Bears film study: Closer look at QB Justin Fields’ 5 turnovers vs. Buccaneers
Fields showed he still has a long way to go, but not all five turnovers were his fault — especially when a coach rushed him into a play that ended in an interception.
From the night the Bears drafted Justin Fields in April, there has been a swirl of excitement . . . and dread.
Fields has incredible potential, but the fear is the Bears are hardly equipped to groom him. And Bears fans have had their hearts broken repeatedly by high draft picks who failed to become the franchise quarterback they’ve been seeking for decades.
So as Fields struggles, it’s difficult to sort out which parts of it are on him and in which areas the Bears are failing him. Neither general manager Ryan Pace’s personnel — especially on the offensive line — nor coach Matt Nagy’s offense seems to be helping.
That was obvious in the Bears’ 38-3 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday, when Fields committed five turnovers: three interceptions and two lost fumbles. Here’s a look at what went wrong:
Interception, down 7-0
Fields’ first turnover was the most alarming, and not because he overthrew receiver Allen Robinson and put the ball right in the chest of Bucs cornerback Dee Delaney. The real problem was that someone on the coaching staff, likely Nagy or offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, rushed Fields to snap the ball, thinking it would catch the Bucs with 12 men on the field and get the Bears a free play.
Like any rookie would, Fields followed orders and hurried the play, with disastrous results. He noted later that when he snapped the ball early, it threw off his receivers’ timing. There also weren’t 12 defenders on the field at the time.
Rather than acknowledge the coaching error and take the full brunt of criticism, Nagy said Fields must “understand and learn from that” and claimed the more prudent decision would have been to throw the ball away or take off running.
The blunder came a week after Fields tried to get a free play against the Packers by snapping the ball when it appeared they had committed a neutral-zone infraction, chucked it toward the end zone for an interception. After that game, Fields and Nagy both said it was on the quarterback to make sure he actually saw a flag fly.
By that logic, whoever yelled into Fields’ headset to try to draw the 12-men penalty should be accountable. But that kind of dysfunction at the top would be a bad look for Nagy at a time when his job security is shaky.
Fumble, down 14-0
It’s a lot to ask of a rookie, but Fields must adjust to the constant pressure he faces while playing behind the Bears’ problematic offensive line. That’s an absolute necessity in this job. He needs sharper awareness of when he’s about to get hit and better ball security.
Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett got through right tackle Lachavious Simmons quickly and hit Fields’ arm just as he was trying to throw.
The first sign of a fumbling issue came in the Bears’ preseason game against the Dolphins when Fields lost a ball out of bounds during a run and dismissed it later as a non-issue since it wasn’t a turnover. But sometimes the ball doesn’t sail harmlessly out of bounds, and his three fumbles (two lost) against the Bucs pushed him to six for the season.
Fumble, down 21-0
The Bears, who average just 14.4 points per game, were cooked once the Bucs had a 21-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. But it became clear on Jason Pierre-Paul’s strip-sack of Fields early in the second quarter that this would snowball into an epic loss.
Keep in mind, the Bears went into this season with an already questionable plan for the offensive line that included Germain Ifedi starting at right tackle and second-round pick Teven Jenkins (a long-time right tackle) starting on the left side.
With Ifedi sidelined by a knee injury and backup Elijah Wilkinson on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Bears promoted Simmons from their practice squad to start at right tackle. Pierre-Paul outmuscling him was the end of his afternoon as the Bears replaced him with Alex Bars.
Interception, down 35-3
This pick, about midway through the third quarter, is one the Bears will just have to tolerate. Fields made a good decision and throw, but receiver Darnell Mooney, who has been reliable from the day he arrived, couldn’t hang on to it.
Unfortunately, this was one of the Bears’ best chances to score. Had Mooney caught it, they would have had fourth-and-seven at the Bucs’ 20-yard line.
Interception, down 35-3
When the Bears took over at their own 2 after Alec Ogletree forced a fumble to stop the Bucs at the goal line, trouble seemed inevitable. With Fields throwing from the back of the end zone and the Bucs blitzing from both sides, he completely underthrew Robinson down the right sideline; it was an easy catch for defensive back Pierre Desir.
It’s hard to excuse three interceptions in a game, even from a rookie, but that was the only one in which Fields simply made a bad play.