How Bills stopped Fields shows giant offseason task facing Bears


CHICAGO -- The Buffalo Bills knew the test that awaited them Saturday at Soldier Field against Justin Fields and the Bears. They'd watched Fields trample over the Miami Dolphins, race past the Detroit Lions, and run around the Philadelphia Eagles.

They weren't about to let that happen.

“You saw some of the runs he has had last week and the previous weeks," Bills safety Jordan Poyer said following the Bills' 35-13 win over the Bears in which Fields was held to 11 yards rushing on seven carries. "Just being able to contain him and force him to run lateral because he is an electric runner when he able to get downhill and one step and get downhill. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s hard to get down. Our front, along with our linebackers and our secondary making big plays on him out in space. It’s plays like that. We were able to contain him."

When told just how effective the Bills' defense was at keeping Fields from roasting them, the All-Pro safety couldn't help but be impressed.

"Eleven yards? S--t. I think he had over 100 last week. So 11 yards, that’s pretty damn good.”

Fields' 11 rushing yards were his lowest of the season and fewest since a 20-yard performance in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers.

The Bills made a concerted effort to keep Fields corraled in the pocket, knowing that if the 23-year-old was able to break contain, it could mean a quick death for their defense.

"He runs around a lot, but we caught him a couple of times in the pocket when he was just sitting there holding the ball, and that’s what you got to do to him," Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver said. "You can’t let him get out – collapse on the outside. Just keep him in the pocket. If you try to chase him down, he’s liable to do anything. But if you can keep him in the pocket and kind of contain him, you can get him down.

“If you can catch him before he processes it and realizes that it’s breaking down, you can get him down. But when he gets out there in the open field, it’s anybody’s game."

Fields was at a disadvantage Saturday. Both left guard Cody Whitehair (knee) and right guard Teven Jenkins (neck) missed the game due to injuries. Wide receiver Chase Claypool missed a second straight game with a knee injury and Equanimeous St. Brown remains in concussion protocol.

It was a thin deck for Fields to play with. While he has been Houdini several times this season, it was too much to ask him to conjure up enough magic to defeat the AFC's top seed on his own.

Fields knows the Bears' offense could have used the jolt of energy his big-play rushing ability provides, but he's also conscious that they have to find other ways to win. His legs can't do the work all the time.

"The reality of it is, I'm not going to be running for 100 yards a game," Fields said. "When a defense does a good job of taking my legs away, my job is to take a defender with me, take two with me and allow the running backs to work."

The Bills' defense did an excellent job of keeping FIelds from breaking contain and sent pressure off the edges to make the Bears quarterback give the ball up to David Montgomery or Khalil Herbert.

Fields also noted he aggravated his left shoulder injury and had someone step on his foot, which could have also played a role in his limited rushing output.

Buffalo's ability to keep Fields from dicing them up on the ground shows the importance of the Bears building a complete offense around the ascending second-year signal-caller.

With limited weapons in the passing game and a patchwork offensive line, The Bears rarely put Fields in a position to succeed Saturday against Buffalo. Sprinkle in some questionable play-calling from offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, and you get a day in which Fields threw for just 119 yards and picked up just those measly 11 yards on the ground.

What transpired Saturday was a product of a short-handed and talent-deficient Bears roster and a great defensive game plan by Bills head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

It was the perfect storm to keep Fields from breaking out on the ground.

"Shut down the run and put their quarterback into situations he doesn’t want to be in," Poyer said. "Those third-and-long, second-and-long situations. I think we had to get a feel for what they were trying to do to us early. We probably expected more zone-read, quarterback keep, quarterback power runs. But they kept coming back to the same runs and we were able to – after that first drive – we were able to settle down and make some plays on the run game and force him into situations they don’t want to be in.”

Fields' legs have been the story of the Bears' season. He became just the third quarterback in NFL history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark and hopes to break Lamar Jackson's single-season record of 1,206 yards. That goal became much harder with Saturday's 11-yard outing.

More importantly, the Bills illustrated the vital task facing the Bears this offseason. Fields is a dynamic, special player. But no one does it themselves in the NFL. For Fields' legs to remain a reliable offensive weapon, the rest of the offense has to pull its weight. The blocking has to be better. There need to be more dynamic playmakers whose gravity impacts a defense.

Fields can only do so much on his own. Eventually, he won't be able to outrun the lack of help -- be it personnel or scheme -- the Bears are giving him.

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