A look at quarterback Justin Fields’ three touchdowns from the Bears’ 35-32 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday:
The highlight of the game, if not the Bears’ season, came about four minutes into the second half. On third-and-eight, the Bears split three receivers right and put running back Khalil Herbert to Fields’ left.
Fields dropped back into the pocket, stepped up between center Sam Mustipher and left guard Cody Whitehair and ran up the left hashmarks. About five yards behind the line of scrimmage, Fields pump-faked. He slipped between Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker, who converged from Fields’ right and got within a yard of him, and linebacker Duke Riley, coming from the left.
Fields ran up the left sideline. By the time he reached the end zone 61 yards later, he had sprinted past six Dolphins. He ran 20.33 mph, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
“You can kind of tell by his demeanor, ‘All right, get out of his way and let him do his thing,’ ” said tight end Cole Kmet, who moved into the right slot before the snap. “On that one touchdown, he just blew right past me.”
The run was the longest by a quarterback in Bears history, eclipsing Vince Evans’ 58-yarder in 1980. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney, who ran up the right seam, thought Fields had been tackled.
“He kept going and kept his balance,” Mooney said. “He’s special. He does special things with the ball in his hand. Every Sunday, I’m amazed by what he does.”
Credit offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, the Bears’ play-caller, for incorporating planned quarterback runs into the playbook. But Fields is still most dangerous when he’s unscripted. He has scrambled 42 times for 411 yards this season, both NFL highs. He’s averaging a league-best 188 rushing yards over what’s statistically expected on those scrambles, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
“It’s nuts,” Kmet said. “When you see him run like that and then be able to execute in the pass game the way he did, it’s pretty special.”
Selling the fake
From the Dolphins’ 18-yard line on the first play of the second quarter, Fields masterfully sold a fake handoff left to Herbert, turning his back to the defense and switching the ball from his right hand to his left. When Herbert ran past Fields, he extended his empty right arm toward the end zone with his back still to the defense, pivoted and rolled right. That caused Dolphins line-backer Jaelan Phillips to pause just long enough to have to chase Fields toward the right sideline on a naked bootleg.
Fields dumped the ball off to Kmet, who had run a crossing route, in the right flat at the 13. Kmet followed Equanimeous St. Brown’s block up the right sideline for a touchdown.
“When you’re able to run the ball — we’ve been able to run the ball the past couple weeks — you’re able to get good run sell,” Kmet said.
The Bears installed the play in camp.
“We’re just working on that ball-handling, and of course, you know, just selling the fake,” Fields said. “The running back has to sell it, too. Khalil did a great job on that. Something we talked about earlier in the week. Just great execution all the way around.”
The touchdown capped the most creative drive of Getsy’s Bears tenure — a 15-play, 75-yard march that took 7:41 and managed to keep the ball away from the Dolphins’ high-powered passing attack. Four different players ran the ball on the possession: Fields, Herbert, running back David Montgomery and Kmet, who took a fly sweep for eight yards and then moved under center on the next play, taking a direct snap and plunging forward to convert on third-and-one.
Getsy got the ball to his running backs in clever fashion, too, handing off to Montgomery on a fly sweep and also up the middle after a fly sweep fake to receiver Dante Pettis. Fields even ran a college-style speed option play left, pitching to Montgomery for one yard.
“I think those creative ways are really good at stretching the width of the field, certainly on those plays,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “And those things open up things on the inside, too, in the play-action pass game.”
It was supposed to be a trick play. On second-and-10 from the Dolphins’ 18 with 2:23 left in the first half, Fields took a shotgun snap, faked a handoff up the middle and pitched the ball backward to Mooney, who was running an end-around from left to right.
Fields then took off up the left flank, darting between left tackle Braxton Jones and Whitehair and looking back toward Mooney.
Mooney was supposed to run right, pull up and throw it. Had he done so, it would have been a touchdown; Fields was wide open. However, pressure from the right side made Mooney keep the ball for a two-yard run.
“He didn’t have time,” Fields said. “I was definitely looking for the ball. I was hoping I would see the ball come up from behind the line of scrimmage. Of course, he did the smart thing on that play and just ran the ball.”
The Bears found the end zone on the next play, this time on a pass from Fields to Mooney, not the other way around. On third-and-eight, Fields lined up in the shotgun with three receivers left. Mooney was the closest inside.
Before the snap, Fields saw the Dolphins were in man coverage with star Xavien Howard, a three-time Pro Bowl cornerback, shading him toward the inside. That’s what they wanted to see. At the snap, Pettis ran a skinny post to keep safety Javon Holland stationed in the middle of the end zone.
That opened up Mooney one-on-one on a corner route. Fields looked up and saw Mooney glancing over his right shoulder, not his left. He put the ball there for an 18-yard touchdown, Mooney’s first score of the season.
“Really couldn’t ask for a better play call in that situation,” Fields said.