Justin Fields

Schrock: Jordan Love's easy day highlights how Bears fail Justin Fields

If the Bears really believe in Justin Fields and want to help him grow, they better take a long, hard look at how the Packers helped Jordan Love and steal everything they can

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Bears head coach Matt Eberflus didn't want to answer the question Monday at Halas Hall. At least not publicly.

But privately, Eberflus and his coaching staff damn sure better be pouring over every ounce of information they have to find the answer to the key question after the Green Bay Packers stomped the Bears 38-20 in the home opener.

How can the Packers find easy success with a young quarterback in Jordan Love, but everything is hard for Justin Fields? What's the difference in the two situations?

"I would just say this: It's a long season, and we're gonna get better and we're gonna focus on ourselves and we're gonna improve," Eberflus said Monday. "That's what I would say about that."

That's an acceptable answer publicly. Deflect, evade, and ignore.

But it's crucial the Bears find the answers internally. They must look at what the Packers did Sunday to help Love succeed in his second career start. Why does Fields seem to be swimming upstream in his development while the Packers were able to quickly hit the easy button for Love?

The answers were plain as day Sunday on the lakefront.

What was the difference Sunday between Love and Fields?

Everything the young quarterbacks don't control.

While the Bears handcuffed Fields with a stale game plan that called for a heavy dose of screens and short game, the Packers showed belief in Love, allowing him to throw downfield while also dialing up easy-access throws to get him in rhythm.

On Sunday, after months of talk about playing to Fields' deep ball strengths, the Bears' offensive game plan had Fields average 4.1 air yards per target, which was a career low. Fields threw just five passes that traveled 10 or more yards in the air.

But while the Bears were slamming their head into a wall, throwing screens that went nowhere thanks to minimal blocking effort on the outside, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur drew up the perfect screen for Love to execute. The play got the Bears' defense all flowing to the left while running back Aaron Jones leaked out to the right. Love threw across the field to a wide-open Jones with blockers in front, and the running back sprinted 51 yards inside the 10-yard line.

Later in the game, LaFleur dialed up a tight-end leak that, with the help of a botched snap, got Love an easy pitch-and-catch to a wide-open Luke Musgrave. The bobbled snap opened up the play further, but the design shows LaFleur entered the game with a package of plays designed to give Love easy throws.

The Bears only had one for Fields, a crisp route combination between Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney that sprung Mooney open for a 23-yard touchdown.

Last season, Fields was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL on throws from outside the pocket. Per Pro Football Focus, Fields had a straight dropback on 40 of 52 dropbacks against the Packers. Dropping Fields back behind a shoddy offensive line that hadn't played together instead of rolling him out is tantamount to negligence.

The Bears focused on the screen game and short game throughout camp. The focus was clear: Make Fields' life easier by getting the ball out quickly and into his playmakers' hands. Let the YAC do the rest.

It's a good tool to have. The Chiefs and 49ers both ranked first and second in YAC per completion and first and second in percentage of total yardage from YAC last season.

But as was the case during the second half of last season, the Bears' offense had no Plan B. There was no evolution from the first attack and no counter when Plan A wasn't working.

Even when the Bears were trailing 24-6, Getsy insisted on sticking with the ineffective screen game and a ground game that couldn't get traction behind a bad line.

On Sunday, Jordan Love played free and loose because the Packers allowed him to do so thanks to a quarterback-friendly game plan, an offensive line that allowed just two total pressures, and schemed easy-access throws that got Love in rhythm and led to explosive plays.

On the other hand, Fields looked like a man tasked with pulling an SUV up a mountainside. Everything was difficult.

Fields was pressured 36 times on Sunday. Right guard Nate Davis gave up nine pressures, while center Lucas Patrick and left guard Cody Whitehair gave up five apiece. Despite the bulk of the pressure coming up the middle, the Bears didn't roll the pocket. Their lone idea of an easy completion was a wide receiver screen to Mooney that got blown up because Claypool gave a half-effort on the key block.

I'm not absolving Fields of some blame. He had throws that he either didn't see or saw and elected not to grip it and rip it. His interception in the fourth quarter was a brutal decision that he telegraphed.

Love isn't more talented than talented than Fields. If you put them on similar teams with similar rosters and play-callers, the one with Fields probably has the higher ceiling.

But as the Bears survey the wreckage from Sunday's debacle, they must be honest about the difference between Love and Fields.

It's not in arm talent, athleticism, processing, or football IQ. It's not in work ethic or potential. 

One has everything a young quarterback needs to succeed early in the NFL. He has a play-caller who believes in him, trusts him to make throws downfield, dials up plays to get him in rhythm, and schemes guys open. One has an offensive line that provides him with a clean pocket and the time needed to look downfield.

The other has only himself, with everything else working against him.

Two teams met Sunday on the lakefront. Both with young quarterbacks hoping that 2023 is the year they firmly cement their place in the NFL.

After three hours at Soldier Field, it was evident the two quarterbacks are heading down divergent paths. Not of their own doing but because of the situations fate put them in.

Like all good organizations, the Packers gave Love the answers to an easy test Sunday. The Bears? They asked Fields to solve a mystery box with no clues, hints, or help and reaped what they sowed.

Why can Jordan Love succeed so quickly while Justin Fields seems to push against an unrelenting current? They are simply playing a different game. 

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