As was pointed out on this week’s preview podcast with myself and Mark Schofield, Bears head coach Matt Nagy has done just about everything possible to mismanage the efforts of rookie quarterback Justin Fields, From refusing to use him as an option runner, to throwing the same old slant/flat garbage out there every week, it’s a miracle Fields has been able to do anything with his head coach and “offensive mastermind” hamstringing him as he has.
With Nagy out of the picture this Sunday against the 49ers due to the COVID protocol, it would appear that the coaches left on the staff — and specifically offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in this case — have been able to give Fields more to work with. This impressive touchdown pass to tight end Jesse James with 12:03 left in the first half shows one way in which Fields needs (and is now getting) more help.
Notice the boot-action on that touchdown pass? Well, through Week 7, per Pro Football Focus, Fields had completed 23 of 35 passes for 262 yards, 7.5 yards per attempt, 65.7% completion rate, one touchdown, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 97.6 with the benefit of play-action. Without play-action: 52 of 96 for 554 yards, 5.8 yards per attempt, 54.2% completion rate, passer rating of 48.7. Fields has been given play-action on 46 dropbacks, which ws tied for 28th in the league with Ben Roethlisberger, who hates play-action and always has.
And the Bears should have been well aware of this.
Justin Fields at Ohio State in 2020 with play-action: 33.5% of his dropbacks. 57 completions in 77 attempts for 907 yards, 11.8 yards per attempt, 74.0 completion rate, nine touchdowns, one interception, a passer rating of 146.4.
So, at least Fields will have a full schematic arsenal this week. When Nagy returns? Well, sadly, we know how that will go.