GREEN BAY, Wis – Justin Fields believed he scored.
Needing mere inches to score a touchdown, the Bears quarterback took a shotgun snap and ran straight ahead toward the end zone. He snuck through the line briefly before meeting a wall of Packers defenders.
The Bears trailed by 14 points with slightly more than eight minutes remaining in the game. A touchdown would’ve pulled them within one possession of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Instead, the Packers’ defense slammed Fields backwards.
The referees ruled that Fields was short of the goal line, but the second-year QB believed he crossed the line. Bears head coach Matt Eberflus challenged the play, but the ruling on the field stood. There wasn’t sufficient evidence to overturn the call on the field.
“It changes everything,” Fields said of a potential touchdown in that situation. “I didn’t get in, so, you’ve got to move on.”
Eberflus said he and his staff thought there was enough evidence to overturn the call. At that point in the game, they had nothing else to lose in challenging the play. A reversal wouldn’t necessarily have changed the outcome in the Packers’ win over the Bears, 27-10, at Lambeau Field, but it would’ve made the final eight minutes a lot more interesting.
Eberflus said he and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy liked that play call – with Fields in the shotgun standing five yards out from the goal line – because it gave the offense an advantage in the numbers game, blocking wise.
“A lot of times what you do in that regard is you outnumber the box,” Eberflus said. “Using your QB as a runner, you’ve got an additional blocker, so you like your numbers in the box there, that’s why we called it.”
Running back David Montgomery was Fields’ lead blocker and was right there trying to push the QB into the end zone. He also felt like the Bears scored on the play.
“I saw a touchdown,” Montgomery said. “I was right next to the ball, but I wouldn’t expect anything less. We’re not at Soldier Field. No home field advantage. So next time, we’ve just got to be sure to push it in.”
Offensive woes: The Bears offense started off hot, driving 71 yards on seven plays for a touchdown on their opening possession. The train went off the rails after that.
The Bears punted on their next three first-half possessions, then ran out the clock on their final drive before halftime. The run game improved in the second half, but the passing game was nowhere to be seen.
Fields finished his day 7-for-11 passing for 70 yards with an interception. Thirty of those 70 yards came on a flea flicker on the opening drive. Receiver Darnell Mooney caught one pass but lost four yards. Tight end Cole Kmet saw only one target and still hasn’t caught a pass this season.
In the first half, especially, the Bears kept moving backwards.
“Penalties,” Fields said. “False starts. Whatever it was, whatever it may be. Shooting ourselves in the foot, we can’t do that.”
Eberflus wasn’t worried about the lack of pass attempts from his offense. He felt the run game was rolling late in the game. Montgomery did finish with 122 yards on 15 carries.
“You have to have balance,” Eberflus said. “Man, the way we were running it, shoot, we were running it really well and we were still in the game at that point, so we were going with what was working for us.”
Make a tackle: Much was made about Rodgers attacking rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon throughout the game, but Eberflus felt the problem was more about the communication among his defense Sunday.
He also specifically pointed out the defense’s poor tackling.
“The tackling,” Eberflus said. “We have to do a better job. Individually, look at the individual and the technique and break down the ones they did do well and the ones they didn’t.”
Eberflus noted that veteran safety Eddie Jackson had a good game and tackled well. He was one of the few bright spots for the Bears’ secondary on a night when Rodgers threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
“Man, it’s frustrating,” Jackson said. “They did a good job. They’re a good team. A lot of that stuff was self-inflicted wounds. We shot ourselves in the foot.”