Why Fields didn't hit Mooney for wide-open TD vs. Giants


LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Given the state of the Bears' passing attack, quarterback Justin Fields can't miss any layup.

He missed a big one Sunday in the Bears' 20-12 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

Trailing 14-6, the Bears faced a third-and-10 on the Giants' 35-yard line with 3:11 left in the half. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney was lined up on the inside slot to the left and came free up the seam. With the Giants playing Cover 2, Fields had a perfect opportunity to put it on Mooney for what likely would have been the Bears' first touchdown of the game.

The pocket was clean. Fields could have and should have fired a strike to Mooney for what likely would have been six with an accurate throw.

Instead, Fields tucked it and took off for a gain of 12 and a first down. The Bears settled for a 40-yard field goal from Michael Badgley on the drive.

On Monday, Mooney explained that he was supposed to take his route further to the right, and Fields didn't pull the trigger because he wasn't in the right spot.

"On that, it's called, it's like a four-vertical play," Mooney said. "I think it was more so my miss, just thinking-wise. That's where it becomes like a hassle of just like trying to learn the playbook so much. 

"So last year we had that play call as well. It was called special, and, uh, No. 3. Then if you see Cover 2 or whatever you can split up the seam. That's how it was last year. But we have the same name, the same play, and I had two on one page, and I'm supposed to be more so to the right of the top safety, the right safety. And that's where he was looking for me at. And kind of, then, he probably felt pressure. I don't know what he felt-wise, but it was just me putting two and two together, I mean, putting two and one together."

Wrong route or not, Mooney was wide-open in the middle of the field. Given that the safety on the right was vacating the middle of the field, Fields had a clear window to put it on Mooney for a score.

That's a throw that he has to make.

Head coach Matt Eberflus acknowledged that Mooney's route wasn't correct and that the Bears' staff coached Fields to take the checkdown or scramble if the Giants were in the defense they presented on that play.

 Still, if the play is there, Fields has to let it fly.

"That's a very basic play," Eberflus said. "That's just vertical, four vertical play. Mooney on that one is supposed to be bending across the formation. He's supposed to be bending across. He was not supposed to go vertical. I think that kind of caught him off guard a little bit, but he certainly had time on that. He certainly had time and could've rode the pocket a little bit more, but he decided to take it because what we were telling him is to take the checkdown or run on that when they're in that defense.

"Yeah, there's no doubt," Eberflus continued. "Get your eyes downfield and see what you see and take what they give you. Certainly, have to do that for sure."
Fields put up season-highs in completions and yards Sunday. The Bears had explosive pass plays of 56, 24, and 23 yards. But that wasn't enough for them to find the end zone in the Meadowlands.
The Bears are exercising patience with Fields. They are aware the passing game struggles don't' fall solely on his shoulders. They saw progress in practice between the Week 3 win over the Texans and Sunday's loss to the Giants.
But with their receivers struggling to separate, the Bears can't afford for Fields to miss chances like he did Sunday.
Those opportunities are too few and far between to let fall by the wayside.  

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