The Chicago Bears have won four of their last six games since Justin Fields returned from his thumb injury, and while the defense has fueled their turnaround, it's also helped that Fields cut down on his sacks and turnovers.
Fields' has been playing better in the pocket, and his season-long sack percentage is down to 9.9, which is tied for fourth highest in the league. In the six games before his injury, it was at 12.9%, but in the last six, it's only 7.2%.
For some perspective, his rookie sack percentage was 11.8, and last season, it was a league-high 14.7%.
Fields is still taking some unnecessary sacks because he holds the ball longer than he should, but he's also one of a few quarterbacks in the game who can evade quick pressure and turn it into something positive like this.
The All-22 angle of Justin Fields avoiding the sack is somehow even more impressive. pic.twitter.com/8MpoDnCzYs— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) January 3, 2024
Sack 43 - 2nd Quarter 2:00 - Kaden Elliss
This play is frustrating because Fields clearly accounts for the a-gap blitz, but his offensive line didn't get the call.
With the way Atlanta is lined up, I have to assume that center Lucas Patrick should have moved right for linebacker Kaden Elliss. Both their guards and tackle fanned out in this five-man protection, and it was an empty set, so with the Falcons sending five, the only Bear remaining was Patrick.
Sack 44 - 2nd Quarter :35 - David Onyemata and Bud Dupree
Fields is reading the field right to left on this one, and I didn't like how bunched up his receivers were on the right side when they all came out of their breaks. There isn't a viable passing window here because Atlanta has four defenders in the area.
Fields takes the shotgun snap, gets to the top of his drop, and has nowhere to go. As he starts to come back left, he gets some pressure from Calais Campbell off a T-E stunt over right tackle Darnell Wright. Campbell had a nice game, and on this play, he got inside Wright's chest, then swam over the top to get free.
Fields was able to avoid the rush and take off to the left, and with no receiver open on that side, he tried to get upfield. He slid down for a two-yard loss instead of chucking it out of bounds, but with the Bears playing for an end of half field goal try, it's possible he wanted to keep the clock moving. Regardless, this sack is on Fields, even if he was making the smart play to get down.
A flag here for a blow to the head on the slide would have been nice, but that's not a call Fields ever gets.
Sack 45 - 4th Quarter 2:02 - Lorenzo Carter
With the Bears up 20, they were going for the jugular with this play action, and I didn't mind the decision, but the design and execution was lacking. This is a max protect with Velus Jones Jr,, who was split out wide left, running a deep over route, and tight end Robert Tonyan on a check release wheel route up the left sideline.
Fields makes a nice play fake, he sets to throw and then waits.
And there's no one open,
Was he expecting someone to leak out to the right?
He waits some more...
Lorenzo Carter eventually hustles around for the strip sack and left tackle Braxton Jones recovers the fumble. Fields' internal clock should have alerted him to either run or throw it away, so this one is on him.
Here's the individual Sackwatch tally after 16 games:
Justin Fields - 15
Sacks Happen - 10
Darnell Wright - 4.5
Cody Whitehair - 2
Ja'Tyre Carter - 2
Braxton Jones - 2
Larry Borom - 2
Teven Jenkins - 2
Khari Blasingame - 2
Lucas Patrick - 1
Roschon Johnson - 1
Darnell Mooney - 1
Cole Kmet - .5
As I've often said, the breakdowns are based on my best guesses on what is happening in each play. Only the Bears know the specifics and where the blame lies for each sack allowed.
Here are Chicago's historical total sacks allowed through 16 games (in the Sackwatch era).
2010 - 56 Mike Martz
2011 - 49 Mike Martz
2012 - 45 Mike Tice
2013 - 30 Marc Trestman
2014 - 41 Marc Trestman
2015 - 33 Adam Gase
2016 - 27 Dowell Loggains
2017 - 39 Dowell Loggains
2018 - 33 Matt Nagy
2019 - 45 Matt Nagy
2020 - 36 Matt Nagy
2021 - 51 Nagy/Lazor
2022 - 57 Getsy
2023 - 45 Getsy
Thanks to all of you guys who check out Sackwatch each week!