Bears film study: On Justin Fields’ deep ball and lack of running

A look at Bears quarterback Justin Fields’ successful deep ball and woeful rushing performance — and another interception by Bears rookie Kyler Gordon — in Saturday’s 35-13 loss to the Bills.

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Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon celebrates an interception Saturday.

Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon celebrates an interception Saturday.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

A look at Justin Fields’ successful deep ball and woeful rushing performance — and another interception by Kyler Gordon — in the Bears’ 35-13 loss to the Bills on Saturday.

Deep shot

The Bears tried a flea-flicker pass to rookie wide receiver Velus Jones against the Eagles. He was so wide open that he slowed down, and Fields threw the ball incomplete.

During the week, receivers coach Tyke Tolbert offered a simple coaching point.

“Run fast,” he said. “The corner bit, and he got past the corner and started slowing down — like, ‘Ooh, I’m open.’ ’’

On Saturday, Jones ran fast. On the last play of the third quarter, he lined up left and ran a deep over route, sliding and catching Fields’ deep ball for 44 yards. The Bills were in quarters coverage, so Jones knew to keep his route high as he ran across the field.

“The wind carried the ball a little, so it went across the field,” Jones said. “I just had to go get it.”

It’s no small achievement that he did. Jones has fumbled three times this season, twice on special teams. But that likely would have been forgiven had he been an offensive contributor at any point. The third-round pick had been targeted seven times all season before Saturday — and four times against the Bills. That’s unacceptable on a team so desperate for receiver help.

“The wind was cutting across the field the way the ball was going,” Jones said. “I just had to run it out. Great throw by Justin. He put it away from everybody so I could go grab it.”

Fields, who didn’t complete another pass longer than 20 yards, joked that he played the wind.

“I had control,” he said with a knowing smile. “Right before the play, I threw some grass up to see which way the wind was blowing and adjusted to the wind.”

Runs stuffed

Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier knows all about the Bears. He was on the greatest team in franchise history and led the Bears with six interceptions before hurting his knee in Super Bowl XX. He interviewed for the Bears’ coaching vacancy in January.

Frazier cooked up a game plan to limit Fields’ running. It worked beautifully.

“I thought it was a good plan by Leslie and the defensive staff, and the players executed,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “You’ve got to be disciplined against a quarterback like that, a running game like that.”

The Bills were content to let Fields hand the ball off on read options. They rarely crashed the mesh point — the location where the handoff, or fake, occurs.

Case in point: On second-and-eight with 4:41 to play in the first half, Fields lined up in the shotgun with running backs on either side of him. He faked a handoff to Khalil Herbert and ran left. Defensive end Kingsley Jonathan — whom the Bears cut last month — was waiting for him. He was unblocked but did not crash down on Herbert.

Fields was never able to run forward. He sprinted toward the sideline, tried to cut and was tackled for a loss of two yards by Jonathan and safety Damar Hamlin.

The Bears settled for a field goal two plays later.

McDermott was impressed by the Bears running misdirections on their first drive. They gained 43 yards on five carries.

From that point on, though, the Bears ran 24 times for 37 yards. In the second half, they ran 13 times for nine yards.

“You’ve got to be disciplined,” McDermott said. “You’ve got to have good gap integrity. . . . It could be in the quarterback’s hands or the running back’s hands. It was a good job by those guys.”

The Bills wanted the ball in the hands of the Bears’ running backs. It was a smart move. David Montgomery gained 62 yards on 16 carries. Herbert, in his first game back from injured reserve, gained only seven yards on six carries.

Fields ran seven times for 11 yards.

Gordon’s pick

Gordon played a new old position and went home with his second interception in as many games.

The slot cornerback played the outside corner spot against the Bills after the Bears put starters Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor on injured reserve a day earlier.

Two minutes into the second quarter, he was playing cover-3 on the right-hand side and had no one in his area. The Bills had no receiver split right. Tight end Quintin Morris ran a shallow cross from right to left, and running back James Cook ran into the right flat.

With no one nearby, Gordon dropped quickly and found wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, who was crossing from left to right, about 20 yards downfield. He jumped in front of Josh Allen’s pass and squeezed it.

“He did a nice job of high-pointing the ball,” coach Matt Eberflus said.

That kind of production is a change from earlier in the season, when opposing quarterbacks picked on the rookie. Gordon said that he might have had too much on his plate to start the season, when the Bears played him outside and in the slot, but has settled in.

“I really feel like I’m playing extremely confident, honestly,” Gordon said.

He didn’t know he was moving outside until later in the week. The Bears practiced with Johnson through Thursday before making the IR move.

“I was focusing on the nickel game,” he said. “I watch enough film to know what’s [happening] on the outside.”

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