The Chicago Bears' pass protection has taken a step back through four games this season. They are on the same pace as a year ago with 16 sacks allowed, but this season quarterback Justin Fields has been dropped 19.3% of the time, and in 2022 Chicago had a sack percentage of 15.8.
According to Pro Football Focus, Fields has been pressured on 41.75% of his dropbacks, which is the most in the NFL. There's plenty of blame to go around for their protection breakdowns, including the backs and tight ends, the scheme, Fields himself, and of course the five guys up front, but if Fields has nowhere to go with the ball, then some of the blame needs to go to the receivers too. PFF has Chicago's pass catchers as considered "open" or "wide open" on only 36% of Fields' dropbacks, which is also the worst in the league.
Here are the total Bears' sacks allowed through Week 4 going back to the Mike Martz era:
2010 - 18 Martz
2011 - 15 Martz
2012 - 13 Tice
2013 - 6 Trestman
2014 - 8 Trestman
2015 - 9 Gase
2016 - 11 Loggains
2017 - 8 Loggains
2018 - 10 Nagy
2019 - 9 Nagy
2020 - 8 Nagy
2021 - 16 Nagy
2022 - 16 Getsy
We're doing a video version of Sackwatch this year, with a bonus play breakdown on something positive from the Bears. Robert Schmitz is editing and directing the segment, and since he's a brand new father (congrats again!), his time will occasionally, and understandably, be dedicated elsewhere. But we will eventually get to them each week, and we'll put them here and on our 2nd City Gridiron channel once ready.
Here’s our Bears vs Giants video Sackwatch!
We know we're a week behind, so stay tuned for the week 3 video Sackwatch asap.
Read on for my traditional Sackwatch breakdown...
Sack 11 - 1st Quarter 3:37 - Jihad Ward
The Bears try for a play-action bootleg on 1st and 10, and Fields needs to just take what the defense gives him. The New York Giants do a nice job rotating to cover Chicago's receivers here, but as soon as Fields turns back towards the play and the backside defender, Jihad Ward (#55), rushes, Fields has to fire the ball into the flat for tight end Cole Kmet. The throw would need to lead Kmet to the sideline, but it would have been a safe, positive play on first down, and then it'd be up to Kmet to break the tackle from the safety for more yards.
This one is on Fields for thinking he'd be better off trying to sneak back inside Ward, who played his contain perfectly.
Sack 12 - 2nd Quarter 11:03 - Tae Crowder
The Giants got the Bears on this a-gap blitz a couple of times, and Tae Crowder gets to Fields untouched. It's a common blitz that N.Y. defensive coordinator Wink Martindale calls to stress an interior, and the Bears are in position to pick it up had they recognized it. Running back Khalil Herbert should be taking the second linebacker through, but for some reason center Sam Mustipher turns immediately to him right on this play.
If Mustipher sees this, he stays home for the first blitzer, leaving Herbert for Crowder. I have to pin this sack on Mustipher here.
Earlier this week former NFL QB Trent Dilfer was on WSCR in Chicago, and he talked about this play and some of the Bears' protection issues.
Sack 13 - 2nd Quarter 9:38 - Azeez Ojulari
On this play, head coach Matt Eberflus said every offensive player standing around when the ball was knocked loose received a loaf. The Bears have had it drilled into their heads that when the ball is on the ground, they're to pick it up.
Left tackle Braxton Jones was beat around the edge by Azeez Ojulari, so Jones will get this sack allowed, but look at Mustipher at center. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (#97) had a fantastic day punishing Chicago's interior, so this is probably a good time to share this Tweet.
#Giants DT Dexter Lawrence had eight total pressures yesterday against the Bears.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) October 3, 2022
That's tied for the most ever in a single game by a defender listed over 320 pounds.
Sack 14 - 2nd Quarter 4:35 - Dexter Lawrence
This play came shortly after left guard Cody Whitehair exited with a knee injury, so right guard Lucas Patrick flipped sides and got worked by the aforementioned Lawrence.
The Giants sent six, and the Bears picked everything up, but Patrick's inability to anchor ruined this play. Fields is hit at about two seconds after the snap on this third and six play, so he had no chance.
Sack 15 - 2nd Quarter :23 - Dexter Lawrence
Does this blitz look familiar?
It's the same a-gap interior pressure package that the Giants did up there on sack 12, but this time Fields is able to escape it and scramble back to the line of scrimmage. Lawrence gets credit for his second sack on the day, and this one officially goes in the books as a 0-yard sack.
Mustipher squeezes to the right again and recognizes the blitz too late. Herbert steps up, but this time whiffs on the block. I really think the protection breakdown starts with Mustipher, but since Herbert blew this too, I'll split this sack allowed.
Sack 16 - 4th Quarter :08 - Team
The Giants were credited with a team sack on this one when Fields ran out of bounds to stop the clock. It also went in the stat book as a 0-yard play. So this one hit my daily double of annoyance; the run-out-of-bounds sack and the 0-yard sack. But in this case, Fields makes the correct play.
Considering the time remaining in the game and the situation the Bears were faced with, it was smart for Fields to run out of bounds. After being flushed from the pocket, throwing to a receiver towards the middle of the field would have meant the end of the game (no time-outs), and tossing it out of bounds would have taken a bit more time off the clock. Getting out of bounds stopped the clock and gave them time (:03) for one final play.
While this was a team sack for the Giants, I need to figure out where to place the blame for Chicago.
New York lined up pre-snap showing six threats against the Bears' six blockers.
In theory, the Bears should be able to block this, and considering where Trestan Ebner is lined up, he should be responsible for either the 5th or 6th defender, with right tackle Larry Borom taking the other. That would leave Chicago's line from LT to RG responsible for N.Y.s 1-4 while sliding protection to the left.
But the call was made to slide protection to the right.
Once left tackle Braxton Jones slides right, which appears to be the call, there's no way he can get back out to the edge, so while he looked to be responsible for missing #53 (Oshane Ximines), whoever made the slide right call gets the blame on this. And since it ultimately falls on the QB to set the pass pro, I got to give this one to Fields.
The other option here is that Ebner was supposed to come back across the formation for the edge rusher, but if that was the case, then Fields should have moved him to the other side pre-snap.
Here's the individual Sackwatch tally after 4 weeks:
Justin Fields - 4.5
Braxton Jones - 3.5
Larry Borom - 2.5
Sacks Happen - 2.5
Sam Mustipher - 1.5
Lucas Patrick - 1
Khalil Herbert - .5