Bears QB Justin Fields’ pocket full of kryptonite

The stats back up what the eye test has shown since last year: Bears quarterback Justin Fields is one of the worst pocket passers in the NFL.

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Justin Fields throws against the Chiefs.

Justin Fields throws against the Chiefs.

David Eulitt/Getty Images

The stats back up what the eye test has shown since last year: Bears quarterback Justin Fields is one of the worst pocket passers in the NFL.

He looked every bit of it Sunday. In the first half — before the Chiefs started playing backups in a 41-10 blowout — the Bears ran 12 pass plays that started in the pocket. Fields was 3-for-9 for 27 yards, an interception and two sacks. His completion to Chase Claypool for 15 yards on the Bears’ first offensive play came when he scrambled out of the pocket to throw. When running back Khalil Herbert caught a six-yard pass in the second quarter, he fumbled it away.

The Bears need to put Fields in a position to better succeed, and that includes letting him throw on the run. But the quarterback needs to meet them halfway — it’s hard to run a functioning offense with a quarterback that can’t complete passes from the pocket.

“He’s just working on that,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said Monday. “And no one’s going to work harder than him in the pocket.”

Wednesday, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Bears were “working on pocket presence” and that was “the evolution of a quarterback.”

The evolution needs to happen now. It should have happened already. Until Fields gets to the point where pocket throws become routine — if he ever does — the Bears can’t cobble together a consistent passing attack.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Fields’ QBR of 25 and 4.6 yards per dropback rank last among pocket passers with at least 200 throws dating to the start of last season.

From the pocket this year, Fields:

• Has a 67.2 passer rating, which ranks 33rd in the NFL — and there are only 32 starting quarterbacks. That’s worse than the Jets’ Zach Wilson and better than only Joe Burrow heading into Monday night’s game. The Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa is first, at 119.3, per Pro Football Focus.

• Has a completion percentage of 58.8, which ranks 31st and is only ahead of Burrow, the Panthers’ Andy Dalton and the Packers’ Jordan Love.

• Is averaging 5.9 yards per pass, which ranks 29th and ahead of three place-holders: the Cardinals’ Joshua Dobbs, the Colts’ Gardner Minshew and Dalton.

The Chiefs used a spy to eye Fields all game, hoping to dissuade him from running. The score of the game meant Fields was forced to throw more. The Bears called one designed run through three quarters.

Fields was fooled on his first-half interception. On second-and-10 with 1:45 left in the second quarter, Fields looked left, where tight end Cole Kmet was running a hitch from the left slot and Chase Claypool running a deep in. Chiefs safety Justin Reid bluffed toward Kmet and then backpedaled into the window between Fields and Claypool. He tipped the pass with two hands, and it landed in the hands of safety Mike Edwards.

“I tried to get him to come down on Cole,” Fields said Sunday. “Bit down a little bit — and then of course went back to the ball. And tipped balls are never good.”

Eberflus’ defense of Fields attempts to spread the blame around. There were two such occasions actually worthy of it in the first half. With 1:51 to play, Fields arced a pass into the arms of DJ Moore, who was streaking down the right sideline 35 yards downfield. He dropped it. Later, Claypool waved for the ball sprinting downfield and was unable to corral the 50/50 ball. Eberflus said he Claypool needed to catch the ball at its highest point.

“We gotta be detailed with how we’re running those deep shot routes,” Eberflus said. “Just a little minute detail can get us open and get us in space that we need to get to entirely as an offense.”

Maybe so. But it’s the quarterback. In Chicago, it’s always the quarterback.

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