Film review: Bears QB Justin Fields shows better accuracy vs. Falcons before game-ending interception
Fields made several impressive and encouraging throws before misfiring at the end.
Justin Fields has been making strides in the finer points of the passing game and showed substantial improvement on his throws for most of the game against the Falcons before, of course, losing it on an interception.
But the overall uptick is important in the big picture — and the present as he deals with a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury. While that affects his passing motion, it’s much more of a hindrance to his running ability. Assuming Fields keeps playing through the pain, he’s going to be better off throwing.
And that’s something he needs to prove he can do anyway. It’s difficult to pass in obvious passing situations, but that’s part of the job. It’s one of the boxes Fields still hasn’t checked.
But he’s getting better, as film review of the 27-24 loss to the Falcons showed:
Mooney is money
One of the strangest aspects of Fields’ early-season passing struggles was that Darnell Mooney, the only proven wide receiver on the roster, wasn’t much of a factor. But that has changed. Mooney is back where he should’ve been all along: standing as the Bears’ top option downfield.
He had only four catches for 27 yards over the first three games but has averaged 4.5 catches and 58.3 yards over the last eight. He caught his first two touchdown passes in the last three games, and both were on perfect throws by Fields.
On the 16-yard touchdown in the first quarter of the Falcons game, Equanimeous St. Brown lined up wide left and Mooney was inside, then they crossed and Falcons cornerback Dee Alford crashed into St. Brown. That sprung Mooney open by a few steps, and Fields fired a flawless pass ahead of him that he could catch without slowing down, just as he did against the Lions.
“He’s getting better and better, and he’s trusting me,” Mooney told the Sun-Times. “He throws it up there and allows me to run up under it. He was trying to hit landmarks before, but I was like, ‘Bro, don’t think about it. Let’s just do our thing. Just throw it.’ We have that type of connection now.”
That’s very encouraging for the Bears. Mooney was a 1,000-yard receiver last season and, at 25, figures to be a fixture on the team.
And the deep shot they missed on later in the first quarter was still a step in the right direction. Fields needs to take those chances, and coach Matt Eberflus loved the throw even though it sailed a few feet too far.
Overthrowing on that play is better than underthrowing, and Mooney usually has the speed to get there.
“I definitely blame that one on me,” Mooney said. “I couldn’t hit my boost. That’s a good ball. It’s on me.”
It was hard to envision the passing game clicking without Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet leading it. Kmet is finally cooking. He has 12 catches for 150 yards and four touchdowns over the last three games. He’s not Travis Kelce, but that’ll work.
He made the best catch of his career in the second quarter when Fields hit him for 24 yards. It was a tough one-handed grab as cornerback A.J. Terrell drilled him in the ribs as the ball arrived, and that acrobatic maneuver overshadowed the fact that it was an excellent pass by Fields to lead Kmet downfield.
“Justin threw a really good ball, getting it over the [defenders up front],” Kmet said. “It’s in that little area where the safety can’t get to it and a corner can’t fall off and get to it.”
Montgomery’s big play
Speaking of the best play of someone’s career, has Fields ever made a more impressive throw than his 32-yarder up the sideline to running back David Montgomery early in the fourth quarter?
Fields scrambled right and motioned for Montgomery to break off his route and cut upfield, then threw across his body while rolling right to drop the ball right in front of Montgomery, who made the catch without breaking stride.
“Justin being Justin, making something happen,” Montgomery said.
It was the longest play by either team and the Bears’ seventh-longest pass of the season.
Fields made another important pass on third-and-12 a few plays later, this time hitting St. Brown for 14 yards to extend a drive that ended with Montgomery’s touchdown run that tied the game at 24.
He looked right to St. Brown as soon as he dropped back, but cornerback Darren Hall had him well covered. He rolled left, then ran back to the right and hit an open St. Brown on the sideline. He broke three tackles during that frenzy, gave himself an absurd 10 seconds to throw and, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, scrambled 33.2 yards — the longest by any quarterback for a third-down conversion this season.
On 126 third-down plays this season, Fields has picked up 30 first downs or touchdowns by passing and 33 by running for a 52.4% conversion rate.