapes forward, and as we see so often, a defender slips a block and makes the sack.
The chip from Cole Kmet slowed Danielle Hunter and widened his pass rush, so right tackle Larry Borom was never able to engage him. Hunter gets the sack, but I can't blame Borom for the defenders making a nice read on the play. I can't blame Jones or Jenkins because while it wasn't perfect, they still managed to get their guys past the pocket to give the QB a chance to step up. I also can't blame Fields because at the top of his drop he has nowhere to go with the ball, and on his climb no one comes open either.
Good coverage (and/or a bad route) and a nice play by Hunter make this a Sacks Happen.
Sack 18 - 4th Quarter 2:00 - D.J. Wonnum and Za’Darius Smith
This was a 1st and 10 after Fields completed consecutive passes to David Montgomery for 11 yards on the drive. The Bears shift in two players to help the pass protection, but the Vikings do a nice job by formation in forcing the Bears' hand. I wonder if the Bears would have kept things spread out if they had more of a chance for success on this play.
The sideline All-22 shows that by Chicago condensing the formation with David Montgomery to the backfield, Dante Pettis tightening his split to the right, and Cole Kmet coming to the left wing, they bring in additional threats the Bears' protection needs to account for.
Minnesota rotated to a single high safety while playing man-to-man everywhere else. The other safety came up for Kmet, their corners took Chicago's receivers, and rookie linebacker Brian Asamoah II (#33) was either in a spy on Fields or responsible for Montgomery if he released. Fields just needed enough time for someone to shake loose.
The behind-the-line-of-scrimmage All-22 shows a window for Fields to go to Darnell Mooney over the middle. It'd be a bang-bang, flick-of-the-wrist type of throw, but that seems like his first read, so he should have fired it.
The edge pressure from his left may have spooked him, but the protection completely broke down once he started running around. I'm putting this one on Fields for missing Mooney, but there was a pass pro issue somewhere.
The Vikings are showing six threats up near the line of scrimmage, and no one seemed overly concerned with Wonnum off Chicago's left edge. It either should have been tight end Kmet staying on him for more than a token chip, left tackle Jones popping outside to take him one on one, or running back Montgomery responsible for going out straight to him, although D-Mo is likely coached to check for inside threats first.
Minnesota only rushed five, but the condensed formation made Chicago account for the defenders to the right.
This was a nice look by the Vikes, but Fields should have made them pay by throwing to his number 1 receiver.
Here's the individual Sackwatch tally after 5 weeks:
Justin Fields - 5.5
Braxton Jones - 3.5
Sacks Happen - 3.5
Larry Borom - 2.5
Sam Mustipher - 1.5
Lucas Patrick - 1
Khalil Herbert - .5
Here are the total sacks allowed by the Bears through Week 5 going back to the Mike Martz era:
2010 - 21 Martz
2011 - 18 Martz
2012 - 14 Tice
2013 - 9 Trestman
2014 - 12 Trestman
2015 - 11 Gase
2016 - 11 Loggains
2017 - 9 Loggains
2018 - 12 Nagy
2019 - 13 Nagy
2020 - 11 Nagy
2021 - 18 Nagy
2022 - 18 Getsy
With a short week, there will be no video Sackwatch, and truth be told, we may scrap the idea and put our efforts elsewhere. Sackwatch has a very loyal but comparatively small group that checks it out each week, and doing two versions is extremely time-consuming for such a little return.
Thanks to all of you guys that check out Sackwatch each week!