Bears Insider

Bears explain decision, what went wrong on critical fourth-and-1 in loss vs. Broncos

The decision was sound, but the play call deserves scrutiny

NBC Universal, Inc.

CHICAGO -- It was the right call in the moment. The Bears' defense had been leaking oil for the entire second half. While a chip-shot field goal would have given them a 31-28 lead over the Denver Broncos with four minutes to play, there was a good chance that Russell Wilson would get the last word against an undermanned secondary.

So, with his offense facing a fourth-and-1 at the Broncos' 18-yard line, head coach Matt Eberflus went for the throat. The Bears trotted out to draw the Broncos offsides before calling a timeout to set up the play to get them off the schneid.

The Bears found their running game Sunday and elected to call a read-option, believing quarterback Justin Fields or running back Khalil Herbert could gain 1 yard. The Broncos stayed wide on the edge, so Fields handed it off to Herbert, but Jonathon Cooper and Delarrin Turner-Yell blew through the line to stuff the back at the line.

The Broncos marched down the field and settled for a 51-yard field goal that proved to be the final dagger in Denver's 31-28 comeback win.

Eberflus explained the decision came down to his confidence in the Bears' run game.

"Yeah, just because of the way we were running it. It was a half a yard. So I felt very confident about getting that right there," Eberflus said. "Every situation's different. You've got to look at the game in its entirety, and I think that the way we were running the football and the confidence that we had on offense in that moment, I would say that you know, we're going to do that right there."

After the game, the Bears, both on offense and defense, sided with their head coach for not kicking the field goal.

"If you get it, the game’s over, most likely," Fields said. "You gotta make them use their timeouts. You’re probably getting past the two-minute warning, and at least you’re kicking a field goal with under a minute left. I love the decision. It shows coach has trust in us to convert on that and in that situation. We just gotta execute. There was a missed block backside — that’s why somebody was able to sneak through and tackle Khalil. In that situation, that’s a tough spot. As a player, you want your head coach to be able to trust you in that situation. Like I said, if we woulda got it, you’d all be up here talking about how great of a call that was. It just didn’t go our way. Missed a block on that side. Just gotta execute in that situation."

Herbert put the inability to gain a yard on himself.

"Just got to find a way to get it," Herbert said after the Bears blew a 21-point lead to fall to 0-4.

The decision was universally supported throughout the Bears' locker room after the heartbreaking loss.

No risk it, no biscuit.

"We wanted that," tight end Cole Kmet said. "I think we just got to execute there at the end. It was there. The play was there. We got to execute. We know coach is going to do that 10 out of 10 times, and we're all for that. We just got to execute there at the end.

"That's something we want to put on our shoulders. Offensive line, tight ends, fullbacks, and running backs. Especially how we were running the ball, we felt pretty good about it."

Wide receiver DJ Moore said there was no doubt the Bears were going for it and backed the decision to go for the jugular and not give Denver a chance to touch the ball again.

Eberflus' decision was the right one by the charts and the win probability metrics. But choosing to run the ball out of the shotgun and not put it in Fields' hands is what should be debated.

When asked why that play was called, Eberflus said they felt they could move the Broncos off the line. Admitted there were "many plays" that could be run in that situation, but the Bears liked that call.

While the failed fourth-and-1 conversion will suck up most of the oxygen after the Bears' epic collapse, Fields and the offense did have one more shot to tie the game.

The Bears' offense took over on their own 25-yard line with 1:46 to play. Despite an intentional grounding penalty, Fields got the Bears to midfield with 37 seconds remaining.

That's when the final nail went into the Bears' coffin.

Fields dropped back and looked for Kmet over the middle of the field. Fields let one rip toward the tight end, but Kmet peeled back toward the left, and Broncos cornerback Kareem Jackson picked it off to seal Denver's comeback win.

Both Fields and Kmet acknowledged there was a miscommunication on the play. Fields read man coverage and wanted Kmet to sit down, but the tight end thought it was match coverage and tried to whip it back.

"Kinda freelance, boom, go up there, turn around, sit down, and move onto the next play," Fields said of what he wanted Kmet to do. "Of course, in that situation, you’re in four-down territory right there. Just miscommunication on me and him. And it comes down to being my fault at the end of the day."

Fields was spectacular Sunday.

He started the game 23-for-25 for 285 yards and four touchdowns. It was undeniably his best game as a passer in the NFL. And yet, the interception and a costly fumble that the Broncos returned for the game-tying touchdown marred his otherwise brilliant day and sent the 0-4 Bears back to the drawing board to search for more answers.

In the end, Fields playing like he did Sunday -- but authoring a better finish -- is their best course forward. It might be their only one.

"I gotta be better for the team in that situation," Field said.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.

Contact Us