Bears film study: Justin Fields continues to fight fumbles and lost distances

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Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields continued some disturbing trends in Monday night’s 17-9 loss to the Vikings:

No quarterback has groped more

About 13 minutes into the game, Fields threw a play option, simulating the transfer down the middle to David Montgomery and running to the right. He stepped out of the numbers at the Vikings ’47, planted his right foot and spun up – only for cornerback Cameron Dantzler to pop the ball off Fields’ right elbow. The forced fumble was unusual in that it was a glance – Dantzler and Fields found themselves about 5 yards apart when the ball was retrieved by the Vikings.

“Shooting myself in the foot – I think we did it starting with me, with the fumble in the first quarter,” Fields said after the game. “I think we just need to correct these things, correct the mistakes we made on our own and get rid of them, and I think we are winning the game.”

Despite only starting 10 games, Fields leads the NFL with 12 fumbles. He’s one more fumble than last year’s leader Derek Carr of the Raiders – and as much as the league’s top number of 2018.

Fields lost five fumbles. Only Lions quarterback Jared Goff has more.

“Justin understands ball safety,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said after the game. “He’s smart about it, and he’s going to keep learning. There is sometimes a weapon with the ability to use it in the zone running game, which this game was. He was reading the end and he shot it.

“Then these guys will come for the football, so we have to be smart. He’s the first guy who knows. He knew it when he came off the sideline.

No quarterback has been sacked more frequently

On the first game after the two-minute warning, Fields took a shot and looked to throw a screen pass left for running back Damien Williams. He jumped to try to get the ball over a leaping DJ Wonnum, but clung to it. When Fields landed, he was hit by Wonnum. With the ball in his right hand, Fields fumbled and had the chance to retrieve the ball.

On screen passes, the Bears’ quarterbacks have two options, Nagy said – throwing a “dart” or a “free throw.” Fields attempted the “free throw” – but changed his mind. Because he jumped, he couldn’t just throw the ball at Williams’ feet for a failure – a common problem when a screen is covered.

“He made a good decision to… in his eyes, he felt like it was going to be reversed,” Nagy said Tuesday morning. “He pulled him down. The problem is, he got caught in the air and couldn’t “dirty” him.

It was the first of Fields’ three sacks on Monday – and the last proof he’s the NFL’s most-beaten quarterback. Fields was sacked 11.8% of the time, by far the biggest clip in the league. No one else has a two-digit number.

Not all of the bags are Fields’ fault. But he needs to stop making it worse. About two minutes into the second half, Fields faked a transfer to Montgomery and, seeing no one open, rolled left. Wonnum lost the block to Cole Kmet and knocked down Fields.

Fields’ decision to turn his back on him and try to run away from Wonnum was deadly – he lost another nine yards. The Bears lost 14, then faced the third and 25.

Fields’ sack on the screen set up the second and 24, which quickly became the third and 24. The Bears had three third downs Monday night in which they needed 17-24 yards for a first. test.

“Just, worst case, throw the ball away,” Nagy said.

Few offenses are more disorganized

The Bears have 24 offensive penalties before the snap – only the Saints and Lions are claiming more.

They had 18 false starts – the league average is just over 15, according to NFLPenalties.com. There are three game delays, two illegal teams and one illegal formation.

On Monday, the Bears were called up for an offensive offside penalty that was denied. Rookie tackle Teven Jenkins was flagged for a false start and the Bears were eliminated for an illegal substitution in the last practice of the game which cost them a second round.

“It’s frustrating at this point, especially with the false starts and everything,” Fields said. “We’re going to have to find something, some punishment in practice, run a lap or something. That’s what we did at Ohio State. If you jumped offside you ran all the way around, I don’t care who you are. They even made me run tricks if I did something wrong.

“We’re going to have to do something to fix this problem. And I know anything, I know everyone will be okay with this and we’ll fix it. “

It’s overwhelming for Nagy when Fields views his varsity team as a disciplinary paradigm.

Nagy, however, said the Bears linemen are withdrawing from practice games after pre-snap penalties and doing push-ups to “remind you you can’t do this.” He said it’s important to stay persistent, given the penalties the Bears suffered at the wrong time. He claimed he had no objection to Fields’ statement.

“That’s what I love about Justin,” Nagy said. “There is a responsibility there from a player’s point of view.”


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