It’s safe to say that few would have expected in Week 4 that the 121 passing yards Justin Fields threw against San Francisco in the rain and slops would be his season high.
It is, and the passing game is of enough concern to the Bears that Matt Eberflus himself looked into it on Monday. They remain last in the league by the way, totally mired after a third consecutive 1970s-style statistical day on offense.
“We were in the quarters meeting today and he just needs to handle the ball better,” Eberflus said. “He just can’t put the ball in danger. He knows that.”
Two wasted throws on interceptions were just the tip of the Bears’ passing troubles against Houston, despite a 23-20 win. Five bags definitely didn’t help.
Fields went 8 of 17, which tied his best effort this year in passing and percentage (.471). He threw just 45 times, 32nd in the NFL among starters.
So with these struggles and having visited the quarterback room, what does Eberflus say Fields needs to do?
“I would just say keep working on his footwork,” Eberflus said. “The footwork, then the timing, the timing when he takes the ball out of his hands.
“A big part of that is also the pocket, sometimes when we were watching the movie. So we have to make sure we have a clean pocket for him to come up the pocket and then deliver the ball. And again, that’s never just one guy; it’s also more about that, protection, make sure we consolidate that as best we can and also the route schedule. And make sure we time that.
It seems rather late in the year for basic things like footwork, especially after so much about how coaches have improved that particular aspect of Fields’ passing in training camp and OTAs.
“I just think we need more consistency on that,” Eberflus said. “He’s improving in that area. And again, it breaks down sometimes when the protection breaks down, which in every game the protection breaks down on both sides. So that was partly. ”
There is, of course, the ongoing debate over whether the Bears should be so conservative with play calls at the risk of slowing Fields’ development.
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“You always watch that, but it will always be the first (goal),” Eberflus said. “We’re doing everything we can to win the game. That’s the most important thing.
“What is the style we should play to win this particular game. And it changes. It changes from week to week. This week we were in a mode where it was a style we had to play to win the game, and he came out on the right side.”
Yet three times in third-and-sixth or more, the Bears gave way on Sunday. This is the height of conservatism in the age of football.
“Yeah, a lot of these games are games that if we look good and think we can get it with this racing game, we will,” Eberflus said. “And again, it’s all about how the defense is lined up, forward and in coverage. So a lot of those plays are canned.”
Eberflus said Fields can change the game if the front looks less attractive for racing.
When a quarterback struggles like Fields, who is he to change the game, though?
Bears tight end Cole Kmet summed up the offensive mindset.
“You know the defence, since I’ve been here, was able to bail us out a couple of times and obviously Roquan (Smith) with a great play at the end with the interception to seal the game (Sunday),” Kmet said. . “But I want to be part of the reason why we win.
“I don’t know if that sounds selfish offensively, but I want attack to be a reason we win a game. That’s what we’re working towards.”
Until Fields controls the attack and directs it the way he wants, it seems unlikely.