The Chicago Bears had the NFL’s second-best rushing attack coming into their tilt on Monday Night Football. They left out with the best of them all. So, it wasn’t necessarily a renewed commitment to the ground attack that led to their rolling up 243 yards on the ground against the New England Patriots.
But they did alter their approach to that dedication that also had them fourth in attempts going into that game and sitting in second place now.
After the game, quarterback Justin Fields – who had a career-high 14 carries for 82 yards – provided a little insight into how the Bears took advantage of their bye week. He also revealed from where they drew inspiration for the shift.
Justin Fields, Bears Inspired by Lamar Jackson’s Ravens
Bears Highlight Fields’ Strengths
After the Bears’ narrow 12-7 loss to the Washington Commanders at home on Thursday Night Football, head coach Matt Eberflus said he would use the break to reassess everything. That included the lineup after miscues cost them back-to-back games late. It also included their offensive scheme that had ranked 28th in yards per game
That was mostly thanks to a moribund passing attack that still ranks 30th in touchdowns and dead last in attempts and yards.
What was the solution to generating offense and, in some ways, hiding the quarterback and line? The Bears were inspired by one of the most unique players in league history: former NFL MVP and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“It just brings another whole element to our offense, stealing some plays from the Ravens,” Fields said after the game. “Yup-yup-yup. We got a couple of ones from them.” (h/t Mark Grote/670 The Score)
It certainly worked.
Justin Fields look like Lamar Jackson last night Let Go!! @ChicagoBears best team in football we back !!
— Nick Young (@NickSwagyPYoung) October 25, 2022
The Ravens have fallen to 11th in total yards as they’ve dealt with injuries and inconsistency over the last few weeks. But they still ranked third in points scored and have ranked in the top 10 in scoring in three of Jackson’s five pro seasons and have never ranked below 17th with Jackson under center for at least part of the season.
In his MVP campaign, Jackson completed over 66% of his passes for over 3100 yards and led the league in passing touchdowns and Total QBR. He added another 1200 yards – sixth-most in the NFL that season – and seven scores on the ground.
Jackson did this despite even more questions about his ability as a passer than Fields is facing.
There is still a long way to go before Fields reaches Jackson’s level of consistent production. Even in a scheme that seems built for him.
But this is a great turn of events for Fields and the Bears.
Bears Following the Blueprint
Fields had double-digit carries for the third time this season. He set a new high for the year with 14 against New England. The biggest difference is that 10 of them were designed. That is a major shift after calling just 13 runs for the speedy quarterback in the weeks prior. They used their extended time off to make their shift in approach to their commitment to the run.
It’s a tried and true method we saw just last season.
The Bears tweaking their QB run game after a Week 6 mini-bye is the exact same timing as the Eagles' run-heavy pivot last year. Sometimes you need an opportunity to take a breath and think about what needs to change.
Fields had 10 designed runs last night. He had 18 last season.
— Robert Mays (@robertmays) October 26, 2022
This breakdown of Philly’s shift over their bye week from Jonny Page of Bleeding Green could easily have been written about this year’s Bears:
The offense didn’t look very good the first few weeks. It was a mesh of quite a few concepts with a heavy emphasis on a shotgun spread-out passing offense. The whole offense ran through Hurts and the passing game. Without utilizing the middle of the field however. There was a real lack of focus on the run game and no attempt to get Hurts going as a runner either… the single biggest issue with the offense early on was the reliance on RPO’s. It was clear to me after a few weeks that Hurts is not good at running them. Hurts seemed to make wrong decisions too often and they led to bad plays in the running game. This led to the inability to run the ball, a lack of running plays in general, and just some very bad football for us to watch.
The Bears were very much committed to the running game before Monday night. But they were trying to use Fields in much the same way as the Eagles did Hurts with similarly poor results.
They weren’t dealing with the typical standard of Patriots teams.
But this is the same approach we hoped they would take with Fields from the beginning, it just took time to get there as the scheme is not one that offensive coordinator Luke Getsy runs.
There have been read-option principles in the Bears’ offense all season.
But Fields acknowledged that knowing he would get x-amount of carries led him to take a different approach. It led to him being more cognizant of taking big hits – a major point of contention even among his supporters.
The 23-year-old still has the longest time to throw in the NFL; just ahead of New York Jets passer and Fields’ draft mate, Zach Wilson, per NextGen stats.
However, as David Montgomery pointed out, the defense was unsure of what was coming.
Cowboys Inspired by Bears?
After the game, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said his team was “outcoached” and “outexecuted”. Pats safety Devin McCourty noted that the Bears added to their playbook – and from where – over their mini-bye week and it clearly caught New England off guard judging by the outcome.
The Bears’ next opponent made a move, potentially inspired by Monday’s events.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 25, 2022
Dallas’ defense ranks 8th, per Pro Football Focus, but their rush defense ranks just one spot above the Bears at 28th.
Against a team as run-heavy as the Bears, it makes sense to add a 340-pound space eater.
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