Justin Fields’ pick-six screen pass seals Chicago Bears’ fate in loss to Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chase Claypool catches TD in Bears’ loss

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett sacks Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Tampa, Fla.

TAMPA, Fla. – After a week spent talking about the Bears’ short passing attack and all the screen passes, it was a screen pass that served as the final nail in the coffin Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

Backed up deep in their own end of the field, trailing by three points late in the game, quarterback Justin Fields threw a screen pass intended for running back Khalil Herbert. Buccaneers edge rusher Shaquil Barrett faked like he was rushing, dropped into coverage and picked off Fields’ pass. He made the short 4-yard run into the end zone, with a push from behind, for a pick-six touchdown.

That pretty much wrapped things up in a 27-17 win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“It’s great when it works,” head coach Matt Eberflus said of the play call. “It’s great when it works, and when it doesn’t everybody’s going to criticize. So it is what it is. We’re going to look at it. We’ll look at it back there in that part of the field, and we’ll see where it is.”

Against a Bears team that loves to throw the screen pass, Barrett executed the fake and made a nice one-handed play on the ball.

“I saw Khalil open and then, I’m guessing [Barrett] just reacted back,” Fields said. “He felt screen and went back and, of course, picked it off. But yeah, in that situation, it’s tough.”

That play will draw a lot of attention, and rightfully so, but the Bears’ offense struggled again Sunday. It looked great on the first drive of the game. The Bears’ first-drive script clearly intended to include top receiver DJ Moore. He caught two passes on the drive, which ended in a 1-yard touchdown run for Fields. Moore finished the day with six catches for 104 yards.

But over the ensuing six possessions, the offense scored only three points. There were times when the pass protection was good. Fields held onto the football for more than three seconds per dropback, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

The Bears found life, however, on a fourth-quarter scoring drive that went 90 yards and ended in a Chase Claypool touchdown reception. Claypool faced a lot of heat this week over his lack of effort as a blocker in the Week 1 opener against Green Bay.

Claypool said he texted his coaches this week to set up a meeting and discuss how he could improve.

“Just for my own sake, [I] tried to find any type of thing that could help me progress the way I want to and learned from mistakes the way I wanted to,” Claypool said. “They were good. They told me what they wanted from me, and I made sure I delivered on that throughout the week.”

His touchdown catch marked his first touchdown as a member of the Bears. It was his first touchdown of any kind since Oct. 16 of last season with the Steelers.

Just for my own sake, [I] tried to find any type of thing that could help me progress the way I want to and learned from mistakes the way I wanted to.”

—  Chase Claypool, Bears receiver

The score brought the Bears within three points, but a short while later Barrett made his play on the screen pass and pretty much locked things up for the Bucs. Fields threw another interception after that, with his team in desperation mode.

The QB finished his day 16-for-29 passing for 211 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He allowed six sacks and also rushed for a touchdown. The Bears now have lost 12 consecutive games dating to last season (four losses longer than any previous losing streak in team history). They have the Kansas City Chiefs next week, which could have this team looking at an 0-3 start.

“We have a long way to go,” Fields said. “But I just think if we keep working we’ll get there, and I think everybody has to keep that mindset.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.