The Chicago Bears have found a winning formula the last two weeks. The recipe is good, it just needs minor tinkering. If they are actually going to make any noise this season, they have to let Justin Fields do more.
Rookie quarterbacks are usually at their best when they are complementary pieces. Three of the more recent success stories — Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson — all played for teams that were in the bottom three in passing attempts. The Bears are attempting to hide Fields even more, and letting him do less than other recent rookie successes: Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert.
There is no easy way to compare rookie quarterbacks. The players are always as different as the situations. But when you combine passing attempts, rushes and sacks, Fields has had the ball in his hands with a chance to make a play roughly 26 times per start. That’s considerably less than Wilson (33) and Prescott (34) and it’s even further behind Jackson (42), Murray (43) and Herbert (46).
This recipe has worked because the Bears are playing to their historical best: running the crap out of the ball and playing defense like a top-five unit.
But we can see flaws in that defense. The Raiders had numerous opportunities to make plays down the field with open receivers, as did the Browns — but both missed with either errant throws or dropped passes. The Lions and Jared Goff have made a living of shooting themselves in the foot this season and, well, pretty much every season for the past 50 years. But the caliber of opponent changes drastically this week and the Bears must adjust.
Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are not going to miss the passes that Goff, Derek Carr and Baker Mayfield did. And the Bears running game goes from playing bottom-ten to top-ten fronts. If the Bears are going to win either of the next two games, they’re going to need more than 20 points and they’re going to have to do it without running for 150 yards. That means the passing game. That means Fields.
And there’s reason to believe it will work.
Many of the parameters the Bears have in place must stay. They have to use max protect to push the ball down the field. Fields had completed at least 60 percent of his passes the last couple of weeks and has shown rare accuracy, especially on deep tosses. If they can continue to protect him, and keep the offense simplified, there’s no reason to think he won’t still have success. There is no defense for perfect throws.
Being a run-first team is almost a prerequisite for having success with a rookie quarterback. Now it’s time for the Bears to let Fields achieve that success.