A screen? Really? Bears go with their ‘gut’ and fail

Chicago
By Chicago 7 Min Read

TAMPA, Fla. — Pit the two questions against each other, and you’d have a contest far more competitive than Sunday’s 27-17 Buccaneers win against a spiraling Bears team. What was more damning: that the Bears called a middle screen from their end zone with 2:11 to play and down by three? Or that the Buccaneers were looking for it?

With the ball at the Bears’ 6, quarterback Justin Fields took a shotgun snap at the goal line and shuffled backward. He looked toward running back Khalil Herbert, who had floated behind center Lucas Patrick and just outside the right hash mark at the 5.

Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett sensed it was coming. When fill-in right guard Ja’Tyre Carter seemed content to bump him and run upfield, Barrett took a step back, threw up his right arm and intercepted the ball at the 2. He collected himself and plunged forward for a touchdown — technically a four-yarder — to seal the win.

“It’s great when it works,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “And when it doesn’t, everybody’s gonna criticize.”

Deservedly so.

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy clearly doesn’t trust his offensive line, especially one missing its two starting guards. He didn’t seem to trust Fields throwing the ball downfield in that situation, either, even though he was coming off his best example of deep-ball accuracy all year — an eight-play, 90-yard touchdown drive on the previous possession. Fields threw 28% of his passes short of the line of scrimmage against the Buccaneers.

Getsy didn’t want to expose Fields to a sack — and a safety — but he apparently didn’t want to hand it off, either. A Bears running game that was the best in the NFL last year was pedestrian again, rushing 16 times for 67 yards.

Let Fields run? He had four carries for three yards — his lowest total since his rookie year — after the Bucs focused on containing him.

“In that situation, it’s tough,” Fields said. “If you call a deeper pass, you don’t want to drop back into the end zone and have the potential to take a safety. I think that’s a tough spot regarding play calls for Luke in that position.

“He went with his gut, and [Barrett] ended up making a good play.”

The Bears didn’t make enough of them. They’re 0-2 and haven’t won since Oct. 24 of last year, a span of 12 games.

“We’re going through a storm right now,” Fields said.

Eberflus said this year’s team shouldn’t be feeling the frustration from last season.

“There’s a lot of guys in that locker room that weren’t here last year,” Eberflus said. “A bunch of free agents, draft guys, a bunch of guys we picked, and it’s a new football team. We’re getting the chemistry together. We’re getting the guys together that are playing together for the first time in a season, and we will make that work. The guys are very optimistic about that.”

If they are, it’s blind faith.

The Bears’ offense has shown few signs of making the leap the franchise desperately needs to see from Fields and the coaching staff. Fields was sharp on the first drive of the game, completing two passes to DJ Moore for 64 yards — more than the receiver had the entire game against the Packers — and running for a one-yard touchdown to go up 7-3.

On the next six drives, though, the Bears totaled one field goal and averaged four yards per play. After Rasheem Green blocked a 40-yard field goal to give the Bears the ball at midfield, they lost 14 yards on the next three plays and punted.

Fields and the offense finally clicked again when, with about 10 minutes to play, they started a drive at their 10 and scored eight plays later. Fields completed a deep ball over the middle to Moore for 22 yards on third-and-10, then found him down the left sideline for 12 more yards. Moore finished with six catches for 104 yards.

With 6:17 to play, Fields zipped a 20-yard skinny post pass in the end zone to Chase Claypool, who was dogged all week for poor effort in the season opener, to go down by three. Fields finished 16-for-29 for 211 yards — only the second time in his career that he has had back-to-back 200-yard games — with the touchdown pass, two interceptions and a 61.1 passer rating.

The Bears forced a punt 3½ minutes later and started with the ball at their 7. Two penalties later — an offside by Barrett and an offensive-pass-interference call on Claypool for blocking too early on yet another screen — Fields threw his pick-six.

Barrett dedicated the touchdown to his late 2-year-old daughter, Arrayah, who drowned in the family pool in April. He blew a kiss to the sky and told her he missed her.

He said his first career touchdown was “divine intervention, to be able to just get that spotlight for my baby girl.”

Related
  • In a sad loss, the Bears answer the question, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’
  • Another loss: Bears, QB Justin Fields fall 27-17 to Buccaneers
  • Three takeaways from the Bears’ loss to the Buccaneers

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