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Drive by Drive: Justin Fields v. Cleveland Browns

Drive by Drive: Justin Fields

With Justin Fields having officially been named the Bears’ starting quarterback moving forward, I wanted to write in-depth about what I’ve seen from him thus far. Having watched every single snap that he has taken as a professional, I thought I would post my drive by drive thoughts on how he's progressed and what he brings to the table for Chicago. Here we take a look at his performance in the Bears game against the Browns in Week 3: 


First Drive: Starting at own 47, 11:25 left in the first quarter, tied 0-0 

Starting near midfield, Chicago only allows Fields to drop back one time as they lean on the run game and kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. In Fields’ lone dropback on the drive, he looks a little jumpy in the pocket and once his first read is covered, he takes off and runs. 

Second Drive: Starting on own 31, 4:18 left in first quarter, 3-0 Bears lead 

Fields gets an opportunity to throw on first down, but Jadeveon Clowney badly beats the right tackle and Fields has no chance; the sack pretty much ends the drive. The Bears seemed OK to punt after that play and did not allow Fields to make a big play or a big mistake. 

Third Drive: Starting on own 23, 12:25 left in the second quarter, tied, 3-3 

Bears run on first down and then run play-action on second down. Browns bring four at the snap, but a fifth man comes on the blitz; Fields never sees him and is sacked again. Third-and-long, Fields is sacked again, this time by Myles Garrett. Fields initially had some time, but doesn’t pull the trigger, tries to escape and goes down. Broadcast blames left tackle Peters for poor technique, but I clocked Fields at having three seconds before Garrett got home. It’s the first time in the game that Fields has dropped back on consecutive plays. The offensive line is giving no help, but Fields looks uncomfortable in the pocket. 

Fourth Drive: Starting at own 19, tied 3-3 

First play, Fields drops back and finds Darnell Mooney on a five-yard in-route. Throw is on-time and on-target. Browns have pressure again; if Fields doesn’t throw when he does, he’s getting sacked. After a run for a first down, Chicago runs a play-action-rollout to Fields’ left and he makes a nice sideline throw to a well-covered Allen Robinson for a completion just short of the marker. 

The Bears run up to the line with tempo and Fields has a chance to hit Mooney for a very easy first down, but sails it five yards over his head on a short route. No excuses here; bad throw by Fields. A false start turns 3rd-and-short into 3rd-and-6 and Bears have Fields in empty-set shotgun. Both DEs beat their men and the pocket collapses from the backside; Fields steps up but goes left when he should go right. He was looking to run toward the sideline but had receivers coming open on the right side; once the pocket breaks, he goes into run-mode and the eyes leave the downfield options. Garrett gets him from behind for another sack. 

Fifth Drive: Starting at own 25, 15:00 left in third quarter, 10-3 Browns lead 

Fields drops back on first down for a designed quick-slant to the tight end. He’s covered, but there’s a small window; Fields misses badly, incomplete. Empty set shotgun on second down and the Browns bring five rushers. Pressure gets in his face, and Fields tries to throw off his back foot to his in-cutting slot WR who is well-covered; DB gets hand in and knocks the ball up in the air, but it drops to the ground, incomplete.

A third-straight shotgun dropback comes on third down. Browns bring four rushers, but with an unbalanced rush of three to Fields’ right. Right tackle gets beaten again, Fields doesn’t feel the pressure and takes another sack (No. 5 in 5 drives). Fields could have sensed the pressure and flushed right, but this time he tries to step up into collapsing pocket. Credit to Fields, though: Tak McKinley grabbed his throwing arm and Fields was able to move the ball into his left hand to avoid fumbling. 

Sixth Drive: Starting at own 25, 9:27 left in third quarter, 13-3 Browns lead

A run on first down sets up 2nd and 8. Fields under center, one deep setback, and the Bears run play-action left, designed-rollout right. Fields throws on the run, and it’s knocked away by the DB. Fields was late on the throw; the WR had some separation at the break, but the late throw allowed the DB to get back into position to make a play on the ball. Another empty-set shotgun snap on 3rd down and Fields gets sacked again, this time he has no chance. 

