Dannehy: Late Game Heroics for Fields, Bears Could Come

| November 16th, 2022

The Bears have had the ball with a chance to win three times in the last five weeks and have fallen short every time. But anybody suggesting that means the young quarterback is incapable of leading the team to wins in those situations is misguided. There is no question that at some point the Bears and Justin Fields have to come through with game-winning scores. There is also no question that can develop with experience.

Turn back the clock a handful of years and you’ll see that in Aaron Rodgers’ first season as the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, the team went 1-7 in one-score games. Worse yet, they had chances to win most of those games only to fall short.

On Oct. 5, 2008, the Packers had the ball trailing 20-17 against Atlanta with about seven minutes left only for Rodgers to throw an interception. Atlanta went on to score a touchdown and won 27-14. Less than a month later, the Packers had the ball with a chance to break a 16-16 tie but punted. Tennessee missed the game-winning field goal in regulation, only to make it in overtime.

On Nov. 30, the Packers had the ball, trailing Carolina by four before a Rodgers interception. They were tied with Houston the next week but had to punt and the Texans won the game on the next possession. It became three straight weeks in which Rodgers failed to deliver as they had the ball trailing 20-16 before a Jacksonville Jaguars interception essentially ended the game.

The Bears biggest problem in such situations is that they struggle to block on any play in which the defense knows they have to pass the ball. The Bears still need to make considerable improvements to their offensive line (likely three new starters) although they’ll surely talk themselves into Braxton Jones for 2023.

Flus Needs to Step Up for His Players

Matt Eberflus is trying to avoid a fine, but it’s about time he defends his players.

There were at least five horrendous calls that went against the Bears last week and it has happened enough times that it’s a trend. Why? Because the officials know they can get away with it.

When Eberflus was asked if there needed to be more accountability for the referees, he said it wasn’t his place and that his team has to overcome such adversity. That’s easy for him to say, it isn’t so easy for the players to do as they’re being tackled well before the ball comes on passes deep down the field — which has happened each of the last two weeks on game-changing plays. It isn’t crazy to suggest that if the Bears could get pass interference calls, their deep passing game would be much more viable.

Asking Eberflus to stick up for his players really isn’t asking too much. It is well past time he speaks up and takes a fine. It will draw attention to what is happening on the field and, more importantly, tell his players he has their backs.

Play Best Players

The Bears decision at the wide receiver position has been odd.

While it is certainly understandable that Claypool isn’t ready for a full load, there’s no reason why he should’ve been WR6 last week. Is there a reason why the Bears were willing to give the two sweeps to St. Brown instead of the clearly more explosive Claypool? Is it so difficult to put Claypool in and just tell him what route to run? If Pettis or St. Brown have a fly route on a play, have Claypool run it instead.

Eberflus defended Claypool’s lack of action, but his excuse didn’t make sense. He said Claypool was the first read on the plays he was in but was covered. OK, but he was only in on 19 plays and ran — get this — SIX routes.

It isn’t just Claypool.

While Velus Jones Jr. can’t be trusted to return kicks, there was no question that he was an explosive offensive player. He is averaging nearly 11 yards per offensive touch and proved to be an effective decoy.

Both Claypool and Jones have gravity. Both are so explosive that defenses have to adjust and make sure they are accounted for in ways that they don’t for St. Brown or Pettis.

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