Bear Down, Nerd Up: How many pass attempts is too few pass attempts?

Justin Fields threw only 11 pass attempts Sunday night

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields celebrates after scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run during the first half against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis.

Surprise, surprise. The Packers easily dispatched the Bears on “Sunday Night Football.” Again.

It’s becoming a yearly ritual at this point.

It’s not good when Kyle Brandt of the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” is begging the NFL to stop putting this matchup in prime time.

“It’s the same game every time,” Brandt said on the show Monday morning.

He’s not wrong. It was the same thing yet again Sunday. The Packers beat the Bears 27-10 for their seventh consecutive win against their rival. The Packers tied their second-longest winning streak against the Bears, matching a streak from 2000-03. It trails only a 10-game winning streak from 1994-98.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers won his 23rd regular-season game against the Bears. He tied Brett Favre for the most wins against the Bears by a QB in the Super Bowl era, according to ESPN Stats & Info. During the current seven-game winning streak against the Bears, Rodgers has not thrown an interception, the longest such streak ever against the Bears.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur became the first coach to win his first seven regular-season games against the Bears.

But enough about the Packers. What’s wrong with the Bears?

Throw the ball: There was a lot of discussion Monday morning about the lack of passing attempts from the Bears’ offense. Here was Justin Fields’ final passing stat line from the game: 7 for 11, 70 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Fields took three sacks and ran the ball eight times. There were a few designed runs for the QB, but several of those rushing attempts came on scrambles in situations where he was looking to pass. The Bears ran only 41 total offensive plays in the game. So the split between run-pass was closer to 50-50 than 11 pass attempts seems to indicate.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus has said he wants his team to be balanced. He noted that the run game was working Sunday. On the fourth-quarter drive when Fields almost pulled the Bears within a touchdown, the Bears ran the ball 11 times on 13 plays and failed to complete a pass. They picked up 94 yards of total offense and ended with a turnover on downs at the 1-yard line.

The run game was working. Certainly on that particular drive.

That’s not to say that 11 passing attempts in the modern NFL is ever a good thing. If Fields is the future at quarterback, he needs to throw the ball more than that. But it’s not necessarily time to panic, yet.

A bigger concern should be the lack of touches by the Bears’ top two pass catchers, receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet. Mooney, who had more than 1,000 receiving yards last season, has two catches for 4 yards in two games. Kmet has yet to catch a pass.

Just for fun (or torture), I looked up the last time a Bears QB threw 11 or fewer pass attempts in a full game, disregarding instances when the QB suffered an injury or was benched. The last such game came in the glorious John Fox era, when Mitchell Trubisky attempted only seven passes against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 22, 2017. That was Trubisky’s third career start. He went 4-for-7 passing for 107 yards.

Miraculously, the Bears won that game, 17-3, despite totaling only 153 yards of offense.

On script: The Bears’ best drive of the night was their first. They moved the ball 71 yards on seven plays and scored on a Fields rushing touchdown.

The Bears had not scored a touchdown on their opening drive of a road game since Week 16 of 2020 at Jacksonville. Their last opening-drive touchdown at Lambeau Field came in the 2018 season opener. Trubisky ran in a 2-yard score on the team’s first drive in that game.

Packers ground game: Yes, David Montgomery finished the night with 122 rushing yards in Sunday’s game. But the Packers really schooled the Bears on how to run the wide zone run game. The Packers’ blocking was crisp, especially in the second quarter, when backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon propelled their team on three touchdown drives.

Jones ran 12 of his 15 carries outside of the tackles, according to Next Gen Stats. The Packers were springing him out wide and finding success doing it. He totaled 132 yards and one touchdown.

That is the type of run game the Bears are trying to implement in Chicago with Luke Getsy, a former Packers coach, as their new offensive coordinator. The Packers ran for 203 total rushing yards.

The Bears hadn’t allowed 200 rushing yards in almost an entire calendar year. The last time that happened was a Week 3 loss against Cleveland last year, when they allowed 215 rushing yards.

Game-wrecker: Packers pass rusher Preston Smith gave the Bears trouble all night. Smith totaled seven combined tackles, four solo tackles, two sacks and three QB hits. Smith, on average, was 2.69 yards away from the QB at the time of the throw, per Next Gen Stats. That’s almost half the league average of 4.53 yards for NFL pass rushers. He challenged both Bears tackles, Braxton Jones and Larry Borom, throughout the game.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.