LAKE FOREST, Ill. – You have already seen the play. Everyone saw Justin Fields fail to hit a wide-open Darnell Mooney for what could have been a touchdown in the Bears’ 20-12 Week 4 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Mooney explained that he took the wrong route on the play, so he wasn’t in the area Fields was looking for. Fields and head coach Matt Eberflus noted the Bears coached the 23-year-old quarterback to either check the ball backwards or take off and run when the Giants introduced the Cover 2 shell look that they gave up on this game. Fields did as he was coached. Eberflus praised Fields for tracking practice points, but would also like the sophomore flagger to see and hit the pitch when it’s wide open.
As the Bears continue the slow process of building a better Justin Fields, Miss Mooney is a perfect example of where they see the young quarterback making a good play – he ran for 12 yards to land a first down on third and 10 – with room for him to make a big play.
“I would say yes. But I would also say we’re trying to convert,” quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko said Thursday when asked how he views Fields’ decision on the play. , what do you do to convert? Well, you’re going through a progression, but there’s a natural clock in your head. When that natural clock goes off, you have to go for it, and then you make a play.
“Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about this game lately and in our minds can we go from good to great on it? Yes we can. But at the same time he’s made a hell of a game , a great decision , and he moved the sticks for us. We don’t want to discount that decision either.”
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy noted that the game isn’t easy for a quarterback. When a catcher isn’t at the window you expect them to be at the time they’re supposed to be there, your mental clock and your feet are telling you it’s time to leave.
For Getsy, the biggest problem with this play was that Fields was cutting the wrong way on his run and could have ended up inside the 5-yard line if he had taken the correct path.
Fields has started just 14 career games. Only four of those starts came in Getsy’s system and with the mechanics and footwork rebuilt.
The Bears are focused on Fields’ day-to-day process and progress. They can’t be mad at Fields for converting a third with his legs. But they also want to get to the point where he makes a great game, not just the good one.
“I think I recognize the cover,” Janocko said of Fields’ practice on Mooney’s misfire. “Recognizing where we are on the pitch too. There are times when you don’t want to take points off the board when your clock is ticking – not putting your kicker out of range or whatever. It’s not specific to this game, but once you get into that positive territory, it’s also happening in your head.
“For me, I think, where are your eyes? How do your feet talk to you? It’s the same thing we preach with every click. Do my eyes guide my feet? Do my feet talk to me? How are you my feet talking to me? It starts with a good game, and how can we make it great? Well, keep letting your feet talk to you, sharpen your vision, sharpen your progression, and that’s how it goes from good to excellent.
Fields and the Bears have worked tirelessly throughout the offseason to set up the Ohio State product for a Year 2 breakout.
The escape could still come. We’re only four games into the season and Fields are still mastering Getsy’s system. You also have to consider the inadequate pass protection and lack of weapons at the receiver.
From the Bears’ perspective, they know how early Fields is in his development. They know everything won’t be perfect, but see a lot of positives as the young quarterback progresses through the plan.
“When you enter a new system, yes, there will be bumps and bruises along the way,” Janocko said. “As you adapt, as you jump in – especially a young player – he’s in his second year, really his starting year and a half. So yeah, we’re going to see some growing pains, you’re going witnessing growth Pains at times. But then you see a marked improvement. Are there any adjustments? Yeah. Whether it’s from another system, or just growing in general as a young player adapting to this league, there are times when you see that.
A game against the Giants was an example of Fields showing how far he’s come since training camp. It’s not a game most will remember, showing you the fine-toothed comb the bears use to assess every shot of Fields.
“I guess you could say he’s progressing down, looking up and making a play, making a down play,” Janocko said. “Even though it wasn’t successful in the end, we had the keeper on the sidelines where he just made an amazing play to get away and he was able to keep his eyes on the pitch and throw the ball close to our bench. To see that, and to realize that maybe I could get a yard or two of run, but I also had a chance to play a better game there, I think you can see that. I think that if you saw that same play in camp or in preseason, maybe he hid it and ran.”
The Bears and Fields are building brick by brick. They know that not everything will click overnight. But the hope and belief is that once enough smaller blocks are in place, progress will accelerate, good will become great, and these games can turn losses into wins.
“We talk about things the whole time we take a bite of the elephant, and as we progress, as we progress, those things that go from good to great translate into wins,” Janocko said. “In the games we’ve won you’ve seen that show up. In the games we’ve lost you still see some of that, but how can we build on that to translate from a loss to a victoire.”
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Fields not hitting Mooney was a standout play. It had the potential to be a massive play in a game where the Bears never found the end zone and lost by eight. But the Bears didn’t consider it a huge whiff. Instead, they saw it as a small victory with room for improvement.
It was just another step in the path they are building to help Fields become a quarterback who makes big plays when the opportunity arises.