Matt Eberflus defends 4th-and-inches shotgun play


Justin Fields believes the Bears should've had a better chance to upset the Packers on Sunday Night Football, simply because he believes he scored on a 4th-and-goal play that would've pulled the team to within one touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Starting in the second quarter, the Packers dominated the Bears. After the Bears got out to a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, the Packers went on a 21-3 run to go ahead 24-10. But at the start of the fourth quarter, the Bears found some rhythm on offense and gave themselves an opportunity to reduce that margin to seven points. After Justin Fields was stopped inches short of a touchdown on a third-down rushing attempt the Bears didn’t hesitate to line up for the fourth-down try in question. But there were some questions about the play, namely the play call itself.

David Montgomery had been dominant on the drive leading up to that moment, with some help from lead blocker Khari Blasingame, so the play call seemed obvious. Line up in I-form, and let Montgomery bully his way into the endzone behind his fullback. Or maybe hand the ball off to the fullback in the short-yardage situation. Or maybe just have Fields sneak the ball right off the snap.

The Bears didn’t try any of those options though. Instead they lined up in the shotgun formation, then had Fields try to find his way into the endzone on a draw play.

“We thought that was the best play we had right there, at that point, for us to score,” Matt Eberflus said.

“It’s us versus them,” said Fields. “It’s just the trenches, so our o-line versus the d-line.”

The Bears practiced that goal line play, and the coaches liked it because it allowed the offense to outnumber the defense in the box.

“You’re using your quarterback as a runner, you’ve got an additional blocker, and so you like your numbers in the box,” said Eberflus. “So that’s why we called it, and that was the best play we had at the time.”

Looking back at the play, Montgomery was able to get a good crack on his man, but Fields wasn’t directly behind him.  By the time Fields got to the line, the Packers had swarmed the area and he was ruled short. I say “ruled short,” because on replay it did look like Fields crossed the plane of the goal line for a touchdown. The Bears challenged the ruling on the play, but were denied due to inconclusive evidence.

When asked after the game whether he thought he was in, Fields kept his answer simple.

“Yeah,” the Bears quarterback said.

Eberflus agreed.

“We thought we had a good look at it, so we made the challenge,” Eberflus said. “They thought otherwise. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

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