LAKE FOREST, Ill. – As Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy discussed the difficulties in staying committed to the run ahead of Sunday night’s game in Green Bay, he shed light on how he’d like to scheme his offense.
“I’m a quarterback by heart, so I want to throw the ball every play,” Getsy said. “That part of it is hard for me every time … it’s an important part about our play style and how we’re going to go win football games.”
The Bears did not come close to doing that in a 27-10 loss to the Packers. Second-year quarterback Justin Fields went 7-for-11 for 70 yards with a late interception.
Through two weeks, Fields has attempted just 28 passes (33rd in the league), completing 15 (31st), for 191 yards (32nd) while averaging 6.82 yards per pass attempt (17th). Fields’ Total QBR is 23.9 (31st in the league) and he’s been hit on 42.3% of his dropbacks, which is the highest rate in the NFL.
“Of course,” Fields said when asked whether he wants to throw the ball more. “I’m a competitor. But again, my job is to run the play that’s given to me the best that I can. I don’t control any of that.”
Up next is a visit from former Bears head coach Lovie Smith (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, CBS), whose Houston Texans are 10th in the league in opposing QBR (43.8).
Whether the Bears can fix their offense in time is uncertain, but something isn’t right, particularly with a passing game that’s been anemic other than a couple of flashy moments. But to be fair, the Bears’ opener was played in a driving rain, and their second game was on the road in prime time against the three-time defending NFC North champs.
But aside from an early exit in Baltimore last November due to injury, Fields had never attempted fewer than 17 pass attempts as a starting quarterback in the NFL, until Sunday night.
“I think that it is a concern,” first-year head coach Matt Eberflus said. “We want to get better there. There’s no question.”
The Bears had 27 rushing attempts against Green Bay and called 19 passes, only 11 of which turned into attempts due to three sacks, three scrambles and an illegal forward pass.
Eberflus said he wants more of a 50-50 split. To make that balance effective, the Bears need to involve their skill players.
Coming off a 1,055-yard receiving season in 2021, Darnell Mooney has been targeted just five times in two games, with two catches for 4 yards. His only reception in Green Bay came on a screen pass when he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage for a 4-yard loss.
Cole Kmet’s absence is just as noticeable. The tight end, who was lauded all offseason as a prime threat for Fields in the passing game, has run 22 routes the first two weeks, resulting in two targets and no catches.
Mooney and Kmet cannot be afterthoughts if this offense wants to course correct.
“No, I think you’ve got to highlight your skill,” Eberflus said. “Like we highlighted [David Montgomery, who had 122 yards on 15 carries against the Packers].
“So in the passing game, let’s highlight our skill. Let’s feed the guys that have skill that can take a short throw and turn it into a big gain, that can go downtown. And we have a good deep-ball thrower, so we should utilize that, too.”
The Bears are running a new system with a new-look offensive line and some pass-catchers who are still working to get on the same page with Fields.
That was evident in Green Bay. Mooney was Fields’ first read on a flea-flicker that went to Equanimeous St. Brown. The quarterback said postgame he couldn’t see Mooney, who was in the slot to his right, and progressed toward the opposite sideline to find St. Brown. Mooney beat Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas and had a clear path towards the end zone.
Coming out of halftime, Chicago’s first third-down attempt showed a similar disconnect. St. Brown turned a curl route into a go route once he beat his defender down field. He signaled this to Fields by throwing his hand up, which they call “mailbox” to let Fields know he was bailing on his original route and running a go.
Fields did not see him, opting to check the ball down instead.
There’s a question of why Fields looked hesitant to make throws in Green Bay. Could it be the pressure he’s facing? The quarterback has the highest pressure percentage in the NFL at 56%. But he’s also had the longest average time before passing in the NFL at 3.26 seconds.
And it’s not a question of the Bears’ receivers getting open. The average separation on Fields’ targets is 3.93 yards, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL according to Next Gen Stats.
But Fields’ accuracy comes into question as his off-target percentage is just under 30%, which is the second-highest in the NFL.
“I think we have a lot of good playmakers in our receiver room,” St. Brown said. “We have a great quarterback. It’s only our second game with this new system, and I think as we go into the season, we’ll heat up more.”