Bears need to start letting Fields loose on third down

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Actions speak louder than words. Matt Eberflus and the Bears’ actions in certain situations Sunday said a lot about how they currently feel about quarterback Justin Fields.

During the Bears’ 23-20 win over the Houston Texans, the Bears had seven red zone snaps and 14 third downs. They didn’t throw a pass in the red area and threw just four passes on third down. However, Fields was also sacked twice and scrambled twice on third down, so eight dropbacks are the proper number.

The Bears chose to run the ball on third-and-10, third-and-17, and third-and-6. Eberflus also decided to go into halftime with all three of his timeouts instead of letting Fields try to move the Bears into scoring position.

Eberflus, however, claims those third-down decisions weren’t straight run plays. They are based on the look the defense gives the Bears.

“Yeah, a lot of those are plays that if we get a good look and we think we can get it with that run play, we’ll do it,” Eberflus said Monday. “And again it’s all based on how the defense is lined up, front wise and coverage wise. So a lot of those plays are canned to that.”

 Eberflus said Fields has the option to check to a pass play if the quarterback sees something he likes.

Some of the Bears’ decisions Sunday were defensible. Fields called his performance “trash” after going 8-for-17 for 106 yards and two interceptions. He was off target on numerous throws, his footwork looked out of rhythm, and he missed several open receivers.

It just wasn’t his day.

Locked in a tight game with a Texans team they are a shade better than, the Bears didn’t want to risk Fields turning the ball over while trying to make a play on third down.

That’s all well and good.

But if this season is truly about developing Fields and discovering if he has the stuff to be a franchise quarterback, the Bears will have to let him rip it on third-and-long. That Chicago ranks 23rd in third-down conversion rate (34.29 percent) shouldn't come as a surprise.

The Bears might be able to turn that around and get Fields on track by trusting him more on third down with plays he comfortable running.

There aren’t many nice things you can say about the state of the Bears’ passing attack at the moment.

Through three weeks, Chicago ranks last in completions, completion percentage, passing yards, passer rating, and first downs. The Bears also have given up the fifth-most sacks.

As the Bears prepare to face the New York Giants in Week 4, Fields and the passing game will spend all week in the lab trying to find some remedy for all the things that ail them.

“I would just say keep on working on his footwork,” Eberflus said of Fields. “The footwork and then the timing, the timing of it when the ball is out of his hands. A lot of that is the pocket, too, at times, when we were looking at the film. So we got to make sure we have a clean pocket for him to ride the pocket up and then deliver the ball.

“And again, it’s never one guy; it’s also more about that, the protection, make sure we shore that up the best we can and also the timing of the routes. And making sure, that we’re timing that up. So we’re getting better every week. We had some good explosive passes in this game which we were excited about; we’re going to build off of those and keep going forward.”

RELATED: Fields, Bears at risk of speeding toward perilous crossroads

Fields is the headliner for the Bears’ aerial attack issues, but it’s not all on his right shoulder. The pass protection has been subpar. Some of that is on the offensive line, and some of it is on Fields for not knowing when to climb the pocket or bail entirely. The wide receivers haven’t been able to consistently separate, and when they have, Fields has often missed them or been hesitant to pull the trigger.

In short, it’s all a mess.

It’s also early. This is only Fields’ third game in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s scheme after a rookie season that was effectively a wash due to Matt Nagy’s ineptitude.

Patience should be preached. Fields has to be better. The Bears also have a better job of getting him comfortable early in games and putting him in a position to succeed and build confidence.

They might want to start by letting him play quarterback on the money down.

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