Thoughts on Bears’ coaching thus far: they are not giving their offensive line any help despite getting beaten all day. Cleveland shows and then brings five rushers on 3rd down, and the Bears stick with just their offensive line, not a chip block by a TE or anything. There’s no need to send five receivers out into a pattern when Fields isn’t getting past his first or second read. 

Seventh Drive: Starting at own 31, 5:45 left in third quarter, 13-3 Browns lead 

This drive was the Bears’ longest of the day and in an effort to keep this brief, I’ll try to summarize. The Bears finally inject some RPO into the offense, but it doesn’t help much. First attempt, Fields missed an open Robinson on a quick throw. Second attempt, Fields keeps and runs it himself; however, right in front of him is a wide receiver getting a completely free release. Fields never sees him, and a potential big play goes for just a short gain. Prior to the second RPO, Fields made his best throw of the day: the Bears finally pick up a blitz and Fields hits Robinson on his outside shoulder, leading him to the sideline and away from the DB and just past the marker for a first down on third and long. 

After the Browns accept a holding penalty to set up a 3rd-and-9 rather than a 4th-and-2, the Bears use a max-protect and have seven blockers to Cleveland’s four-man rush. Fields decides to leave the clean pocket and move to his right, allowing the defenders to break their blocks and give chase. He stops and chucks it down the field to a double-covered Allen Robinson with a rusher now in his face. The ball is intercepted, but the DB is called for pass interference. It was the right call, but the defender really didn’t need to push Robinson; it was going to be an easy INT. The biggest problem for Fields was that he missed Darnell Mooney streaking wide-open deep across the middle; the nearest defender was nearly ten yards away. If Fields had stayed in the pocket rather than flushing right, he would have had a better chance to see and hit Mooney for an easy touchdown. 

The PI sets up the Bears at the Browns 12, but after a 5-yard run out of Wildcat on first down, Fields slips on a designed rollout that the Browns had played perfectly, and it goes down as a sack. Even if he doesn’t slip, the Browns were ready for the play. Backed up to third and long, Fields checks it down to Montgomery quickly, despite no real pressure, and the RB manages to make some defenders miss and give the Bears 4th and 3 from the Browns’ five-yard line. Commentators say they should go for it, but with Fields and the offense struggling, the Bears elect to kick the field goal and make it 13-6. 

Eighth Drive: Starting at own 28, 14:39 left in fourth quarter, 20-6 Browns lead 

Bears now forced to push the issue, down 14 and into the fourth quarter. First down, Fields has a clean pocket, locks onto Allen Robinson, and throws to him despite tight coverage, incomplete. Second down, Fields gets happy-feet despite no real pressure and throws off his backfoot to Montgomery out of the backfield and misses him. However, he’s bailed out by a defensive hold. That gives the Bears a new set of downs and once again Fields locks into his first read, Darnell Mooney on a quick out from the slot. Defender reads it easily and undercuts the route; fortunately for Fields, he makes a terrible throw because a “good” throw is going the other way for six, but he overthrows it and never seems to see the defender in the zone coverage breaking on the route. Fields scrambles for five yards on second down and then throws quickly on third down to a well-covered Cole Kmet, but he had to get rid of it because the pressure was there again. Bears have to punt. 

Ninth Drive: Starting at own 25, 10:40 left in fourth quarter, 23-6 Browns lead 

After a short run on first down, Fields drops back with time, and again throws to his first read, a quick slant by Robinson. The throw is low and incomplete. Third down, Browns show an all-out blitz and bring five; Garrett runs right by the LT who barely touches him, sack No. 8 for Cleveland. Bears punt again. 

The Bears would get the ball one more time, but down by three scores with less than four minutes left and nothing noteworthy happened, except for Cleveland’s ninth sack of the day.

Final thoughts:

Fields was not very good, but it’s hard to judge him too harshly because his offensive line was so bad. The coaching staff didn’t do much to help the line until later in the game when they started leaving extra blockers in, but it was already too late. That being said, he also didn’t make any big plays, and missed on some easy ones. His best throw was a 12-yard out route — a throw any professional QB should be able to make. He frequently locked onto his first read from the snap and telegraphed where the ball was going. He was jumpy in the pocket, even when it was clean, but hard to fault him on that since he faced so much pressure. I did not note a single pass completed to a player who was not the first read on the play.

Find other work from Dan Zaksheske at STAT Stack