Film study: Breaking down Justin Fields’ best game, including a ‘generational’ run

Despite losing 33-22 to the 49ers on Sunday, Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields had his most promising performance this season. Analyzing two throws and two runs.

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Justin Fields begins to celebrate his 22-yard touchdown run Sunday.

David Banks, AP Photos

Despite losing 33-22 to the 49ers on Sunday, Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields had his most promising performance of the season. We break down two throws and two runs:

The ‘mailbox’ throw

The Bears struggled in the red zone, but their only touchdown from it required absolute precision.

Three minutes into the second quarter, Fields faked a handoff and bootlegged left. Jesse James, who lined up between left tackle Jason Peters and fellow tight end Cole Kmet, ran a corner route, dove and caught an eight-yard touchdown pass.

The Bears have been working on having Fields throw while rolling left. Against San Francisco, he turned his hips and kicked his left leg out to help balance himself. His throw whizzed past the outstretched arms of cornerback Josh Norman.

“To flip your hips and have the accuracy to be able to put it literally an inch outside the defender’s hands to the only place Jesse could catch the football — special,” coach Matt Nagy said Monday. “You love seeing it.”

How big was Fields’ window to throw a completion? Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo used both hands to make the shape of a small box.

“Awesome,” DeFilippo said. “I mean, that’s a mailbox throw.”

The rhythm throw

The Bears split speedy wide receiver Marquise Goodwin right on third-and-13 about two minutes into the second half. Fields took the shotgun snap, dropped five steps back and rifled a pass to Goodwin on a slant. The Bears gained 22 yards, tied for their longest play.

Fields threw quickly because the 49ers blitzed safety Talanoa Hufanga from the wide side of the field. His pass was perfect: inside of cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who had man coverage on Goodwin, and outside of linebacker Fred Warner, who had dropped to cover Kmet. Goodwin caught the slant pass 13 yards deep and ran for another nine.

“One missed tackle, and that’s a touchdown,” Nagy said. “It was on time. It was in rhythm. And it allowed us to succeed on third down. That was probably one of the greatest parts of [Sunday]: the third-down timing. . . . Justin for 99% of the day was on time and in rhythm.”

Fields said he recognized the 49ers were playing “cover-1 robber,” a man-coverage scheme in which one safety drops down toward the line of scrimmage just before the snap.

“We get [Goodwin] up in the slant route, and he’s one of the fastest guys on the team, so once he catches the ball, it’s hard to catch him,” Fields said. “He made a great catch and a great run after the catch on that play.”

The ‘generational’ run

One of the best parts of Fields’ highlight-reel fourth-and-one touchdown run was what he did before the snap. The Bears were in the wrong formation.

Under center in the fourth quarter, Fields watched as his tight ends settled in the right spot, eventually. He pointed for wide receiver Darnell Mooney to move from the left slot to the right flank. With four seconds left on the play clock, Mooney ran a jet motion back across to the left side before Fields snapped the ball.

“He did a great job of making sure not only did we get straight, but we were legal,” DeFilippo said. “Because we had to make sure everyone was set and then send the jet motion back.”

Moseley was late in following Mooney across the formation, leaving him in perfect position to cover Khalil Herbert in the right flat. Fields, who had dropped back to pass, was left to scramble. He first made defensive lineman Arik Armstead miss, then ran parallel to the line of scrimmage and up the left sideline for a 22-yard touchdown.

“That’s a generational-type run,” DeFilippo said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

The planned run

Fields rushed for 103 yards, but only one of his carries was a designed run. About two minutes into the fourth quarter, Fields took a shotgun snap and faked a handoff to running back Ryan Nall, who was standing to his left.

The zone-read fake fooled the 49ers, for once. Edge rusher Nick Bosa was allowed to rush free — that’s part of the zone-read blocking plan — and crashed down past Peters toward Nall.

Reading that Bosa had crashed down too fast, Fields faked the handoff and ran left. Kmet pulled outside to block Norman, and Fields ran for 14. The Bears ran more read-option than in recent weeks, though the 49ers were — with that one exception — careful to make sure Fields didn’t keep the ball. That opened up the inside handoffs, and it figures to do the same moving forward.

Even if he just hands the ball off, Fields occupying the defensive end evens the odds.

“Our goal all the time is to play what we say is 10-on-10 football,” DeFilippo said. “Because, really, with the quarterback, you’re always outnumbered by one.”

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